Site use guidelines

Photo of person's feet on a path amongst senstive plants.
Footprints in slow-growing Antarctic moss can last decades. Guidelines emphasise the need to avoid stepping on any vegetation (Photo: Stephen Powell)
Seals lie in a cluster with lots of penguins close by.

Visitor site use guidelines cover 32 sites that are frequently visited by tourists. Site guidelines are adopted by consensus at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings. The Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website maintains copies of all up-to-date guidelines on their 'Site Guidelines for Visitors' page.

The guidelines describe the features of each site, list the wildlife present, establish a visitor code of conduct, and include a map. They confine visits to ships carrying a certain number of passengers, suggest limits on the number of visitors ashore at once and per day, and set precautionary distances from animals, particularly nesting birds.

The guidelines are not mandatory. However they have been endorsed by all Antarctic Treaty Parties as practical provisions to manage visitor-related pressures.

Under Australia's policy on Antarctic tourism, launched in March 2004, we support the Antarctic Treaty system's development of management measures for sites identified as coming under pressure. We view site use guidelines as key tools to identify the sensitivities of frequently visited places, and to recommend sensible controls on visits to protect the values of these sites. Australia encourages all tour operators to follow the guidelines.