On 22 January 2013 the British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation held an event to discuss UK government policy on the protection of underwater heritage in international waters.
The event provided a forum for policymakers and academics to exchange knowledge and discuss solutions to underwater heritage as a policy issue. It will also help shape a future programme of work on underwater heritage from the British Academy Policy Centre and Honor Frost Foundation.
This event proved to be an excellent opportunity for major stakeholders to assist us in identifying how research and policy need to go forward to the mutual benefit of the UK government and the heritage sector. The intention of the day was to talk about the current state of research and policy in the area of maritime heritage, in order for the British Academy and the Honor Frost Foundation to be able to identify ‘gaps’ where any research they might synthesise or commission can add value, and what any research could and should seek to achieve in bringing about policy change by the UK. It was a small event so the audience as well as the various speakers had an opportunity to contribute their ideas and experience.
The two morning scene setting sessions covered what the current situation is in policy and research, and its strengths and limitations. These discussions served as a starting point for a more detailed discussion of ways forward/change needed in UK policy in the afternoon, using the preliminary conclusions of an Impact Review on the implications for the UK of ratifying the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001 as a starting point.
During this event, we used the term ‘international waters’ in its broadest definition; so to mean a) the seabed that is largely controlled by the UK but over which we don’t have full sovereignty, known as the Continental Shelf, out to 200 miles in principle; b) the seabed which is under the jurisdiction of other countries, where wrecks of UK origin or interest can be found; c) the seabed beyond the jurisdiction of any state, which is known as ‘the Area’, again where wrecks of UK origin or interest can be found.