EDITORIAL: Tug of war over sunken treasure

THE TREASURE of the Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas was lost under the waves of The Bahamas for more than three centuries – but on Monday, a museum will open to showcase some of the items found by underwater explorers.

The Spanish galleon’s riches have prompted a tug of war over who gets to benefit from treasures in Bahamian waters.

The rules under which Allen Exploration began their expedition required 25 percent of the salvage to be handed over to the Bahamian government.

Not one, but two sitting Cabinet ministers have questioned that arrangement and want that percentage to favour The Bahamas rather than the explorer.

The Spanish government might have a say too – with a US lawyer saying any sunken treasure from a Spanish ship should belong to the Spanish. The law does not support that claim – and has yet to be tested on the matter.

The current arrangement saw the explorers granted a licence by the Minnis administration, and renewed by the Davis administration.

But while there may be a discussion about whether The Bahamas is getting an adequate share, it would be helpful to put that in context. It would be good to know what the government has already received from this expedition – and any others under the same arrangements. What amount of money are we talking about? Put simply, show us the money.

Allen Exploration, for its part, has said that none of the treasure from the Maravillas will be sold – and will be put on display. Again, it would be good to know what this means for income to The Bahamas.

That’s not just an isolated question – the exploration team has found 18 more wrecks during their search for the Maravillas, while there are reportedly thousands more spread around The Bahamas.

From treasure ships to our treasury, it should be clear what income is being received and how it is being verified.

That shouldn’t be a difficult thing to ask – it’s merely part of the government’s receivables. There should be no veil of secrecy over that.

Once we know the sums we’re talking about, then we can have a clearer discussion about whether changing the ratio will bring us more – or less, if it drives off would-be exploration teams.

We can also clarify who controls how these items are used after their recovery, whether The Bahamas has a say in how they are kept or sold, or whether it’s entirely in the hands of the salvage team.

Delving into our accounts should not be more challenging than delving into the depths of the sea for treasure.


The story of the boy found drowned in a pond by the Oakes Field Sports Centre Golf Academy is terribly sad, compounded by the news that as yet no one has come forward to identify him.

Authorities believe the boy is of Haitian descent, and while it is speculation, there is concern that perhaps the family does not come forward because they may not have the documentation to prove they are here legally. That could risk deportation away from any further family members here.

We would hope that the Haitian embassy and representatives from churches or the Haitian community might serve as a bridge to establish the boy’s identity, and allow his body to be buried.

This was a tragedy, but the least we can do for his family is ensure that he rests in peace.


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