Stakes and Challenges for Underwater Cultural
Heritage in the Era of Blue Growth and the Role of
Spatial Planning: Implications and Prospects
Department of Planning and Development, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece;
Received: 30 January 2019; Accepted: 26 March 2019; Published: 2 April 2019
Underwater cultural heritage (UCH) constitutes an invaluable asset, which is lately
being challenged by the blue growth trend that cannot be easily reconciled with the goal of
UCH preservation and promotion. Maritime spatial planning (MSP)—under a place-based
approach—creates better chances for UCH to receive more attention in the future compared to
other resources, since it is considered to be the key procedure for tackling growing competition
among sea users (user-user conﬂicts) and for mitigating the pressure these users put on the marine
environment (natural and cultural). In Greece, a country with great insularity, extensive marine space,
and a long and glorious past, UCH resources are in abundance. According to the ofﬁcial Ministry of
Culture data-base, there are 88 designated UCH sites throughout the national waters, the majority of
which are found very close to the shore. They usually concern ancient cities and built monuments
that were eventually submerged (due to earthquakes, geological processes, etc.), so they usually have
a mixed nature—terrestrial and marine. These sites, however, constitute a very small part of what is
actually lying on the Greek seabed. Estimations for the future identify a rise in accidental discoveries
of UCH, due to the blue growth trend and an increase in access to and work in the sea. In this event,
much controversy is expected, concerning the appropriate type of management for UCH. The role
of MSP in this decision-making process will be decisive, being about “when” and “where” human
activities take place at sea, to ensure these are as efﬁcient and sustainable as possible.
Underwater cultural heritage (UCH); maritime spatial planning (MSP); blue growth;
place-based approach; Greece
According to estimations made by UNESCO, there are millions of wrecks worldwide spanning
thousands of years of history, with hundreds of ancient cities now lying beneath water surfaces
due to natural phenomena (changing sea levels, earthquakes, etc.) as well as manmade disasters
(shifting landmasses, building of dams, etc.), and many geological formations (caves, etc.) that at some
point were ﬂooded, hiding prehistoric sites beneath the water surface [
]. Such valuable resources,
however, are lately being challenged by the blue growth trend and the ever-growing interest in the
development of maritime economic activities and infrastructure that may be directed at or indirectly
affect underwater cultural heritage (hereinafter, UCH).
So far, existing literature for UCH, which is quite extensive, mainly focuses on issues of maritime
archaeology and preservation [
]; on jurisdictions and rights as included in the international or
regional legal documents [
] pertaining to management and promotion [
]; or in its correlation
with natural and technological hazards and threats [
]. On the other hand, literature correlating
Heritage 2019,2, 1060–1069; doi:10.3390/heritage2020069 www.mdpi.com/journal/heritage
UCH with stakes and challenges related to the blue growth trend—which, according to the EU is about
supporting sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole—is still very limited.
This fact, however, comes as no surprise, if one considers that the EU Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP)
was announced in 2007, whilst the EU Maritime Spatial Planning (hereinafter MSP) Directive was
launched in 2014.
Given the above, the present paper focuses on UCH resources, especially submarine, which are
within the MSP geographical scope. It also highlights the increasing interest in blue growth (and the
way it may affect UCH) and the role of MSP in protecting and promoting UCH. Focusing on the case
of Greece, the paper aims at contributing to the ongoing discussion regarding the wise management
and planning of the marine space (MSP), always taking into consideration the UCH parameter, which
is lately being severely challenged by the blue growth trend—a trend that cannot be easily reconciled
with the goal of UCH preservation and promotion.
2. About Underwater Cultural Heritage
2.1. Deﬁnitions and Terms
According to the UCH Convention of UNESCO (adopted in 2001), “Underwater Cultural Heritage”
is deﬁned as: All traces of human existence having a cultural, historical, or archaeological character,
which have been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years,
such as: (i) Sites, structures, buildings, artefacts, and human remains, together with their archaeological
and natural context; (ii) vessels, aircraft, other vehicles, or any part thereof, their cargo or other
contents, together with their archaeological and natural context; and (iii) objects of prehistoric character.
The convention names a wide range of UCH assets, also introducing a double criterion: (a) Time
(giving a 100-year limit) and (b) signiﬁcance (distinguishing UCH assets as cultural, historical, or
]. The convention excludes from the deﬁnition of UCH all types of pipelines and
cables, as well as other installations placed on the seabed.
According to the Draft European Convention on underwater cultural heritage (Council of Europe,
1985), UCH resources may be found entirely or in part in seas, lakes, rivers, canals, artiﬁcial reservoirs,
or other bodies of water; in tidal or other periodically ﬂooded areas; recovered from any such
environment; or washed ashore. Therefore, by its nature and deﬁnition, “underwater cultural heritage”
has a strict geographical scope (cultural assets found within water bodies) and a strong tangible
character (it is solely associated with tangible assets and resources). Other terms used instead of UCH
by international documents (e.g., the 1954 Hague Convention) and literature are “underwater cultural
property” and “submerged objects”, due to the emphasis put on the tangible character of UCH and the
rights for salvage and rescue of their content [7,14].
2.2. Stakes and Challenges for UCH in the Era of the Blue Growth Trend and the Role of Spatial Planning
Marine space is constantly gaining ground as “home” to a growing number of activities and
human uses [
]. Due to improvements in technology, today it is easier than ever to exploit marine
resources found at longer distances and greater depths, as well as to construct resilient infrastructure
and facilities in seas for the development of several economic activities [
]. As a result, the spectrum
of human uses taking place in the sea has grown to include, apart from traditional activities (such
as navigation and maritime transport, ﬁsheries, etc.), a series of new ones, such as: Extraction of
hydrocarbons and aggregates; energy production; aquaculture; tourism and leisure; research and
protection of the marine natural and cultural heritage; military uses; and so on .
As recent research indicates, however [
], this great—and usually unplanned—development
of human uses and infrastructure in the sea (as a result of the blue growth trend) is not only threatening
marine natural resources with exhaustion and degradation, but also UCH [
]. To address
this challenge, marine/maritime spatial planning (MSP), which is “a public process of analyzing and
allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological,
economic, and social objectives that usually have been speciﬁed through a political process” [
recently become a high priority globally. In fact, with increasing acknowledgment of the threats
that the marine ecosystems are facing, more and more international organizations and bodies (or
even sole countries) are turning their interest towards MSP, and especially towards MSP under a
This re-orientation of MSP from a sectorial-based approach (which emphasizes the growth of
speciﬁc activities each time) to a place-based approach (which aims at organizing all human activities,
so that user–user and user–environment conﬂicts are avoided) is of paramount importance to UCH,
which is now receiving growing pressure and threats due to the blue growth taking place in oceans
and seas [17,23].
MSP under a place-based approach creates better chances for UCH to receive more attention
in terms of protection and management. At the same time, MSP under a place-based approach is
considered to be suitable for tackling the growing competition among sea uses (user–user conﬂicts)
and for mitigating the pressure these uses put on the marine environment (natural and cultural) [
However, even if place-based MSP occurs, the greatest challenge for UCH will be how to reconcile
blue growth trends with UCH preservation and promotion: In other words, how should UCH be
prioritized, compared to other marine economic activities and resources, when planning for human
uses of the sea.
3. Considering the UCH Parameter in MSP
3.1. Maritime Protection Zones and UCH
Protected areas (or protection zones) constitute a special type of zone, speciﬁcally addressing
management and protection of natural and cultural heritage and assets. At an international level,
zoning aimed at UCH protection—a special “cultural heritage protection zone” (The UCH convention
on underwater cultural heritage was launched in 2001 to stipulate further provisions for the protection
of UCH in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In the initial draft of the convention, a “cultural heritage
protection zone” was proposed to assist a key objective of the convention, i.e., “in situ” protection [
This zone, however, was soon removed from later versions, for raising controversy with existing
zoning provided by UNCLOS. If left, it could have been established by any coastal state party, covering
areas beyond its territorial sea and up to the outer limit of the continental self, giving jurisdiction over
all kinds of activities affecting UCH [
].)—was ﬁrst conceptualized during the drafting of the United
Nations UCH convention on underwater cultural heritage. Such a concept, though, never reached
the ﬁnal version of the convention. As a result, zoning explicitly addressing the protection of UCH is
entirely a national affair. This means that conceptualization and designation of such zones (having
as the sole focus protection of UCH resources) can only be undertaken individually by each state,
either within its territory, territorial waters (According to UNCLOS (art.3), “Every State has the right
to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured
from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention”), or the contiguous zone (According
to UNCLOS (art. 33), the contiguous zone may not extend beyond 24 nautical miles from the baselines
from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.).
This complete absence of a special zone directly addressing UCH protection beyond the
contiguous zone of a coastal state can be remediated by other zoning, having a more general and
wider objective and focus, such as marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs constitute spatially-delimited
areas in the marine environment, within which certain human uses and activities are either permitted
or not [
]. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), MPAs
can be designated for a number of reasons, including: Economic resource management; biodiversity
conservation; species protection; and the protective management of natural areas to keep them in good
environmental and natural condition. UCH, being an integral part of the marine natural ecosystem
and landscape, may therefore beneﬁt from the designation of such protection zones [
], especially in
the cases where a cultural asset is located beyond the territorial waters or the contiguous zone of a
coastal state (i.e., in areas where coastal states’ jurisdictions over UCH do not apply).
The MPAs launched at an international and regional level (by the International Maritime
Organization—IMO, UN, EU, etc.) include a range of speciﬁc intended purposes. These are described
in the following paragraphs.
MARPOL special areas
: The MARPOL Convention (International Convention for the Prevention
of Pollution from Ships) was adopted in 1973 by the IMO. According to this convention, special areas
can be recognized at an international level for technical reasons, or due to their particular character and
oceanographical and ecological condition, for the purpose of adopting measures for the prevention of
sea pollution by oil. The convention also provides for an “emission control area” designed to prevent,
reduce, and control air pollution from NOx or SOx and the adverse impacts on human health and
Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs)
: Resolution A.982 (24) of IMO, provides the possibility
for the designation of a PSSA, especially in areas fulﬁlling a set of ecological, social, cultural, and
economic criteria (e.g., be a unique or rare ecosystem, be a signiﬁcant area for education, recreation,
or tourism, etc.). The designation of an area as a PSSA requires speciﬁc measures for the control of
maritime activities in that area, including routing measures, etc. PSSAs can be included in MARPOL
special areas and vice versa.
Special Protected Areas
Sites of Community Importance
(SCIs): SPAs and SCIs,
established by the European Union in 1992 (the Habitats Directive 1992/43), constitute the largest
network of protected areas in the world. The network includes terrestrial and marine sites, providing
protection to valuable and threatened species, and habitats of natural importance.
Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Interest (SPAMIs)
: The SPA/BD Protocol of the
Barcelona Convention (UNEP/MAP) provided the possibility for the designation of SPAMIs. This type
of protected area is established to promote cooperation in the management and conservation of
natural areas, as well as to protect threatened species and their habitats found in the marine space
of the Mediterranean. SPAMIs are also designated in marine areas of scientiﬁc, aesthetic, historical,
archaeological, cultural, or educational interest.
Ecological Protection Zones (EPZ)
: Such zones are established in the EU and in the Mediterranean
with the approval of the IMO. The primary objective is to preserve ecological biodiversity and, in some
cases, living resources (such as ﬁshes, etc.).
Given the above options and range of MPAs, selection of the most appropriate type of zone for
the protection and management of UCH depends on: a) The distance from shore, i.e., if its location
falls within the territorial waters (12 n.m. from the baseline) of a coastal state or within a proclaimed
E.E.Z. (200 n.m. from the baseline); and b) the type of valuable resource found in the surrounding area
of UCH. This is, of course, in the case that “in situ” protection and management of UCH is chosen.
3.2. Sea-Use Planning in Areas Including UCH: Identifying Synergies and Conﬂicts
Although the designation of natural and cultural protection zones is of prime importance for
UCH, even more signiﬁcant is the content of the planning implemented within the limits of such zones.
In other words, what is more important is to properly allocate and manage the sea uses and activities,
so that synergies are promoted and conﬂicts are avoided. This section identiﬁes activities that are
compatible with UCH, as well as activities affecting and seriously threatening this type of resource.
According to the existing literature and research experience, maritime activities that constitute
threats to and may directly affect and damage UCH, include [
]: (a) All construction reaching
the seabed (mining of fossils and metals, drilling, aggregates extraction, etc.); (b) all installations making
use of the seabed (pipelines, cables, etc.); (c) certain ﬁshing techniques (e.g., dragnet bottom-trawling)
that create a great disturbance to all living and non-living resources found on the seabed; and
(d) military and defense exercises and activities. Another serious threat now gaining intensity is
human interference directed at UCH, a result of technological developments that allow easier access
by humans to submerged assets [2,32].
Beyond the above maritime activities directly affecting and harming UCH, there are also others
that may indirectly affect submerged cultural assets. As the sea constitutes a blue continuum—where
the ﬂow of materials (substances, pollution, etc.) is unimpeded, following unpredictable patterns of
dispersion and movement—UCH may also be threatened by activities that take place far from UCH
]. Such activities include: Fossil fuel extraction, maritime transport, and military activities,
i.e., all kinds of activities that threaten marine resources in case of technological disasters (e.g., oil
spills). Beyond those activities, pollution from marine and land-based activities (e.g., marine litter,
uncontrolled waste water disposal in the sea) is another threat for UCH [26,28,30,33–35].
Regarding the compatible uses and the synergies created with UCH, these may include: (a) Nature
reserves and natural heritage sites (designated or not as MPAs), with which cultural assets co-exist
harmoniously and enjoy recognition and protection; (b) scientiﬁc research ensuring enhancement of
knowledge and education; and (c) recreation and marine tourism activities (wildlife watching, scuba
diving, etc.), so that humankind beneﬁts from the existence of UCH [
]. However, especially
regarding tourism development and leisure opportunities, the challenges faced raise controversy.
While tourism development is a promising option both in terms of job opportunities and economic
growth, risks also exist, mainly due to the direct contact of humans with the submerged assets.
In short, the identiﬁcation of compatible and incompatible uses with UCH is of prime importance
when planning in areas including UCH resources. MSP implementations may ensure that conﬂicts
and threats are avoided, creating conservation of UCH resources for present and future generations.
Synergies may also be achieved, adding economic value to the UCH capital, which is a signiﬁcant task
if UCH is to receive priority over other activities and maritime regimes. Furthermore, the identiﬁcation
of conﬂicting and non-compatible uses is essential for coastal states, in order to establish restrictions
and regulations, as well as safety distance limits between UCH and other uses, thus assisting decision-
making (licensing, permissions, etc.) for activities in the buffer zones of UCH.
4. Implications and Prospects in Greece
4.1. The Context and Legislation for UCH Management and Preservation
Greece is a country with a long and glorious past that is reﬂected in its rich and magniﬁcent
monumental heritage spread throughout the country and well beyond its territorial seas. Indeed,
according to a study conducted in 2010 , Greece counts more than 10,000 archaeological sites and
ancient monuments and another few thousand monuments of modern times, found both on land and
in the sea.
Having full acknowledgment of the invaluable cultural property located in areas of national
jurisdiction (and well beyond), the Greek state (under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture)
has long established a full and integrated legislative framework to tackle all issues related to the
management and protection of its cultural assets, both on land and in the sea [
] (see also
Table 1). The ﬁrst Greek law that governed Greek antiquities was passed in 1834. This was subject to
amendments until 2002, when the latest law was adopted. This law (No 3028) covers national heritage,
both tangible and intangible, of all periods of time, regardless of their location (even in areas beyond
the national jurisdiction). The law also provides regulations on the preservation and management
of the Greek monumental heritage, the most important being those included in Art. 13, introducing
protection zoning for assets found both on land and in the sea. Two kinds of protection zoning were
Protection zone A is the zone of absolute protection
that usually delimitates the strict area of
the monument or archaeological site. Within this zone, all kinds of interventions and constructions are
prohibited (with the exception of actions taken for the restoration and preservation of the monument).
Protection zone B is the buffer zone
, extending to such a distance as to include areas that interact
with the monument and its surrounding landscape. According to the provisions of law 3028, in zone B,
planning must include land-use restrictions and regulations, ensuring that the monument is protected
from any kind of visual, aural, and olfactory nuisance, as well as other nuisances that are provoked by
inappropriate action and excessive construction activity.
Table 1. Cultural heritage protection zones (jurisdiction under the Ministry of Culture).
1932 Buffer zone of 500 m radius
(zone giving jurisdiction to the Ministry of Culture over building permissions)
1950 Landscapes of outstanding natural beauty (zone transferred to the Ministry for the Environment in 2011)
2002 Protection zone A and protection zone B
Source: adapted from .
In short, including a clear spatial dimension (planning tools and zones) in law 3028 was certainly a
breakthrough in Greek cultural heritage legislation. However, what is more important than designating
monuments and then delimitating protection zones is how to be consistent with the spirit of the cultural
heritage legislation and the objective of preservation, without suppressing the need of areas to grow
and develop, and the necessity of generations to evolve socially and economically.
4.2. UCH Sites and Designations
Greece has a long and rich cultural past, and it is estimated that a great number of cultural objects
and sites exist on its seabed. So far, however, very few of them have been discovered and even fewer
have been revealed to the public. This is deemed to be the result of: (a) The rough oceanography
of the Greek sea ﬂoor, making the discovery of cultural objects very difﬁcult, unless they are found
very close to the shore or discovered by accident; (b) the natural phenomena and processes occurring
underwater and on the seabed, which make it extremely difﬁcult to locate objects and to ﬁnd them
well-preserved; (c) the scarcity of marine archaeological research in Greek territorial waters, mainly
due to the difﬁculties and the high cost of working underwater, as well as the specialized experience
and equipment needed; and (d) the secrecy with which most related research data and discoveries
are treated, in order to avoid illicit actions (given that surveillance of underwater objects is almost
So far, the only ofﬁcial data in Greece (open to the public) concerning UCH sites and objects,
are provided by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and speciﬁcally, through its ofﬁcial data-base, also
available online (http://listedmonuments.culture.gr). This data-base, however, includes information
only on UCH sites that come with an act of designation. This means that no information is included
either on submerged objects not yet designated nor on objects with high cultural value that should
remain unknown to the public.
Given the above, this paper attempted original research in the ofﬁcial (open to the public)
data-base of the Ministry of Culture, in order to record the designated UCH sites of Greece. According
to this research, in total, 88 underwater archaeological sites were recorded, spread throughout the
Greek territorial waters (see Table 2). The highest number of sites was recorded in the marine space
surrounding the Peloponnese region, although in total, UCH presence is higher in the Aegean Sea.
The designation of UCH sites began in Greece in 1948 (in the commercial port of Rhodes).
While these sites derive mainly from the Classical Era, their origin and construction range from the
Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period. Regarding their location, the majority of designated UCH
archaeological sites are coastal. This means they cover both terrestrial and marine areas and usually
regard ancient cities that were eventually submerged (due to earthquakes, geological processes, etc.).
On the contrary, those found totally underwater are usually ancient port infrastructures, walls, and
sometimes wrecks with loads.
Table 2. Designated UCH sites in Greece.
Regions Total (Underwater *) First and Last Year of
Designation UCH Period of Construction
Peloponnese 21 (2) 1950–2009 Bronze Age up to post-Byzantine Era
North Aegean 17 (8) 1960–2006 Prehistoric Era up to Byzantine Era
South Aegean 16 (7) 1948–2012 Prehistoric Era up to post-Byzantine Era
Crete 13 (4) 1967–2005 Bronze Age up to modern Greek Era
Thessaly 10 (5) 1965–2004 Classical Era up to post-Byzantine Era
Attica 8 (2) 1979–2003 Bronze Age up to Early Byzantine Era
Central Greece 7 (2) 1985–2001 Classical Era up to post-Byzantine Era
Ionian Islands 3 (-) 1994–2003
Late Bronze Age up to post-Byzantine Era
Central Macedonia 2 (2) 1987–2003 Prehistoric Era up to Byzantine Era
Eastern Macedonia 1 (-) 1987 Classical Era
Epirus - - -
Western Greece - - -
TOTAL 88 1948–2012 -
* Number of sites being totally underwater (not extending both to terrestrial and marine parts). Source: http:
//listedmonuments.culture.gr (ofﬁcial data—Hellenic Ministry of Culture).
In short, UCH sites of Greece are of great historical value and of great national and international
importance. However, the ones included in the database of the Ministry of Culture do not constitute the
full list. Their number is estimated to be much higher, if one also considers those yet to be discovered
(accidentally or not) or those yet to be designated, if the state chooses for inclusion in the list of the
cultural heritage of the country. Whatever the actual number of UCH sites might be, existing trends in
the marine space and the growing interest in allocating more human uses and installations in the sea
are expected to raise controversy and dilemmas on the type of management to be adapted for UCH.
The role of MSP in this decision-making will be decisive, given that its role is to regulate “when” and
“where” human activities take place at sea, ensuring these are as efﬁcient and sustainable as possible
4.3. The Blue Growth Trend and the Role of MSP in Greece: Challenges for UCH
Situated in the east Mediterranean Basin, between the Ionian and the Aegean Seas, Greece is
known for its extremely insular and coastal nature. Thousands of islands, islets, and outcrops compose
the marine space of Greece, which is also characterized by great depths, hosting signiﬁcant species
(catches, etc.), as well as a great variety of other living and non-living resources [18,20].
Given this peculiar nature, Greece has an interesting and long tradition in maritime economic
activities, taking full advantage of its coastal and marine morphology and resources. According to
recent statistics, Greece is placed among the top countries in the EU in ﬁshing exports (free ﬁshing
and aquaculture), and among those with the largest shipping ﬂeet in the world [
]. At the same time,
due to its extremely insular nature, in the Greek marine space, a dense naval transportation system
exists, with sea lanes serving passenger and commercial transit, as well as marine tourism.
With its maritime tradition and oceanographic features, Greece has always had a sectorial
approach to maritime spatial planning (with the exception of the two marine national parks of
Zakynthos and Alonnissos, whose management plans were the ﬁrst to use a place-based planning
]. All sectors of the Greek maritime economy are regulated by equal (in number)
national policy documents (approved by the relevant ministries), with the exception of the aquaculture
sector, which is the only one that has a national spatial framework (adopted in 2011, via Ofﬁcial
Gazette No 2505/B/2011) that sets the rules and regulations for the spatial organization of aquaculture
activities. The key objective of all the above sectorial policy documents and spatial plans, is always the
expansion of the sector in question, both geographically and economically.
Lately, however, this sectorial approach that has prevailed in Greece (placing an emphasis on the
development of speciﬁc economic sectors in the sea) is being severely challenged by a more place-based
approach, especially regarding spatial planning [
]. In fact, this transition from sectorial maritime
spatial planning (MSP) towards MSP under a place-based approach became ofﬁcial in Greece after
the passage of the new law of 2018 (Law No 4546). According to this law (harmonizing the EU MSP
Directive 2014/89), Greece must soon (i.e., before March 2021) approve maritime spatial plans under
the ecosystem approach (which has as its prerequisite the endorsement of a place-based planning
This latest trend in Greece towards a place-based approach in MSP is of great importance to
UCH, which is found in abundance. This is ﬁrstly because place-based MSP may effectively tackle key
challenges related to the blue growth trend currently taking place in the country (mainly related to the
marine tourism sector and the developments in the fossil fuel extraction sector). Secondly, MSP under
a place-based approach may ensure better organization and regulation of maritime activities that may
directly or indirectly affect UCH. Finally, it can also provide solutions to upgrade the economic value
of UCH to make it more appealing compared to other economic activities (having a more direct and
extractive economic value).
5. Conclusions and Discussion
Underwater cultural heritage constitutes an invaluable resource, from an ecological, educational,
and economic point of view, that needs acknowledgement and proper treatment to continue offering
great beneﬁts to humankind. However, despite its indisputable value, UCH has mainly been neglected
in most marine planning attempts, given the sectorial approach that has prevailed until now when
planning in the sea, placing an emphasis on certain economic activities and regimes. Lately, however,
now that maritime spatial planning (MSP) under a place-based approach has been gaining ground all
over the world, the opportunities and challenges for UCH are considerably different.
In Greece, although UCH resources are estimated to exist in abundance, so far, very few UCH
sites have been discovered and even fewer have been shared with the public. The existing blue
growth trend and the growing interest in allocating more human uses and installations in the sea
are expected to raise controversy and dilemmas regarding the type of management to be adapted
for UCH. Therefore, Greece has to proceed at a faster pace towards the elaboration of maritime
spatial plans under a place-based approach, so that human activities are wisely regulated, avoiding
user–use and user–environment conﬂicts and creating conditions for UCH conservation for present
and future generations.
The key argument of this paper is that MSP can become a key procedure and a valuable ally
of UCH. However, it is important to keep in mind that maintaining and integrating UCH into MSP
requires that such resources are highly prioritized compared to other resources and maritime regimes.
This challenge is probably the greatest for UCH in the era of blue growth, especially if one considers
that even if UCH constitutes a resource of great socio-cultural value, it has very few direct or extractive
uses of economic importance. Therefore, a future task for spatial planners and decision-makers will be
how to reconcile the blue growth trend with UCH preservation and how to upgrade the economic
value of UCH to make the conservation and enhancement of such resources a priority in MSP.
Given the above, the key issues discussed in this paper can have a practical application in the
forthcoming development of maritime spatial plans in Greece, under a place-based approach. However,
if the UCH parameter is to be properly considered in this process, future research must focus on a
selected marine pilot area in Greece, where apart from the designated UCH sites, other submerged
objects and coastal assets (having a cultural value) will also be evaluated (such as modern shipwrecks,
submerged buildings, lighthouses, etc.). In this research, a key objective will be to identify and apply
suitable methods (e.g., environmental economics) to value and evaluate UCH in a speciﬁc marine area.
This will inevitably contribute to the preparation of Greece’s ﬁrst place-based maritime spatial plans,
which must be completed and approved before 2021.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Conﬂicts of Interest: The authors declare no conﬂict of interest.
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