Murky Waters: The Law and Economics of Salvaging Historic Shipwrecks
The salvage of historic shipwrecks involves a debate between salvors, who wish to maximize profit, and archaeologists, who wish to preserve historical value. Traditionally, salvage of shipwrecks has been governed by admiralty law, but the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 transferred title of historically important wrecks in U.S. waters to the state in whose waters the wreck is found, thereby abrogating admiralty law. This paper examines incentives to locate and salvage historic wrecks under traditional admiralty law and proposes an efficient reward scheme. It then reconsiders current U.S. and international law in light of the results.
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