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The Antarctic Treaty System Some Challenges for the Future

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The Antarctic Treaty System Some Challenges for the Future. Drawing on the information from and inspiration of this Summit, let's look ahead 50 years and ask what kind of Antarctica we hope will exist?.

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Drawing on the information from and inspiration of this Summit, let's look ahead 50 years and ask what kind of Antarctica we hope will exist?


Recent surveys of AT parties, scientists and the public provide interesting inputs that resonate with what we've heard at this Summit. The highlights:

  • There is strong support for using Antarctica to carry out globally significant science for which it is the only or the best platform, and maintaining the open science regime of the AT in perpetuity.
  • There is strong support for maintaining the 'wilderness and esthetic values' of the Antarctic, and for the region to be kept as pristine as possible. A resolution on this was agreed earlier this month at the World Parks Congress in Mexico.
  • There is no support for Antarctica becoming a mass tourism destination, with hotels and other infrastructure on land, or large vessels carrying thousands of passengers.
  • There is increasing support in the ATS for minimizing the 'human footprint' by sharing logistics and infrastructure, and avoiding duplication of activities.
some major challenges and suggestions process
Some Major Challenges and Suggestions: Process
  • Bringing Measures and Annexes into force promptly is very important for the credibility and legitimacy of the ATS, and also has practical implications - take the case of the Liability Annex, which so far has been ratified by only four states.
  • The information exchange system that lies at the heart of the AT is in some disarray. There needs to be serious commitment by all parties to meet those basic obligations.
  • While the inspection regimes of the AT and the Protocol are not mandatory, it is important for the credibility of the ATS that regular inspections be undertaken to help improve compliance and promote best practices.
process continued
Process continued
  • Moving the SCAR and COMNAP offices into the Buenos Aires secretariat would be an interesting way of promoting synergy and better management.
  • Promoting positive synergies among various international agreements with pertinence and/or competence in the Southern Ocean is very important.
  • Giving the ATCM some form of continuing 'personality' rather than it having just a 2-week life each year, and/or using Standing Committees.
process continued1
Process continued
  • The ATS could take further steps toward fuller transparency:

- The only ATCM so far to take a proactive approach to the media was the UK at Edinburgh. That proved to be a very positive experience, yet it has not been followed. The media is essentially shut out of ATCM and CCAMLR meetings.

- Documents from ATCMs are not public until after each meeting, and documents from CCAMLR are never made public. That makes it very difficult for the media and the public to know what is happening. Even an accredited NGO such as ASOC cannot access the CCAMLR document archive for past meetings maintained by the Secretariat.

some major challenges and suggestions substance
Some Major Challenges and Suggestions: Substance
  • Developing a regulatory system for commercial tourism: Though some initial steps have been taken, so far there is not a comprehensive, legally-binding system that will prevent mass tourism, use of larger, riskier vessels, and land-based infrastructure.
  • Working closely with the IMO on a legally binding Polar Code for all vessels operating in Antarctica: This negotiation will begin in February 2010, including ice-strengthening standards and other rules to protect the environment and human life. There are major concerns about vessel accidents causing loss of human life and pollution of the marine environment, which would be a tragedy and also give the ATS a 'black eye' in terms of its management of the region.
substance continued
Substance continued
  • Creating a representative system of large marine reserves: The ATCPs and CCAMLR parties have picked this up in endorsing a target of 2012 for achieving the first phase, focusing on the list of 11 areas that have been identified so far.
  • Stopping illegal fishing - a large, valuable international business involving many companies and vessels that is estimated at 25% or more of the legal fisheries: All AT and CCAMLR Parties condemn illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, and the public wants it stopped. The question is how to use the available assets and tools cooperatively to do this. We should take note of the new Port States Agreement here.
substance continued1
Substance continued
  • Completing ecosystem-based, small-scale management unit (SSMU) system for the krill fishery, base of the marine food chain: Although this has been under discussion at CCAMLR for years, so far it has not been able to achieve the goal, which is important for the Southern Ocean as well as providing a model for other RFMOs.
  • Developing a framework to cover commercial biological prospecting, which is developing into a major commercial activity: This is most likely a joint task of the ATCM and CCAMLR, but so far only the ATCM has discussed it.