International Agreements and the Conservation of Antarctic Systems
The formal provisions for conservation in the Antarctic are provided by the Antarctic Treaty system. Through the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora native mammals or birds are protected, signatories are urged to minimise harmful interference with the normal living conditions of mammals and birds and to alleviate coastal pollution; provision is made to designate Specially Protected Species and Specially Protected Areas; and the introduction of non-indigenous species is controlled. Subsequent measures created Sites of Special Scientific Interest within which activities are subject to controls described in management plans; controlled the use of radio-isotopes; and provided a code of conduct for Antarctic expeditions and station activities. A recent measure requires the undertaking of environmental impact assessment in the planning of scientific research and its associated logistic activities. A code of conduct for expeditions and stations has been adopted and revised procedures for waste disposal are under consideration.
The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals provides a scheme for protection should commercial sealing develop in the Antarctic. The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources aims to ensure that harvesting shall not deplete populations of marine animals below those levels that ensure stable recruitment; the importance of the balance between harvested, dependent and related populations is recognised and an objective of the Convention is the restoration of depleted populations. The newly agreed Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources provides unprecedentedly strict environmental controls to cover the exploration and development of Antarctic mineral resources, should this take place. The Convention recognises the significance of Antarctica for the global environment and its scientific value and aesthetic and wilderness qualities. Protected areas may be designated where no activities associated with exploring for, prospecting for, or extracting minerals can take place and management schemes for exploration or development shall include measures and procedures for the protection of the environment.
The provision of a legislative basis for the conservation of the environment has gone further in Antarctica than elsewhere in the world. There is still room for development, however, and a group appointed by SCAR, in response to a request for advice by the Antarctic Treaty, suggested that inspections should be made to assess the effectiveness of the existing measures relating to area protection. Information resulting from such inspections should be made available to interested parties. Management plans should be prepared for existing and subsequently declared Specially Protected Areas. Further protected areas should be designated to provide for geographical representation of all Antarctic terrestrial, inland water and marine ecosystems. Finally, a new category of multi-use zoned protected area which might incorporate existing protected areas should be introduced. The objective of such an area, which might be called an Antarctic Protected Area, would be to minimise disturbance to the area insofar as this might detract from the special value for which it was designated. The Fourteenth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in considering these proposals recognised the value of inspections and asked for examples of management plans for areas which might benefit from multiple use zoning techniques.
The legislative basis for conservation is reasonably complete, but more needs to be done. Inspection and enforcement, coupled with further education to ensure public awareness, are priorities. Monitoring studies and information management are important. An Antarctic Treaty scecretariat would be helpful. Continued collaboration between SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) and IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) is needed.
KeywordsAntarctic Environment Antarctic Treaty Special Scientific Interest Wilderness Quality Legislative Basis
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