Experts warn looters likely scouring sunken treasures off NS

Treasure salvagers say provincial laws are preventing shipwrecks from being scoured in any meaningful way off Nova Scotia.

Jeff MacKinnon, a third-generation treasure hunter from Cape Breton, says there's nothing stopping treasure salvagers from illegally diving because there is no incentive to report any findings and no effective way of policing offshore underwater sites.

The Treasure Trove Act required licence holders to report any treasures they found, and the minister reserved the right to retain that treasure upon payment of a royalty.

But in 2010, the act was repealed by the then-NDP government.

The province touted it at the time as a way to ``preserve and protect Nova Scotia's underwater cultural and heritage resources.

But many who work in the industry say it's had the exact opposite effect.

Heritage Department spokeswoman Lynette MacLeod says the province is planning to review the Special Places Protection Act as part of its Culture Action Plan.

Roger Marsters, curator of marine history at Halifax's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, says the province should designate a trained underwater archeologist to oversee the management of sites.