UNESCO against Colombia's commercial recovery of a shipwreck

The United Nations cultural agency has called on Colombia not to commercially exploit the 300-year-old wreck of the Spanish galleon San Jose, which is believed to contain a cargo worth billions of dollars.

A UNESCO experts' body protecting underwater cultural heritage on Friday sent a letter to Colombian Culture Minister Mariana Garces Cordoba expressing concern that recovering the treasure for sale rather than for its historical value "would cause the irretrievable loss of significant heritage."

The letter was made available by the body's Albanian head, Auron Tare.

Colombian authorities plan to recover the wreck, ending a three-century saga since June 8, 1708, when the ship with 600 people aboard sank while trying to outrun a fleet of British warships.