The underwater remains of the Titanic will soon be protected by a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convention that works to safeguard wrecks, sites, decorated caves and other cultural relics in the ocean.

Until recently, the Titanic has not been eligible for protection by UNESCO because the treaty that protects underwater relics, the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, only applies to items that have been submerged for 100 years or more. The Titanic tragically sank on April 14, 1912 after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic. This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the wreck.

The sinking of the Titanic is anchored in the memory of humanity and I am pleased that this site can now be protected by the UNESCO Convention, said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in a written statement. But there are thousands of other shipwrecks that need safeguarding as well. All of them are archaeological sites of scientific and historical value. They are also the memory of human tragedy that should be treated with respect. We do not tolerate the plundering of cultural sites on land, and the same should be true for our sunken heritage.

The director has asked that divers and others visiting the ruins refrain from dumping equipment or other commemorative plaques near the site, which is 4,000 meters deep off of the coast of Newfoundland.

No nation or state has been able to claim the wreckage site as its own because the site is in international water. States only have jurisdiction over wrecks that are on its own waters and were once ships of the country.

The 41 states that have ratified the convention will be able to outlaw the destruction, pillage, sale and dispersion of objects found at the site. Together, they'll ensure that the site remains intact and treated with special care.