Oceans without history? Marine Cultural Heritage and the sustainable development agenda

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This paper aims to set out the role Marine Cultural Heritage (MCH) can play in informing responses to global challenges and enhancing the sustainable development of coastal zones. This requires recognition of the importance of MCH as a knowledge base amongst marine ocean scientists, policy makers and marine stakeholders on the one hand and a greater effort by marine heritage specialists to engage with the 2030 Agenda on the other. The forthcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) provides an opportunity to engage with the sea more widely but it is argued that the cultural element provided by considering past human action is currently lacking. The importance of understanding human interaction with the sea in terms of gaining a more complete picture of human history is briefly presented and a definition of MCH as all past action in the human zone is given. The article then sets out how MCH can enhance sustainable development in the marine zone with particular reference to SDG14 considering heritage tourism, coastal development and infrastructure, development aid policy, climate change, coastal management, fisheries and the offshore industry. The article highlights that the knowledge and data from MCH should be seen as crucial in evidence-based decision making across the coastal and marine sectors. The paper concludes that the inclusion of MCH approaches in initiatives aiming at coastal and ocean sustainability is not just advisable—it is essential.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5080
Number of pages22
Issue number18
Early online date17 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Sep 2019


  • marine cultural heritage
  • maritime archaeology
  • sustainable development
  • SDG 14
  • resilience
  • blue economy
  • ocean science


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