As a responsible seabed user, the marine aggregates industry is keen to preserve our marine heritage and to contribute to a better understanding of it. Heritage issues that have to be taken into account include the more obvious ship and aircraft remains, but also evidence relating to prehistoric landscapes, including faunal remains such as mammoth teeth and bones and the early tools used by our ancestors.
BMAPA has worked in partnership with English Heritage, statutory advisor to UK Government on England’s historic environment, to develop a Guidance Note which ensures that marine heritage issues are comprehensively addressed at every stage of marine aggregate development and production. This includes a requirement for seabed mapping prior to dredging in order to establish the positions of any wrecks and debris and the potential for submerged prehistoric landscapes. Where features of archaeological significance are encountered, localised dredging restrictions are employed.
Where required, dredging activities also take account of any specific guidance provided by marine archaeologists, which may include monitoring particular aspects of the seabed development.
BMAPA has also developed a reporting protocol for archaeological finds discovered during the dredging process, again in partnership with English Heritage. The protocol has been voluntarily applied by BMAPA member companies across all its operations, and captures over 25 dredging vessels and 60 marine aggregate wharves. The protocol is supported by marine archaeological experts, who provide advice to operators and ensure that finds reported by dredger vessels crew and those working at wharves are able to be correctly identified, recorded and archived. The protocol acts as a safety net, and where finds relating to ship or aircraft wreckage can be directly related to a particular location, the archaeological experts are able to provide advice to operators on appropriate mitigation measures, such as exclusion zones to prevent further damage before additional investigations are undertaken.
The reporting protocol is now into its seventh year and as of September 2011 has seen 245 individual reports being filed detailing over 830 individual finds. Delivery is jointly funded by BMAPA, English Heritage and The Crown Estate on a partnership basis.
The delivery service includes the production of an annual report, which provides details of every find that has been reported. This is essential to provide feedback to the ship and wharf staff that ultimately make the protocol work. Maintaining interest and awareness of the protocol across all the industry is important, and the three partners also sponsor an ongoing awareness programme which includes bi-annual newsletters reporting recent finds, and also wharf visits to give staff knowledge and confidence to recognise and report archaeological material amongst dredged sand and gravel.
The Guidance Note and Reporting Protocol, together with annual reports and examples of recent finds associated with marine aggregate operations can be accessed through the following site: www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/marine/bmapa/index.html
You can get an expert view on the issue of how dredging affects marine archaeology by watching a specially commissioned BMAPA video.