Shipwrecks in BC are open to all divers for diving, but are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act. The premise behind the heritage wreck protection is to leave heritage objects intact, so that they can be studied and analyzed in the context of their surroundings. A wreck becomes protected automatically in BC once two, or more, years have passed since the vessel sank or was washed ashore, or the vessel is abandoned by its owner.
In order for the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia to succeed, our first task was establishing a working relationship with the provincial government archaeologists and heritage managers. Of vital importance was to educate the various levels of government about the importance, extent and fragile nature of our submerged cultural resources.
Starting with surveys of two wrecks of 19th-century sailing ships, the Panther and the Zephyr in the Gulf Islands in 1977, the UASBC created a successful liaison with the provincial archaeologists. As the scope, complexity and professionalism of our regional surveys has grown over the past three decades, so has the provincial government's financial support of the UASBC.