UNESCO will send a mission to Madagascar to assess the state of a wreck in the St. Mary's Bay

Following a request from the authorities of Madagascar, UNESCO should send a mission by the end of June to assess the state of a wreck lying in the Bay of St. Mary. Since many weeks, this wreck is excavated by a British film production company raising the fear of irreversible damage to the archaeological site

The Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage of UNESCO, held in Paris from 28 to 29 April, decided to respond to the request of Madagascar to send an expert mission to assess state of a wreck in the Bay of St. Mary. This mission, will be implemented by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the Convention and led by Michel L’Hour, Director of the French Department of underwater archaeological research and underwater.Few weeks ago, the British company October film began filming a documentary on the history of pirates in Madagascar in the 17th and 18th century for which a filming permit was issued. Nevertheless, it seems that the excavations are being conducted on a fragile wreck lying in the St. Mary’s Bay; and the exploration is going on without any scientific guarantees, in accordance with internationally recognized rules contained in the Annex to the Convention.

This situation is considered alarming by the authorities of Madagascar, a country that has ratified the Convention. The Assistant Director of Culture of UNESCO, Alfredo Perez de Armiñán, has also expressed his concern and said that “the preservation of sites of underwater cultural heritage from looting, commercial operations, and non-scientific excavations is critically important. These sites are fragile and must be preserved. The situation in Madagascar is worrying and I express my full support to the Ministry of Culture of Madagascar in her fight to protect its underwater heritage.”

The Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage has twelve experts of international reputation. It aims to assist States Parties to the Convention on scientific and technical questions, particularly in emergency situations.