Great Lakes Exploration has filed a legal request for Federal protection of the shipwreck. As part of its case, Great Lakes has asked the Court to deny the State of Michigan’s claim that it is the sovereign owner of the target shipwreck, The Griffin, superior to the Republic of France. The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (Great Lakes Exploration Group LLC v. The Unidentified, Wrecked and (For Salvage-Right Purposes), Abandoned Sailing Vessel, her tackle, apparel, appurtenances, cargo, etc. located within a circle having a radius of 3.5 statute miles, whose center point is at coordinates 45° 32.8' North latitude and 86° 41.5' West longitude).

Upon locating the site which it believes to be the target, Great Lakes Exploration became concerned that in the absence of legal protection, the shipwreck could be subject to irreparable destruction and loss at the hands of souvenir seekers and relic hunters. Great Lakes Exploration and the Field Museum are asking the Federal Court to allow their scientific exploration of the shipwreck to go forward, so that the identity of the shipwreck can be conclusively and scientifically determined.

In opposition, the State of Michigan has asserted that its sovereign rights in the shipwreck are superior to those of the Republic of France. Michigan claims that because the shipwreck lies in Michigan state waters, the State of Michigan— not the Republic of France— is the lawful owner of The Griffin. The State opposes federal protection of the shipwreck on grounds that it is the property of the State Government, and that the scientific exploration of the shipwreck by Great Lakes Exploration and the Field Museum should not go forward except under exclusive state control.