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With an estimated $100 billion value in sunken artifacts in the waters surrounding the Bahamas, deep-sea treasure hunters could soon satiate their thirst for a big bounty through blockchain technology.

Using an approach that tokenizes shipwrecked items found on the seafloor, the founders behind blockchain startup PO8 intend to revitalize marine archaeology in the region minus the kind of looting, corruption and lack of oversight that caused officials with the commonwealth government to put a halt to expeditions in the region for nearly two decades.

PO8’s model in adhering to responsible salvaging practices convinced the local government officials, as Chief Marketing Officer Raul Vasquez told Bitcoin Magazine: “Currently PO8 is the only government approved entity with a salvage license to do any underwater salvaging in territorial waters belonging to the Bahamas.”

Using an Ethereum-based platform along with ERC-721 token functionality, the PO8 model creates non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — tokens based on the collateral value of recovered items. Each NFT utilizes specifically designed smart contracts that are cryptographically certified with unique asset data. While NFT ownership can be to anyone in the world, the majority of PO8 artifacts remain in the custody of the PO8 Foundation.

“For example, let’s say PO8 finds a rare artifact worth millions,” Vasquez explained. “The physical artifact would remain under the custody of PO8 for continued study by the archaeology community or to be exhibited in museums for the larger public good, while the digital ownership of the NFT can be anywhere around the world. Now, the real ownership of an asset is determined by its NFT.”

Later this year, PO8 will be rolling out the PAZAR marketplace where users can buy, sell, auction, lease, trade and leverage the tokens. Land-based undersea explorers will also be able to contribute to the hunt with PO8’s DApp Maritime Artifact Data System (MADS), which serves in big data analysis around satellite images, sonar, image and video, electromagnetic and historic data. In exchange for their MADS efforts, contributors earn NTFs when users already hold PO8

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