Protection and Promotion of UCH

In 2001, member states of United Nations have agreed in the main principals for the protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH), which is the obligation to preserve it, the in situ preservation as first option, no commercial exploitation and training and information sharing (UNESCO, 2001). Since 2014 European Commission, mentioning the need for the management of UCH, has set out plans to make available maps of these sites, protect them by ensuring that they are included in spatial plans, and realise their potential for attracting a coastal tourism industry providing less precarious employment opportunities (EC, 2014).

In Greece, from 1948 up to 2012 have been issued 152 laws and ministry decisions for the protection of underwater or coastal archaeological sites and monuments at 128 areas across the country (based on http://listedmonuments.culture.gr/search_declarations.php). Since 2003, after the characterization of wrecks as cultural assets (FEK 1701/Β/19-11-2003), in the list of UCH have been included sunken ships and airplanes aged over 50 years from their wreckage date. According to European Marine Observation and Data Network, the Greek seas accommodate approximately 2.000 wrecks (some of them have been recovered).

After the law N.3028/2002 “For the Protection of Antiquities and general Cultural Heritage” (FEK A-153/28-6-2002) , have followed 36 laws and ministry decisions for the declarations – locations of maritime archaeological areas. Sequentially, as the law N.3409/2005 for “Recreational Diving and Other Regulations” (FEK 273/Α/4-11-2005) contemplates the operation of such areas for guided diving activities, the last years have been decided the “Rules, Regulations and Allowed Activities” for the “Establishment of Underwater Visiting Archaeological Sites” at 3 maritime areas: Methoni – Navarino bay (FEK 2489/Δ/3-10-2013), Sporades islands – West Pagasitikos (FEK 119/Β/21-1-2015) and Lavrio Makronisos (FEK 2655/Β/9-12-2015).

The application of appropriate mapping methodologies, the correct use of special equipment and the coordination of a diving team before, during and after the underwater survey for documentation, presentation, spatio – temporal analysis or monitoring/surveillance purposes are defining the quality of data which will be acquired towards the protection and the promotion of UCH.