International Law

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) diving into the water near Davis Station. © Andrew Burgess.

Madrid Protocol - Introduction

The Madrid Protocol is a comprehensive international agreement that aims to protect the Antarctic environment.

The Protocol establishes Antarctica as a 'natural reserve, devoted to peace and science', and prohibits mining for commercial purposes. It outlines the environmental conduct for all activities undertaken in Antarctica, including prior assessment of potential environmental impacts.

The protocol establishes rules relating to liability for environmental damage and provides for the establishment of a Committee for Environmental Protection.

Annexes to the protocol outline measures pertaining to: Environmental Impact Assessment; Conservation of Antarctic fauna and flora; Waste disposal and waste management; Prevention of marine pollution, and; Management of Protected Areas (including historic sites and monuments).

The Madrid Protocol (except Annex IV - see MARPOL) is incorporated into Australian domestic law by amendments to the Antarctic Treaty Environment Protection Act 1980.