A SECOND World War merchant Navy vessel that was sunk off the coast of Ballina in April 1943 has been declared a protected historic shipwreck.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke made the announcement about the MV Limerick yesterday.
Local residents Forfar and Sally Petrie and Neville Poynting helped solve the mystery of the Limerick in September last year.
The wreck site had been a closely guarded fishing spot for the Petries, while Mr Poynting spent time doing research and contacting authorities.
The Limerick was off the coast of Ballina heading towards Brisbane when it was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-177.
Survivors reported the ship immediately caught fire and sunk just after 6am.
Two of its crew died and 70 crew members were rescued after more than eight hours clinging to rafts or life boats.
Mr Burke said the protection of the Limerick would ensure that any damage, interference, removal or destruction of the shipwreck site of the MV Limerick was now illegal.
"The last moments of the Limerick are well known but it has taken nearly 70 years for the confirmation of the location and identity of the shipwreck site," he said.
"The ship and her crew put themselves in danger to protect us, it's only right that we now protect the shipwreck of the Limerick forever."
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