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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Historic wrecks to be protected
There is a growing fascination with underwater archaeological secrets
Efforts are being made to simplify the laws protecting historic shipwrecks off the south-west coast of England.

The government and English Heritage have launched a joint consultation to try to disentangle the maze of legislation surrounding them.

In the past, unscrupulous divers have been accused of stripping wrecks of their valuables.

It is hoped the consultation with divers and historians, will draw a positive reaction in the county.

'Increasing consultation'

The growing fascination with archaeological secrets hidden off the region's coast is causing concern because of the potential damage divers can cause.

But Jon Parlour, from the Nautical Archaeology Society in the South West, said since it was impossible to police wreck sites, education was the way forward.

He said: "Enforcement really is the last option.

"Through simplifying the legislation, plus increasing consultation and the levels of understanding in the value of this underwater heritage, we can go a long way into dealing with the problems that have been identified."

The Heritage minister Andrew McIntosh said a way had to be found to preserve underwater sites.

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