The Netherlands will protect the underwater cultural heritage

The Netherlands will protect underwater cultural heritage by the ratification of  the international UNESCO convention on the Protection the of Underwater Cultural Heritage. Minister Jet Bussemaker (Education, Culture and Science) and Minister Bert Koenders (Foreign Affairs) officially announced today that the Netherlands intent to ratify this treaty. This convention improves the protection of underwater cultural heritage through international cooperation worldwide.

Minister Bussemaker: ‘Wrecks, historical landscapes and other archaeological sites are traces of human existence and give us an unique glimpse into our past. This is an invaluable source of information and it provides us with an abundance of information that we cannot always get from written sources. That is why we want to preserve this unique underwater heritage and give future generations an opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of the past.’

High urgency

The urgency to protect  the underwater cultural heritage at the international level is high. The improvements in diving technology have made the underwater cultural heritage more accessible and therefore increasingly vulnerable On the one hand it offers the opportunity to discover, learn and enjoy the rich underwater heritage. However, the accessibility of these sites are causing threats to the cultural heritage as those areas are  not protected against treasure hunters and salvors who are  plundering and destroying the wreck sites. This offers opportunities to discover, learn and enjoy the rich underwater heritage.

Not only do they violate the locations that contain a wealth of archaeological information, they are also desecrating  sailors’ graves. The sailors’ graves older than 100 years  are within the scope of the UNESCO Convention and the ratification of the Netherlands.  With this step the Netherlands aim to improve the importance of the protection of this vulnerable cultural heritage.  As a maritime country par excellence the Netherlands endorses the importance of global protection of underwater cultural heritage.

Global protection

UNESCO has six cultural conventions, in which global agreements on the protections of heritage are established. The Netherlands has already ratified five of the six conventions such as the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Heritage and Natural Heritage and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural  Heritage. By ratifying the convention on the protection of the Underwater Heritage, the Netherlands occupies a position to work with the international community to protect the underwater heritage worldwide. The Convention was drafted by UNESCO in 2001 and is at present ratified by 55 countries.