THIS IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM THAT CANADA IS STARTING TO EXAMINE AT LEAST WITHIN HER OWN WATERS
American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies EU VISITORS WARNING POSSIBLE COOKIES AHEAD
The Empress of Ireland is shown in an undated photo. The Canadian Pacific steamship collided with a Norwegian freighter near Quebec on on May 29, 1914, sinking in 14 minutes and killing 1,012 people. (Canadian Press/Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père) Photo from linked article in CBC NEWS NOVA SCOTIA
""In Canada ... we don't have one standard. We have a patchwork of regulations that vary from province to province," Rondeau said, noting that the hodgepodge confuses even basic questions like who qualifies as an archeologist and how old does an archeological site have to be." READ MORE AT CBC NEWS NOVA SCOTIA
Shipwrecks are protected in international waters by international law. Within the territorial sea of nation states protection varies. Sometimes within large nation states, protection within state or provincial waters varies between sub national jurisdictions. Based on a number of articles that we link you to here it appears Canada is one such state, rich in ship wrecks and diverse in the regulations governing the archaeological excavation, salvage, or just plain treasure hunting aboard such wrecks. The Canadian government and populace appears to be becoming aware of the situation and concerned. Canadian salvers, treasure hunters, and recreational divers are well advised to follow this issue in diving and commercial salvage publications and web sites. As the general public and Parliament become more concerned what's legal today may not be by the time of that weekend dive.
There are a few widespread misconceptions about ship wrecks that we like to address: First a wrecked vessel is not part of the commons in any jurisdiction, not just anyone may dive aboard and remove things in almost any jurisdiction on earth. One universal of maritime law around the world is that a wreck remains the property of the owner, unless or until it is legally and on record abandoned to the insurer, then it is the property of the insurer. The lawful owner of a wreck has rights and liabilities. Salvers are not playing an adult game of "Razu'. By re-floating a wreck or removing valuables the salver gains a lien on the wreck, and/ or its contents, not title. How much of a lien depends on an admiralty court's ultimate salvage award, which is based on the value of the salvaged objects and / or hull, the expense the salver went to, and the amount of effort and risk involved. The are of course some wrecks that are so old even the nation state that originally launched the vessel has passed into history. Still, generally a successor state usually has recognized title. Even when this is not so, within about 200 miles of a coastal state's shore line a wreck is usually within the "Exclusive Economic Zone" of the adjacent coastal state and such ancient wrecks are most often protected by the adjacent coastal state's equivalent of a national antiquities department. Professional salvers know that the first step in a lawful salvage or archaeological effort is not running out to the wreck and diving on it, but hours of painstaking research in a library or archive, followed by tedious correspondence and negotiations with the owners and /or proper authorities.
Nova Scotia's shipwreck-filled waters and its laws that allow treasure hunters to keep 90 percent of the valuables they find have triggered a rush for sunken riches which has archaeologists and historians fuming
Excerpt of story by Heather Pringle in CBC NEWS NOVA SCOTIA
We would also like to remind our readers that any wreck dive even if your intention is to look and not touch is usually considered a "technical dive". You should never consider wreck or cave diving as covered by your basic SCUBA certification course, these are technical dives that require extra instruction, some experience led by an instructor, and careful planning. See out TECHNICAL DIVING PAGE for additional information. Wreck dives are fraught with unexpected hazards for the SCUBA diver lacking in specific wreck diving training and experience, and if you intend to take or disturb anything down there there are big legal hazards as well. Canada is not the only jurisdiction reviewing and considering tightening shipwreck protection laws. Know before you go.