State seeks return of shipwreck artifacts: MI

Article Posted: May 18, 2002

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State seeks return of shipwreck artifacts

With thousands of charted shipwrecks on state-owned Great
Lakes bottomlands providing popular diving destinations
around the state, Michigan officials today announced a two-
part program to raise public awareness and protect a
precious resource
Michigan waters have long been a favorite for recreational
divers. Ranging from early wooden hulls to modern era
steamships, the wrecks are well preserved in cool waters and
have been likened to underwater museums. Since 1980,
shipwrecks have been protected by laws that prohibit
removing artifacts from the sites without a permit. While
the great majority of divers are content to explore and take
photographs, some remove items from these sites.
"It's a problem we see growing as recreational diving
becomes more popular," said Michigan Department of Natural
Resources Lt. Timothy Burke. "Obviously, we want everyone to
enjoy diving the Great Lakes shipwrecks, but divers need to
understand that the rules are the same as at any museum -
look, but don't touch."
The penalty for removal or possession of artifacts without
appropriate permits can include up to 2 years imprisonment
and/or fines of up to $5000. However, in an effort to raise
public awareness and to recover what may be valuable windows
into the rich history of the Great Lakes, the Department of
Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Department of
Environmental Quality and Department of History and
Libraries, today announced a two-part program.
These Departments are sponsoring a one-time amnesty period
for persons who possess artifacts that have been removed
illegally from Great Lakes shipwrecks. Prosecution will not
be pursued of persons who turn in artifacts to DNR offices
between the dates of June 1 and July 31, 2003. All items
will be turned over to the Department of History and
Libraries for evaluation and final disposition. After these
dates, prosecution will be vigorously pursued for
The amnesty program is the kickoff of the Save Our Sunken
Ships (S.O.S.S.) program. The S.O.S.S. program provides
information about Great Lakes Shipwreck law and a toll-free
number for reporting illegally taken artifacts from Great
Lakes shipwrecks and other historic underwater sites.
Stickers designed for application to dive tanks, displaying
the toll-free number (800 292-7800), will be made available
to dive shops and other marine-related businesses that wish
to participate.
Information about both the amnesty period and SOSS program
can be obtained from Lt. Timothy Burke, Cadillac Operations
Service Center, 231 775-9727 ext. 2500

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