South Australia has a rich maritime history with more than 800 shipwrecks recorded along the coast and inland waters. The shipwrecks provide important information into the state's maritime history and are havens for marine life. The remains of these vessels are also important education, recreational and tourism assets.
South Australia's shipwrecks are non-renewable heritage resources. This means that once a wreck is damaged or disturbed, it can not be repaired, and the history and valued assets are lost. Therefore the protection of these historic wreck sites is critical for the preservation of the state's maritime heritage and surrounding marine environments.
Ship's graveyards sites offer unique opportunities for study and recreational activities because of their relative accessibility to both divers and non-divers and because of the purposeful way in which they were scuttled. This accessibility however also makes them more at risk from both accidental and deliberate damage.
A major threat to these eco-systems is the accidental damage caused by visitors stepping on plants or small creatures on the shoreline or colliding with the wrecks in boats or kayaks. Any physical impact by divers, boats or anchors seriously affects the delicate balance that exists on these sites.
Every effort should also be made to prevent accidental damage, such as that caused by trampling plants or animals along the shoreline, or by bumping into the structure with boats or kayaks or through poor control. Deliberate damage, for example, by dislodging or removing material should be avoided.
In an effort to preserve these historic wreck sites the department is responsible for the identification, management, protection and promotion of South Australia's maritime heritage under the following legislation: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981 (State) and Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 (Commonwealth).
The department encourages the responsible enjoyment of shipwreck sites throughout the state and has produced a number of interpretive trails and publications which promote these valuable resources.