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Report an historic underwater wreck or artefact

Queensland’s maritime and underwater heritage is protected and managed under the provisions of state and Commonwealth legislation which provide protection for all underwater cultural heritage sites and associated artefacts older than 75 years. This protection applies to all shipwrecks, aircraft wrecks, and other submerged archaeological sites located along Queensland’s open coast, bays, lakes, and inland waterways.

If you discover a shipwreck or aircraft wreck in Queensland or adjacent waters:

  • report it (even if you are unsure if it has been previously reported) by submitting a Notification of discovery of an underwater cultural heritage site or artefact to the online Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database. It is a legal requirement to report a discovery and fines apply for failure to do so.
  • maintain a discrete distance and take images and notes of any features and details.  Underwater sites such as shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks are highly vulnerable and can be easily damaged through direct and indirect contact.
  • do not attempt to expose or retrieve any items or artefacts from the site or enter the wreck. Large fines can apply. Historic shipwrecks, aircraft wrecks and associated artefacts do not belong to the individuals who find them. Written consent is required from the Queensland Heritage Branch to disturb a wreck in any way or to move or recover artefacts.

If a historic wreck or artefact is being directly threatened by illegal activity, contact Queensland Police.

Entering a protected zone

A protected zone can be declared around any shipwreck, aircraft wreck or artefact, regardless of its age. There are 11 protected zones in Queensland that require a permit for entry. Unauthorised access to or interference with a wreck within a protected zone attracts severe penalties.

Declaring possession of artefacts

Artefacts recovered prior to the introduction of laws prohibiting their removal are allowed to remain in the custody of the finder. Regardless of when they were collected, all artefacts must be registered through the online Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database. It is illegal to possess an artefact which has not been declared. To declare an artefact, submit a Notification of Possession form to the Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database.

If you have an artefact and would like to transfer ownership you must obtain a permit by submitting a Permit for Transfer of Possession form. If you have acquired a permitted relic or artefact you must notify of the change of custodianship of the artefact by submitting a Notification of Possession form.

Queensland Historic Shipwreck Survey

A survey of Queensland underwater cultural heritage sites is being undertaken to update official records in the Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database. Currently, there is reliable data for less than 12% of the known sites along the coast.

We are seeking information regarding the location and condition of historic shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks within and off the coast of Queensland. If you have information about known or possible wreck sites please email archaeology@des.qld.gov.au or contact 13 QGOV (13 74 68) and ask to speak to an archaeologist in the Heritage Branch.

Find out where Queensland’s identified underwater cultural heritage sites lie:

Find out where Queensland’s identified shipwrecks lie: