Protecting Underwater Cultural Heritage

Celebrating 20 years of UNESCO's action

Engage with UNESCO

Stay connected with UNESCO

Partner with UNESCO

Join UNESCO in the protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage

Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage


The Underwater Cultural Heritage is the witness of our common memory, for several millennia. The oceans, seas, lakes and rivers hide from view and protect under the surface a priceless heritage, largely unknown and underestimated. No one can protect what is unknown. According to the famous Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, "We love what we marvel at, and we protect what we love. However, these underwater vestiges are threatened by looting and commercial exploitation, industrial trawling, coastal development, exploitation of natural resources and the sea bed. These vestiges are also weakened by global warming, and water acidification and pollution.

In order to protect, understand and make this heritage better known, UNESCO has developed and implemented for 20 years the 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

In 2021, this Convention celebrates its 20th anniversary, and has become in twenty years, the global legal framework of reference for the protection of underwater cultural heritage.