Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) in a courting display on Heard Island. (Photo: Kenneth Green)

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) aims to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity, and applies to all areas over which the Commonwealth has jurisdiction, including the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT).

The Act, among other things, prohibits actions that, both directly and indirectly, are likely to have a significant impact on the environment. Additionally, actions that are likely to significantly impact on matters of national environmental significance are to be referred to the Commonwealth Environment Minister who, in determining approval, will consider the precautionary principle.

The Act also establishes the Australian Whale Sanctuary, which includes waters of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone adjacent to the AAT, and Regulations under the Act specify approach distances and appropriate behaviour for aircraft and vessels in the vicinity of cetaceans.