Exploring Michigan TMs underwater artifact laws

If you want to find some of Michigan TMs most historical artifacts, you have to look underwater.

Every year, divers are finding new shipwreck preserves, and Michigan law states they are open for exploration.

The wreck is there for you to explore. In fact, the law specifically states it must remain accessible to sport diving for exploration but you are not to remove, alter, or pick up and move items under the law. So the idea is maintain it as it exists the way you found it, said Director, Hans Van Sumeren, Great Lakes Water Institute.

There are stiff penalties for people who tamper with underwater artifacts.

The Michigan underwater preserve system was created in 1980.

The legislation states it is a felony to remove or disturb artifacts in Michigan TMs great lakes.

Those caught removing any "souvenirs" can have their boat, car and equipment confiscated -- and face up to two years imprisonment and large fines.

Van Sumeren said the biggest problem Michigan faces is divers who are unaware of what the laws state. The problem we have with these shipwrecks is sometimes people don't know the laws, and so when they come in to the great lakes waters they don't understand our regulations. In the ocean, it may be quite normal for them to remove artifacts and take them home with them; unfortunately that is not the case here. Michigan is very strict about removing any artifacts even in the debris fields around the shipwrecks.

As more and more shipwrecks are discovered and explored, preservation and exploration become more desirable.

Watch our full report to hear what legislators are doing to protect artifacts and promote underwater tourism.

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