Shipwreck FAQ

I think I've found a shipwreck or parts of one. What do I do?
Whether you find a shipwreck when diving or fishing, through hours of painstaking research or unexpectedly uncover one during unrelated activities, you should not disturb it in any way.

Unless the shipwreck is very well known, assume that its position is yet to be officially recorded. You should contact Heritage Victoria immediately so that we can inspect the site and we encourage finders to participate in the inspection. Complete and send in the Wreck Reporting Form and we'll let you know the next steps.

If I report a shipwreck that I have found when diving or fishing, will you stop me visiting the wreck?
In most cases we won't stop you visiting the wreck. We will investigate the wreck and its history and we encourage you to help us and be involved.

We will only place a Protected Zone, and therefore prohibit diving and fishing, around particularly fragile or highly significant wrecks. Of around 650 wrecks on the register in Victoria, only nine have been placed within Protected Zones.

Can I dive on any shipwreck?
You don't need a permit if you want to dive on a shipwreck other than those that are in Protected Zones.

However, if you wish to disturb any historic shipwreck, either through excavation of the hull remains, removal of any artefacts or any other disturbance, you will need to apply for a permit. This permit will need to outline the work you wish to complete, the reasons for doing the work and the expected outcomes.

Can I fish on any shipwreck?
You are allowed to fish near the majority of historic shipwreck sites; only shipwrecks in Protected Zones are off-limits to boat access. However, you need to be careful about placement of your anchors (and weighted shot lines), because it is illegal to interfere with, damage or destroy historic shipwrecks and severe penalties apply.

How do I apply for a permit to access a historic shipwreck that is in a Protected Zone?
To apply for a permit to dive a protected shipwreck in Victorian waters, complete the Permit Application Form.  For a permit to dive a protected shipwreck in Commonwealth waters, complete the online form at the Department of Environment's website.

There were no visible markers to tell me I was in a Protected Zone. How was I supposed to know I couldn't fish, drive or anchor in the area?
Not all protected zone shipwrecks have markers but it is your responsibility to know where they are. All Protected Zone areas are marked on navigational charts and you can also find them on our Protected Zones page.

I've come across something that looks like pieces of an old wreck, relics or other maritime structure on the shore. What do I do?
Much of our history is buried beneath the sands and the water and sometimes tides and rough weather can expose items previously hidden from view.

If you see something, don't disturb what you see. Take photos and if you have a smart phone you might be able to get GPS coordinates as well. Contact us with the information and if it's maritime related, we will come down and inspect the site. We welcome and encourage you to help us research and survey the site if you would like.

Does Heritage Victoria deal with Aboriginal maritime cultural heritage?

Heritage Victoria deals predominately with post-contact maritime cultural heritage. The Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria is the government body that helps manage Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Page last reviewed on 6 January 2015

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