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The seven commandments for the future of UK wreck diving

Simon Rogerson, Dive, May 2000

A set of seven 'commandments' for wreck divers has been drawn up by Britain's three main diver training agencies. The 'Respect Our Wrecks' campaign is aimed at ending, once and for all, the culture of souvenir hunting that has long been part of British diving culture.

Leading lights of BSAC, SAA and PADI put their heads together to come up with the code of practice, encapsulated by the seven 'commandments'. Their ultimate goal is to demonstrate to the British government that the modern diving community condemns wreck pilfering, and that British divers are able to police themselves.

A statement which was issued by the three agencies said that a minority of divers continue to pilfer from wrecks, causing damage and desecrating war graves. 'Not only are they spoiling wrecks for future divers, they may be breaking the law and in some cases upsetting the relatives of those who lost their lives on the ships,' the statement said.

'Respect Our Wrecks is intended as a philsophical approach to one of the most popular diving activities in the UK - wreck dving - which is enjoyed by thousands of recreational divers every year. We believe that raised awareness of these issues will also result in increased peer pressure among divers to curb the poor wreck diving practices being conducted by the few.'

The Receiver of Wreck, Veronica Robbins told DIVE that the code of conduct comes as a culmination of years of trying to enlighten divers on the importance of marine heritage.'We're going to give it some time to see what effect 'Respect Our Wrecks' has on people, but some of our wrecks are definitely in the last chance saloon. We have to start looking after this vital part of our heritage.'

Wreck rules

  • Many wrecks are war graves. Treat them with the respect you would give a churchyard.
  • Many wrecks make great habitats for marine life. Treat them with the care you would give to coral reefs.
  • Explore wrecks, where allowed, but don't damage or disturb them. Take photos rather than souvenirs, so that our wrecks remain for future divers to see.
  • Many wrecks have an important history and hold clues to our maritime past. If you find anything, report it to the Receiver of Wreck, who will pass on such information to archaeological experts.
  • Make sure you are appropriately trained for safe wreck diving.
  • Some wrecks contain dangerous cargoes or live munitions. Don't disturb them or bring them ashore.
  • Know and respect maritime laws - and avoid a criminal record.

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