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Action needed to protect Australia’s underwater cultural heritage

Canberra, March 21 (IANS) A parliamentary report has urged the Australian government to do more to protect underwater sites of significance.

According to the country’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which published its report on the protection of underwater cultural heritage, the underwater world including shipwrecks with human remains inside and indigenous sites of cultural significance need better protection, reports Xinhua news agency.

The committee found that Australia’s underwater sites are more vulnerable than ever due to the technological advancements, thus calling for the government to ratify the Unesco on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

There are approximately 8,000 underwater cultural heritage sites in Australian waters, most of which are shipwrecks.

Australia helped draft the Unesco convention in 2001 but has not ratified it, meaning the government is not bound by it, leaving thousands of underwater sites without protection.

Andrew Viduka, assistant director of underwater cultural heritage at the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, said ratifying the convention would bring Australia into the fold globally on protecting underwater sites.

“It will enable Australia to assist in stopping the trafficking of stolen underwater cultural heritage artefacts or their movement through Australia,” he was quoted by the Guardian Australia on Tuesday.

“Looting of sites has the impact of not only removing artefacts and damaging the site but of disturbing or destroying the associated context of objects between each other. The looting of sites is akin to removing chapters from our history, with the loss never to be replaced and the story never to be told,” the official said.

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