National Park Service officials are continuing to sort through brass hardware and wooden planks to piece together an investigation into the looting of historic shipwrecks in protected waters of the Channel Islands, a spokesman for the National Park Service said this week.
Twenty-five divers and crew members aboard the Vision, a Santa Barbara charter boat, were questioned and released Oct. 6 after a team of park rangers, Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies and agents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration boarded the vessel and found articles they suspected were salvaged from two wrecks--the Gen. Winfield Scott, off Anacapa Island, and the Golden Horn, off Santa Rosa Island.
The divers could face criminal prosecution from state authorities if artifacts were taken from the Winfield Scott, which is in a state ecological preserve. And federal authorities could levy a maximum fine of $50,000 for violating the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, since both wrecks lie in federally protected waters, said Ted Buttler, general counsel for the NOAA.
Hundreds of Artifacts
The National Park Service is expected to complete its investigation by the end of the week, said spokesman Nick Whelan.
Civil cases would be referred to federal authorities, and criminal cases to the Ventura County district attorney's office, which maintains jurisdiction over the state ecological preserve.