News release

Changes to Treasure Hunting Regulations

The province is taking steps to preserve and protect Nova Scotia's underwater cultural and heritage resources.

John MacDonell, Minister of Natural Resources along with Percy Paris, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage announced today, July 13, that the government intends to repeal the Treasure Trove Act, amend the Special Places Protection Act and create the Oak Island Act.

Government will introduce the legislation in the fall. Some outstanding licences will still be granted to applicants who meet policy guidelines for treasure hunting, but these activities will end December 31.

Repealing the Treasure Trove Act follows a recommendation from the 2006 Voluntary Planning heritage strategy task force. It will also bring the province into line with practices in other Canadian jurisdictions and match the spirit of the UNESCO Convention on Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

"The government is making life better for Nova Scotians by taking these important steps to preserve our marine resources," said Mr. MacDonell.

The Treasure Trove Act was enacted in 1954 to govern treasure hunting activities on Oak Island. Its scope was later expanded to cover licensing of salvage operations involving shipwrecks off Nova Scotia's coast.

The repeal requires housekeeping amendments to the Special Places Protection Act to remove all references to treasure. The creation of the Oak Island Act will ensure protection for the heritage resources in that area.

The province also released a report by Blackstone Corporation which contains research and input that helped government in determining the most appropriate options to manage Nova Scotia's marine cultural heritage.

The company was hired in 2005 to help with the decision-making process which included hearing from the salvage industry, government and heritage advocates.

"Our approach follows the best practices from other jurisdictions and makes Nova Scotia a leader in conserving underwater cultural heritage," said Mr. Paris.

In 2005-06, Voluntary Planning struck a task force to review issues related to the protection of Nova Scotia's many heritage resources and assets. During that process, discussion was devoted to marine heritage and whether or not private interests should be allowed to conduct salvage operations to recover artifacts from the marine environment.

A copy of the Blackstone report can be downloaded at


The province is ending the practice of underwater treasure hunting in coastal waters with the repeal of the Treasure Trove Act and amendments to the Special Places Protection Act.

The government will also introduce new legislation called the Oak Island Act to protect heritage resources on that island.

The decision was based on a 2006 recommendation from a Voluntary Planning task force and research and input contained in a report from Blackstone Corporation.

John MacDonell, Minister of Natural Resources says the repeal will make life better for families by taking the best approach to preserving our marine resources.

Tourism, Culture and Heritage Minister Percy Paris says government's decision will make Nova Scotia a leader in protecting underwater cultural heritage.