The security of heritage assets is of the utmost importance; a monetary value cannot be attached to the significance of a site or its associated artefacts. This statement is true for both on land and underwater sites.
The policing of underwater sites however, is often a trickier affair, with out-of-sight often equalling out-of-mind. Unfortunately, a site’s underwater location does not stop thieves from stealing or damaging artefacts.
To aid in the protection of our underwater cultural heritage, a selection of sites of historical, artistic and archaeological importance have been protected by law under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/protected-wreck-sites/). Historic England manage these sites on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, Digital and Sport (DCMS), and a team of Licensees, effectively voluntary custodians, play a key role in their ongoing management.
The licensees work tirelessly on the wrecks and have had a special relationship with them since the very first days of the Protection of Wrecks Act. If it wasn’t for them, many of the sites would still be unknown and we would have very little knowledge of many of the existing sites. Their presence on the sites acts as a deterrent to anyone thinking of accessing the sites illegally and their monitoring ensures that the sites are understood and enjoyed by many people.
To further aid in the physical protection of these significant sites, Historic England funded a partnership project between the Protected Wreck Association (PWA https://protectedwrecks.org.uk/) and MSDS Marine (https://msdsmarine.com/). This national-level project has seen the development of Site Security Plans for protected wreck sites. The model developed is based on the highly successful model developed by Ron Howell and the SWMAG team who are Licensees for the Salcombe Cannon and Moor Sands protected wreck sites.
A Site Security Plan is the end result of a process which assesses how secure a site is from illegal access. By completing two very easy to use but highly specialised forms, the site is given:
- Its own Site Security Champion
- Its own Heritage Crime Officer in the Police
- A level of risk of heritage crime occurring to enable appropriate response to be put in place and to allow targeting of resources
- Quick win opportunities to decrease its level of risk
- A protocol for the licensees to follow every time they access the site
- Specialist guidelines to enable crime reporting to enforcement authorities
- A toolkit consisting of: A High Vis vest, to help identify the Site Security Champion to the public / authorities and pocket-sized card, summarising guidance on reporting crimes.
The project team will be supporting Licensees and their teams in completing a Site Security Plan and Risk Assessment for each Protected Wreck Site. MSDS Marine will be contacting Licensees inviting them to book a slot to work through the process. Individual Licensees and teams can also follow the guidance to complete the documents on their own with MSDS Marine on hand to support as required.
The Site Security Forms are accessible on the Protected Wreck Association website, in the members only area https://protectedwrecks.org.uk/members-area/site-security/ . If you are not a member and would like to join, this is an excellent time, as its free!
Assessing the security of a wreck site will inform Historic England of any sites which are at a high risk of heritage crime, and aid them in the future management of these sites. It will assist Licensees in highlighting areas for concern and in turn offer positive actions that can be taken to reduce the threat. It is hoped that the scheme will help put practical measures in place to ensure that the sites are protected from illegal activity in future.
Alison James, Project Manager at MSDS Marine said: “I spent ten years working at Historic England managing England’s protected wreck sites and at times was incredibly frustrated by being unable to ‘police’ the sites. The model we have developed is based on the highly successful model developed by SWMAG which has been shown to work on a number of occasions. We hope this will make a real difference to the sites and the teams that work on them.”
Professor Mike Williams, Chair of the Protected Wreck Association said: “We are delighted and grateful that Historic England has funded this project. It will enable us to undertake valuable work to support our members, who are dedicated volunteers protecting our maritime heritage.”
Hefin Meara, Marine Archaeologist at Historic England said: “We are pleased to support this important project and recognise the enormous contribution that licensed volunteer divers are making to help protect England’s fascinating marine historic environment.”
Minke whale spotted off Cardigan Bay – A first in 10 years!
In a thrilling encounter that left a team of marine researchers in awe, a majestic minke whale was sighted during a line transect survey on June 15, 2023. The remarkable event took place approximately 10 nautical miles off the coast of Cardigan Bay, amidst an area teeming with shearwaters. The whale’s behavior, as observed by Katrin Lohrengel, Sea Watch’s Monitoring Officer, indicated potential foraging activities, as it gracefully engaged in deep dives.
This exceptional sighting is the first documented instance of a minke whale in the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) since 2013, during one of Sea Watch Foundation’s line transect surveys. The significance of this encounter cannot be overstated, as it underscores the importance of continuous scientific efforts in studying and conserving the abundant marine biodiversity of this region. Notably, this is the first minke whale sighting in a decade within the Cardigan SAC, with sightings being more prevalent further down in Pembrokeshire. Additionally, another minke whale was sighted the following day, June 16, 2023, 11 nautical miles off the Llyn Peninsula during a separate survey conducted by Professor Peter GH Evans, Director of the Sea Watch Foundation.
Line-transect surveys play a pivotal role in Sea Watch’s research, providing invaluable data on the presence, abundance, and distribution of marine species in their natural habitats. The sighting of a minke whale further emphasizes the ecological significance of the Cardigan Bay SAC, highlighting the urgent need for sustained conservation efforts to safeguard this vital marine environment.
Renowned for their agility and inquisitive nature, minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) captivate with their smaller size compared to other baleen whales. These graceful creatures embark on deep dives, skillfully hunting for their preferred prey, including fish and krill.
The sighting of the minke whale stands as a testament to the effectiveness of the team’s research methodologies and their unwavering dedication. Moreover, it serves as a beacon of hope for future discoveries that can contribute to the ongoing conservation endeavors in the Cardigan Bay SAC.
As Sea Watch celebrate this momentous milestone, they reaffirm their commitment to expanding our understanding of marine ecosystems and advocating for the protection of vulnerable species. The team extends our heartfelt gratitude to the local community, volunteers, and stakeholders whose unwavering support has made sightings like this possible.
About Sea Watch:
Sea Watch is a leading marine research organization dedicated to the study and conservation of marine mammals in the United Kingdom. Through scientific research, education, and advocacy, Sea Watch strives to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems for future generations.
For more information, please visit www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk.
Pictured: Minke whale sighting off Cardigan Bay by Katrin Lohrengel/Monitoring Officer at Sea Watch Foundation on 15 June 2023.
New year, new dive centre: Duttons to open on Anglesey in January 2023
Duttons Divers, who have recently announced a new hard boat to join their growing fleet over on the Llyn Peninsula based at Hafan Marina Dive Centre and a second dive centre that opened in January this year, have another big announcement to end the year on!
It seems that there’s just no stopping the Duttons Divers team as they announce their third dive centre opening – this time on Anglesey!
The dive centre will be open from January 2023, and is based just off the A55 at Llangefni Services, offering ease of access from all over the island and to those visiting for the day who will be passing by on their way to dive.
The centre will offer a fully stocked shop with all major brands, as well as a classroom and meeting place for teaching and briefings for the day’s guided dives around the island, equipment servicing and air fills – perfectly located to get your fills on your way too or from sites all over the island.
Owner Clare Dutton says: “We are extremely excited to announce the new centre. We have looked at Anglesey for a while, but the perfect place just did not come up until now. We wanted somewhere central that has easy access for divers to visit.”
If you would like to find out more about the new site, go to their website www.duttonsdivers.com