PHILIPSBURG:--- The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) would hereby like to inform the General public of the following.
Underwater Cultural (Archaeological) Heritage is considered to be all traces of human existence having a cultural, historical or archaeological character which have been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 50 years such as:
(i) sites, structures, buildings, artifacts and human remains, together with their archaeological and natural context;
(ii) vessels, aircraft, other vehicles or any part thereof, their cargo or other contents, together with their archaeological and natural context; and
(iii) objects of pre historic character
It is prohibited to touch a registered monument or remove items of underwater archeological value without a permit/waiver from the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, or violate any of the conditions laid down in such a permit in whole or in part if it involves:
a) Breaking down or moving of any objects on the seabed
b) Destroying or damaging of any objects or wrecks, vessels or relics
c) Alterations in any fashion (Changing of coordinates)
d) Restoration, usage or allowed usage in a manner whereby the registered monument is defaced or put at risk.
e) Removal of any relics, items or artifacts from the seabed, wreckage or vessel
f) Removal of any materials of archeological value from the seabed
g) Exploring of St. Maarten’s waters and/or seabed for personal purposes or gain without written consent from the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (i.e. Treasure hunting)
h) Disturb or damage the seabed or local coral during explorations
Based on Article 32 sub 1 of the Landsverordening Maritiem Beheer, there is a Contact point ‘Meldpunt’ for underwater archaeological cultural heritage.
Article 32 sub 3 states that the person/entity that discovers an underwater archaeological cultural heritage or who knows or must reasonably suspect that there is a maritime archaeological/cultural heritage must report such to the contact point for Underwater archaeological/cultural heritage or the Minister of ECYS. The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport is to be notified immediately of any underwater archaeological/cultural heritage in the territorial waters or inland of St. Maarten.
Based on article 32 sub 4 it is forbidden without or in deviation of the waiver granted by the Minister of ECYS to dig/excavate, move/remove or otherwise damage or disturb the maritime archaeological heritage or parts thereof from the inland or territorial waters of St. Maarten.
It is prohibited to remove any items found in the waters of St. Maarten that is of archeological value. The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport is to be notified immediately of any underwater cultural heritage which may not be removed in any way or form from the inland or territorial waters of St. Maarten. Person(s) that violate the law may face a fine of up to 1 million guilders and a maximum prison sentence of four years.
It is also illegal to travel with artifacts that are of historical value in any way or form without written consent from the Minister of ECYS. Doing so is considered to be illicit trafficking of goods.
The above outlined applies to the entire inland and territorial waters of Sint Maarten. At this time, there are sites and wreckages that are considered to be restricted areas. One, in particular, being the HMS Proselyte in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. There may be more wreckages in the waters of Sint Maarten and the general public is to adhere to instructions of the relevant authorities to move from a particular area if requested to do so.
The Government of St. Maarten is not restricting access to the beach however, any persons caught or are believed to be “treasure hunting” or exploring, without permission from the Minister of ECYS in the inland or territorial waters of Sint Maarten will be taken in for questioning and further criminal investigation by the relevant authorities falling under the Ministry of Justice.
Should you have any questions, please contact the Department of Culture at 54-22056.
We would hereby like to thank the general public for their understanding and expect future cooperation from all in this matter.