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Underwater Cultural Heritage Policies of the United States Coastal Zone

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Domestic management of historic shipwrecks and other Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) resources located in the United States coastal zone is extensively fragmented and a portion of it has significant implications in terms of international law. In the United States coastal zone, UCH (largely historic shipwrecks) falls under one of three general regimes, depending on where the resource is located and subject to specific and individual requirements: the General Maritime Law, the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, and the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, also known as the Marine Sanctuaries Act. After examining the development of and current status of these regimes, this article will suggest policies for a stronger, more coordinated federal management regime in United States coastal waters. It will specifically argue that a recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit provides a well-designed paradigm that could be linked with pertinent aspects of the three identified regimes to create a unified coastal governance mechanism for sunken historic shipwrecks.
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Keywords: Abandoned Shipwreck Act; Marine Protection; Maritime Law; Research; Shipwrecks; Underwater Cultural Heritage; and Sanctuaries

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Marine Policy Program Graduate College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA

Publication date: 2006-10-01

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