The sea contains a wealth of archaeological remains. Prior to the end of the last Ice Age (c. 10,000 years ago), when sea level was lower than today, much of the seabed around the UK was dry land and was exploited by prehistoric peoples for its rich animal and plant resources. As the ice melted, and sea level rose, these artefacts and sites were submerged, lying undisturbed for thousands of years. Centuries of navigation and, since the start of the 20th century, aviation have also left wrecks and debris on the seabed – physical evidence of human culture.
As the leading inshore marine industry, commercial fishing fleets now interact with more archaeology than ever before, and the numerous discoveries that have already been made, and will be made in the future, have the potential to enhance our understanding of the past like never before.
The Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries was originally launched as a pilot study funded by English Heritage (now Historic England) during 2012–13. Reporting protocols have become an increasingly used form of mitigation against the direct impact of negative effects on unknown heritage assets. The scheme worked in collaboration with the Sussex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (Sussex IFCA) to help fishermen to voluntarily report archaeological finds found in their day to day operations. The project demonstrated an immense amount of interest and engagement from the fishing industry. However, limitations on fishermen’s time and their capacity to attend meetings, upload information and respond to an intermittent presence by heritage staff meant that a new approach was required. Therefore, acting on the previous work’s recommendations, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was approached for funding to support and create the position of Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer (HEFLO). Wessex Archaeology, with the support of the Sussex IFCA, were successful in their application to re-launch the FIPAD, and in February 2016 the post was created. In essence, FIPAD and the HEFLO provides a simple way for fishermen to report finds discovered on the seabed directly to an archaeologist.
Successful Protocols are already operating for other marine industries, these include the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest, funded by the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association, Historic England and The Crown Estate; and the Offshore Renewables Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries, also funded by The Crown Estate. Over 1100 finds have been reported though this Protocol during the past 10 years, adding a considerable amount of knowledge to our understanding of the UK’s marine heritage. You can read about these finds and what they tell us on the Protocol webpages
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Check out our FAQ webpages to find out more about the FIPAD Protocol.