Heritage: Natural and Cultural Resources

Finger coral
Finger coral (NOAA Photo Library)

The concept of heritage evokes images of monuments, historic buildings and other cultural property on terrestrial sites. However, under the 1972 World Heritage Convention, it includes natural and cultural resources and sites which are so special that there is interest in preserving them for future generations. The interest in protecting heritage is increasingly extending to the marine environment. The U.S. has nominated the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument for listing as a World Heritage Site for the outstanding universal value of its natural and cultural heritage. Concern for looting and unwanted salvage led to the development of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH), the International Agreement on RMS Titanic as well as the NOAA RMS Titanic Guidelines and the Administration's proposed RMS Titanic implementing legislation. The Law of the Sea Convention, particularly Article 149 and Article 303, provides the international legal framework for these and other international agreements protecting UCH.

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