If you are diving any of Northern Ireland’s shipwreck sites, please adhere to the legal restrictions on diving the La Girona and the HMS Drake shipwrecks, dive all historic wrecks on a ‘look but don’t touch’ basis and follow established codes of conduct.
A prolonged period of sunshine and calm seas over the summer has led to an increase in the numbers of people visiting the historic wrecks which lie off Northern Ireland's shore.
Of the 340 known ship and plane wrecks within Northern Irish waters, only two have special levels of protection; La Girona, a warship of the Spanish Armada which sank near Portballintrae in 1588, and HMS Drake, a WW1 cruiser that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1917 and sank in Rathlin Bay.
Access to the site of La Girona is restricted under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973).
Over the July holiday period, however, the authorities received a report of diving activity within the restricted area around La Girona and the removal of potential artefacts from the site. Any person doing so may be prosecuted under the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. Stormont's Department for Communities, which looks after historic monuments, said it was investigating the incident.
Anyone who sees people diving in the waters around La Girona is asked to contact the police on 101.
Meanwhile, diving the HMS Drake does not require any permissions. However, the removal of artefacts from the wreck without the appropriate Scheduled Monument Consent from the Department for Communities may constitute an offence. HMS Drake is a favourite site for divers because the wreck is only at a depth between 15–19 metres (49–62 ft) and generally has good visibility.