Historical resources, such as shipwrecks, within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are protected

City of Washington shipwreck

The drive shaft pedestal from the City of Washington shipwreck, which is part of the sanctuary’s Shipwreck Trail.

A maritime heritage resource is one that has any type of historical, cultural, archaeological, or paleontological significance and is greater than 50 years old. Management and protection of such resources in the sanctuary is administered in accordance with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, and State of Florida regulations guiding archaeological removal of submerged cultural resources, provided they do not conflict with the federal archaeological program.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Act makes it illegal to disturb a site or recover artifacts within a national marine sanctuary without a permit. Only under very specific circumstances does the sanctuary issue a permit for the planned recovery of artifacts in accordance with the federal laws. Some possible reasons for recovering artifacts include protecting them from harsh environmental conditions; conducting research that includes public education; making artifacts more available to the public; and improving scientific understanding of the sanctuary.

Natural activities such as storms, currents, and corrosion, as well as human activities such as exploration, photography, and excavation, can impact maritime heritage resources. And, unlike living resources, maritime heritage resources are not renewable.

Therefore, it is especially important that we make decisions on how to manage these resources, so we can protect these important links to our past and ensure they are around for current and future generations to enjoy. Our national marine sanctuaries are one mechanism to protect our nation’s maritime heritage. The careful recovery, study, and conversation of artifacts are also helping to preserve these artifacts in museums for future generations.

If you discover a cultural resource within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, don’t disturb it. Instead, make note of where you found it and then provide this information to sanctuary staff.

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