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Note - Disaster, Deceit, and Treasure: Why the UNCLOS Resolution on Possession of Salvaged Wrecks Is Doing More Harm Than Good


The search for sunken treasure is a quest as old as time. That search, however, has led to animosity between neighbors, disputes between countries, and intercontinental naval battles. With the proliferation of undersea technology, what was once thought to be lost at sea is coming ever closer to the surface. Unfortunately, this new technology has only exacerbated existing disputes. The current state of international law, embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), inadequately solves treasure disputes over goods salvaged in international waters. Accordingly, UNCLOS must be amended to include a committee specifically designated and authorized to settle salvage disputes between member nations, states, and salvage companies. The United Nations, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the Institut de Droit International have attempted to remedy the disputes through resolutions. None of the resolutions have created a committee, and none of the resolutions have successfully solved the salvage disputes. Salvage disputes involve issues of maritime law, finders law, salvage law, and international law; therefore, they can only be solved when looked at through the historical lens in which they exist. This Note examines the history of maritime law and the development of salvage jurisprudence. It suggests a multi-factor framework that a salvage dispute committee can use to properly determine who owns what is found on the bottom of the sea.