The Queensland Government will kick off a statewide survey of Queensland's historic shipwrecks to provide a better understanding of where the historic sites are off Queensland's coastline.
Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones today announced the survey, to begin in Moreton Bay, will be carried out by the Heritage Branch of the Department of Environment and Resource Management, which has recently taken over management of Queensland's historic shipwrecks from the Queensland Maritime Museum.
"Queensland's coastline is littered with untold stories under the sea," Ms Jones said.
"We know there are more than 1,000 historic shipwrecks or abandoned vessels along the State's coast, as well as in our rivers and bays. But in most cases, data on these shipwrecks is scant and often inaccurate.
"Every one of these ships is an irreplaceable archaeological site which can tell us much about the lives of past generations of Queenslanders and oth ers who visited our shores.
"Through this survey, we will tap into the broad range of skills and equipment within our heritage and marine parks units to locate as many wrecks as possible and determine their significance."
Ms Jones said there is a wealth of information about unidentified shipwrecks among interested members of the community, historical researchers and diving groups.
"The first stage in this survey will be community consultation, with the department calling on members of the public, research organisations and diving groups to help build our knowledge of historic sites, starting with Moreton Bay.
"We know the people of Queensland are passionate about our underwater history - and there is a real interest in many of our shipwrecks among the diving community in particular.
"By working with the community we hope to build a clearer picture about the wrecks sitting off our coast."
Ms Jones said following this consultatio n, the department will next year commence targeted field operations using technology such as side-scan sonar, to confirm actual locations for mapping and preservation.
"While some wrecks in the Moreton Bay area are well-known such as the Aarhus, there are approximately 50 wrecks reported in and around the Bay listed on the National Shipwreck Database.
"In many cases, the locations listed are imprecise and we know very little about the history of the individual wrecks.
"As we saw with the recent search for the Centaur, locating and identifying these wrecks can be very difficult.
"The department will be using sophisticated technology such as side-scan sonar to help to map their exact locations."
Ms Jones said the survey would also locate different types of underwater heritage objects other than shipwrecks, such as aircraft.
"One of the aims of the survey is to ensure Queensland's precious maritime heritage is properly managed and , where appropriate, made accessible to the general public," Ms Jones said.
"Queensland has some of the most popular wreck dives in Australia including the Yongala in north Queensland which is visited by around 5,000 people every year.
"Over the next five years, we will work with Queensland's diving community to make more of these sites accessible to tourists and the diving public.
"While not every wreck can be used for recreation, all sites need to be managed as they contribute to our understanding of Queensland's past."
The Department of Environment and Resource Management has been given the responsibility for managing Queensland's historic shipwrecks under the Commonwealth's Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
Under the delegation, the department is now responsible for all enquiries regarding historic shipwrecks within Queensland and adjacent waters including:
* receiving and responding to reports of new discoveries
R 26; issuing of permits to enter protected zones and areas
* processing notifications
* assessing and managing historic shipwrecks
* responding to reported incidents and enforcement.
* public information and community engagement
* managing the register of Queensland's historic shipwreck artefacts.
Anyone with information or enquires about Queensland's historic shipwrecks should contact DERM's Customer Service Centre on 1300 130 372, or e-mail email@example.com
Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
The Honourable Kate Jones