Florida has no salvage law allowing the finder of an abandoned vessel the right of ownership. As a title state, Florida requires a transfer of vessel title from owner to purchaser in order to obtain legal ownership. It is a crime in the state of Florida to take an abandoned vessel without first getting a title to it; doing so is considered theft and could result in fines or even jail time.
Section 705.103, Florida Statutes, states that a person who finds an abandoned vessel and wants to make claim to it, and ultimately title it, must first report it to a law enforcement officer. The law enforcement agency will collect a fee to conduct an investigation and determine the owner of the vessel. If the vessel is not claimed in the process of the investigation, the law enforcement agency may transfer it to the finder with a bill of sale and evidence of the investigation. The finder would then apply to FLHSMV to have the title put into his name.
For more information on derelict and abandoned vessels, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at this link FWC.
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