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For many years treasure hunters have considered the Caribbean region a prime target for their ventures. While some have chosen to seek contracts with island governments, others have chosen clandestine operations. Regardless of the methods used by treasure hunters, the results are the same--destruction of the region's cultural heritage.
Fortunately, Caribbean nations wanting to develop their cultural resources do not have to rely on treasure hunters. Governments can contract with universities and non-profit organizations that have expertise in dealing with historic shipwreck archaeological sites, thereby developing their resources while retaining ownership of recovered artifacts.
Nations contemplating cultural resource development should first enact legislation that clearly establishes ownership of historic ship archaeological sites and then they should design cultural resource management plans that include consideration for site preservation, ecological impacts from site excavations, and artifact conservation, study and display.
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