Through the years the Province of Nova Scotia has had some odd laws on the books. As with many odd laws, ours have started as a way to regulate a particular issue but, through growth or changing circumstances, the law was not always doing what was intended. Such is the case of the Treasure Trove Act. The act was originally conceived as a way to regulate treasure hunting on Oak Island. Over time the act about pirate treasure grew to include shipwrecks. Pirates, ships, shipwrecks, treasure; seems logical to me. With estimates of as many as 10 000 shipwrecks around Nova Scotia, the act was governing a large portion of our province's unseen history.
By the terms of the act, only 10% of the legally salvaged material was returned to the people of Nova Scotia. The other 90% vanished into private collections around the world. This was obviously a boon for treasure hunters but not really for the people of this province. This was also in contravention of what was commonly done in other Canadian provinces, most nations in the western world and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Heritage. As they are on land, underwater archaeological resources are the property of the people of Nova Scotia. They should be protected for everyone's benefit.
On November 2, the Province moved to repeal the Treasure Trove Act. Shipwrecks will now fall under the Special Places Act which allows for fines of up to $10 000 plus jail time for removing artifacts illegally. This will go a long way to help protect our underwater archaeological resources. Now that the Act is being repealed, it would also make sense for the Province of Nova Scotia to have a marine archaeologist on staff. With a history rich in maritime lore and a staggering number of shipwrecks, this would seem to be a needed addition to the archaeological staff. One step at a time.
All for now,