Map of Florida’s shipwreck preserves. In 1987 Florida began to develop a statewide system of underwater parks featuring shipwrecks and other historic sites. The shipwreck preserves have become popular attractions for skin and scuba diving visitors to witness a part of Florida's history first-hand. They contain not only interesting archaeological features, but also an abundance of marine life that make the parks living museums in the sea. Each site is interpreted by an underwater plaque; a brochure and laminated underwater guides are available from local dive shops. The parks are open to the public year round, free of charge. There are eleven parks at present, and several others under development. Even a virtual experience on these sites is offered at www.museumsinthesea.com, where the visitor can access underwater video footage of the wreck and the marine life, as well as a video about the history of the vessel.

Underwater cultural heritage deserves protection because it is of general and public interest, and as part of our common maritime heritage it has a unique value for humanity. Protection instruments such as the 2001 Convention emphasize this notion of shared heritage. If the public interest is not served and if the public is not included in information and protection, research and management are of limited use. The Rules that specifically address information sharing and dissemination are Rule 35 and Rule 36.

The arguments of this chapter are:

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