Maritime Heritage Resources Permits

divers looking at a shipwreck

Within the boundaries of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary rest an array of submerged cultural resources, such as shipwrecks, structures, or objects associated with early people and cultures. The remains of these ships and their artifacts hold clues to the Keys colorful maritime history, and are protected by NOAA and the State of Florida. NOAA works closely with the State of Florida to manage and protect maritime heritage resources for future generations.

While many areas within the sanctuary that contain cultural resources are open to diving and snorkeling, it is illegal to disturb a site or recover artifacts without a permit.

The sanctuary’s permit system allows individuals and groups, such as universities or historical institutions, to investigate cultural resources in the sanctuary. Any recovery of these resources must be planned and permitted in accordance with state and federal laws.


pdf List of Active Submerged Cultural Resource Permits


To further the study of our maritime heritage, the sanctuary has instituted a three-phase permitting system which addresses the survey, recovery, and transfer of Sanctuary cultural resources.

Survey and Inventory Permit (pdf, 38 kb)
The Survey and Inventory Permit allows for non-intrusive surveys of historical resources that include remote sensing, mapping, and documentation. The Survey and Inventory Permit Report must be completed, and accepted before a Research and Recovery Permit will be considered.

Research and Recovery Permit (pdf, 57 kb)
After completing a Survey and Inventory Permit Report, a Research and Recovery Permit may be issued to allow other prohibited activities that further archaeological knowledge, and may include limited recovery of artifacts in the public interest.

Deaccession and Transfer Permit
If NOAA and the State of Florida determine that an object is not of historical interest, it may be eligible to be recovered pending completion of all necessary Research and Recovery Permit field work and reports. Only artifacts that are not of historical interest or have been determined to no longer be of historical interest will be considered for this permit.

For more information on a Maritime Heritage Resources Permit, contact Brenda Altmeier, the Maritime Heritage Program Coordinator, at