Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The Aurora Australis over Davis Station in 2010. Mike Zupanc.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC):

  • protects matters of national environmental significance
  • promotes ecologically sustainable development
  • promotes the conservation of biodiversity
  • promotes cooperation between stakeholders, governments, the community and landholders.

Actions that are likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance (anywhere in Australia) are subject to a rigorous referral, assessment, and approval process. The Act currently identifies as matters of national environmental significance:

  • World Heritage places
  • National Heritage places
  • wetlands of international significance (Ramsar wetlands)
  • listed threatened species and ecological communities
  • listed migratory species
  • marine areas (including for marine listed species)
  • nuclear actions (including uranium mining).

The EPBC Act also provides for the consideration of the environment for activities in Commonwealth areas, and activities undertaken by the Commonwealth. Commonwealth land includes the AAT and HIMI. Environmental impact assessment may be required by Australians for activities that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment in these areas.

You can obtain detailed information from the Department of the Environment website on the assessment and approval process of the EPBC Act to establish if your activity is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

If a negative response is determined, the activity may still require a permit under this Act or any other relevant environmental approvals and permits, most of which have been summarised in this website or relevant links provided for, and ensure that the requirements have been satisfied before you depart for the Antarctic or subantarctic.

Activities requiring permits

If you wish to carry out research activities in the Antarctic or subantarctic that may involve listed species, cetaceans or other protected matters, you may need to obtain a permit under the Act. In addition, if you wish to carry out an activity outside Australian waters that is likely to affect cetaceans, you may need to obtain a permit under the Act.

To obtain such a permit, you will need to submit an application to the Department of the Environment and/or the Australian Antarctic Division, and may need to pay a permit application fee. The fee varies depending on the type of activity. To view or download an application form, and to obtain more information, go to the permits section of the Department of the Environment website.

EPBC Act permit requirements for activities involving Listed Marine, Migratory and Threatened Species, and for access to biological resources can be applied for along with your ATEP Act permit. Contact the Territories, Environment and Treaties Section for directions on how to apply for your permits. The generic email is permits@aad.gov.au.

Export of specimens overseas

Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) regulates the movement of wildlife (except cetaceans which are regulated by sections 232A and 232B) and wildlife products. The EPBC Act regulates the:

  • export of Australian native species other than those identified as exempt
  • export and import of all species that are recognised internationally as endangered or likely to become so if trade is not strictly regulated
  • import of species identified by other CITES member countries as requiring international cooperation to regulate their trade
  • import of live plants and animals.

A permit is required for the import or export of a regulated species or regulated product of a species. However, an export permit is not required for shipments between Australia and Australia's external territories, including the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands.

There is an exemption under Part 13A of the EPBC Act allowing registered scientific institutions to undertake non-commercial loans, donations or exchanges of herbarium, museum or live plant specimens with other registered scientific organizations without a permit from the Department of the Environment. The AAD is a registered scientific institution (Registration No. AU006). AAD researchers may utilise this exemption where appropriate. Details of specimens which may be exported and the manner in which an exchange should be conducted can be obtained from the International Wildlife Trade section of the Department of the Environment on: +61 2 6274 1900 or email wildlifetrade@environment.gov.au.

Additional information regarding permits for the import or export of a regulated species or regulated product of a speciesis is available from the Wildlife Trade and Conservation page of the Department of the Environment website or alternatively by phoning International Wildlife Trade section of the Department of the Environment on: +61 2 6274 1900 or e-mail: wildlifetrade@environment.gov.au.

Other environmental approval and permit considerations

You may need to satisfy a number of environmental approval and permit requirements. In particular, if your research proposes to disturb or interfere with listed Antarctic or subantarctic species (that is seabirds and marine mammals), it is likely that you will require, amongst others, additional environmental impact authorisations and permits under the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980.

Please ensure that you are aware of all other environmental protection legal requirements for the Antarctic and subantarctic, most of which have been summarised in this website or relevant links provided for, and ensure they have been satisfied before you depart on your voyage.

This page was last modified on 21 July 2014.