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From The Fleet Society Archives — June 24, 1981

We all know that Mel Fisher was no stranger to the court system. He was singularly responsible for creating a lot of new precedents in the area of Maritime Law. He was also on the receiving end of lawsuits and claims filed against him by the state of Florida. In an interesting turn of events, Mel Fisher sued the state of Florida for, of all things, “piracy”! Newspapers reported that in June of 1981, Mel Fisher challenged the right of the state to keep 25% of recovered shipwreck artifacts. He sought $11,000,000 in damages for the harassment he suffered and also for an injunction to stop the state from interfering with his salvaging operations on the 1715 Fleet. Of the $11,000.000 claim, $10,000.000 was for punitive damages for what Fisher believed was persecution by the state regarding charges filed against him in 1979 for which he was never indicted. Fisher felt it was not right for the state to take 25% of the artifacts he recovered any more than it would be right for the state to take 25% of a farmer’s crops or a fisherman’s haul.

We have researched this case to find out what happened. It appears that the matter was settled but we don’t know the details. We can say that now the state gets a 20% donation from salvors who recover artifacts and coins from the 1715 Fleet wreck sites. This reduction from 25% to 20% may have been the result of a settlement of this case.

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