Cornwall's historic environment service and Penzance-based maritime archaeologist Kevin Camidge have been commissioned by English Heritage to carry out a marine environmental assessment of the Royal Anne Galley, a protected wreck lying in about five metres of seawater off the Lizard Point.

It follows a historical study of the wreck undertaken by HES in 2005.

Charles Johns, senior archaeologist from HES said: "This project is particularly important because it is the first environmental assessment of a protected wreck to be commissioned and will enable the council's Historical Environment Service to be a key player' in developing methodologies for assessing and managing protected wreck sites."

Under the 2002 National Heritage Act, English Heritage assumed responsibility for maritime archaeology in English coastal waters including 45 protected wreck sites; 10 of which lie off the coast Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The Royal Anne was a fifth-rate oared frigate with an armament of 42 guns and crew of 127, wrecked on the Stags rocks on November 10 1721 while on voyage to Barbados. There were only three survivors; the most notable of those who perished was Lord Belhaven who was en route to take up the Governorship of Barbados. Galleys were an attempt to combine the advantages of sail and oar propulsion. On her launch the Royal Anne was described as a new invention under the direction of the Marquis of Carmarthenbeing the finest that was ever built'.

The site of the wreck was discovered by local diver Rob Sherratt in 1991 (who died in a diving accident last year). Over 400 artefacts, including iron cannon, cannon balls and coins, have been discovered from the site as well as a piece of cutlery bearing Lord Belhaven's crest. In 1993 the wreck was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

The project will involve a biological study by Falmouth-based marine biologist Miles Hoskin, bathymetric survey, sediment and seawater sample analysis and placing objects (bricks, small ceramic balls and oak blocks) on the seabed to aid in dispersal studies. It is planned that this will be undertaken in late July or early August this year with the help of a diving team from SeaStar Survey of Southampton.

The results will be presented in a report to English Heritage at the end of the year, which will include recommendations for further monitoring of the wreck site over a 3-year period