Advice and Support

Conserving our marine heritage: How to help

Anyone can help to record and conserve our underwater heritage.

We know relatively little about our underwater heritage compared to sites on land, and many sites await discovery.

As we learn more, we’re finding that archaeological sites on the seabed are vulnerable to a complex interplay of man-made and environmental ‘drivers of change’.

How to get involved

If you visit an underwater site, you should follow established codes of conduct such as the Respect Our Wrecks code of practice for wreck divers.

Nautical Archaeology Society can help you gain the necessary skills to participate in its recording projects. 

Report an object or wreck that may be of historic importance

Reporting your find will enable further investigation, increase knowledge and understanding, and allow us to assess the site for statutory protection, where appropriate.

Historic Environment Scotland suggests a three-step approach:

  1. Record the position of your site and as many details about it as possible.
  2. Respect what you find and don’t disturb the site — the 'look, but don't touch' approach.
  3. Report your discovery to the Receiver of Wreck, via the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and to Historic Environment Scotland. 

Your obligations

You must check if you need a marine licence if you plan to recover objects of historic interest from the seabed using a vessel, vehicle, structure or floating container (including lifting bags). You should contact the Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team.

You must also report all wreck material recovered from the seabed – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – to the Receiver of Wreck, under the terms of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Additional restrictions apply:

  • within Historic MPAs
  • on scheduled monuments
  • to the wrecks of all aircraft crashed in military service and designated vessels given statutory protection by the Ministry of Defence

You should seek advice from:

  • Historic Environment Scotland – on Historic MPAs and scheduled monuments
  • Ministry of Defence – for underwater war graves