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UNESCO issues new publication on underwater cultural heritage of World War II in the Pacific


A new UNESCO publication focuses on good management practices in what regards the extensive submerged heritage dating from WWII, present in the waters of the Pacific region. It explores how States and local communities can benefit from the protection of these underwater cultural heritage sites, especially in terms of cultural identity preservation and sustainable development.

The Pacific Region covers about one-third of the surface of Earth and is consisting mainly of oceans and islands. It has a long history of human migration and settlement, especially over the oceans.  Beneath the waters of the Pacific Ocean lie thus traces of human heritage that span across the centuries. During WWII the region become an epicenter of fierce battles that left numerous shipwrecks and aircraft scattered over the seabed. Many of them are war graves.

LVT(A)-4 armoured assault vehicle, lost near Maui, being documented by University of Hawaii students. ©NOAA ONMS

The Pacific Member States are increasingly concerned about especially the degrading state of their WWII underwater cultural heritage sites. With their erosion comes a risk of pollution, due to oil and unexploded ordnance still being present on the wrecks. This concern is accompanied by worry for the overall preservation of the shipwreck sites that are major historic sites in addition to having become a main tourist attraction over the years.

UNESCO’s Cluster Office for the Pacific States launched a research project to develop better understanding of WWII-related underwater cultural heritage management issues and to assist Pacific Island countries in developing appropriate risk reduction strategies. Calling for enhanced cooperation among stakeholders, the publication outlines good practices in protection and management. It is unique in promoting a balanced approach between safeguarding WWII heritage and the protection of the environment.

This work has been possible thanks to the support of the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund.

In addition to the important WWII sites, submerged heritage in the region encompasses ancient sunken villages, traditional fish traps of indigenous communities, and shipwrecks of missionaries and explorers.

Link : Safeguarding underwater cultural heritage in the Pacific: report on good practice in the protection and management of World War II-related underwater cultural heritage

Source : UNESCO