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Protected Wreck Sites

The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 allows the Secretary of State to designate a restricted area around a wreck to prevent uncontrolled interference. These protected areas are likely to contain the remains of a vessel, or its contents, which are of historical, artistic or archaeological importance.

You can search for protected wreck sites on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) and PastScape.

Why protect wreck sites?

  • The sites can hold information about ships, mercantile trade, the lives of sailors and passengers, and society as a whole.
  • Modern practices, such as dredging or gravel extraction, can be destructive to the seabed which means that certain zones need to be safeguarded.
  • Marine spatial planning benefits from the clarity of clearly identified significance, so that fitting protections can take place.
  • Designation can help broaden public appreciation of England's maritime heritage.

Access to protected wreck sites

You can apply to visit protected wreck sites. Access is monitored through a system of licensing administered through Historic England.

Underwater image of The Wheel Wreck, a discrete cargo mound consisting of components of mining equipment.
The Wheel Wreck, a discrete cargo mound consisting of components of mining equipment thought to represent a consignment from a Cornish foundry. Likely to date from 1850 onwards. Wrecked off the Isles of Scilly. © Crown copyright, taken by Wessex Archaeology.

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