A protected area system was established in Antarctica under the 1964 Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Fauna and Flora and has been implemented through the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980. These areas have been set aside to preserve their unique natural systems or to reduce the risk of interference to areas of exceptional scientific interest.

The Antarctic Treaty nations have developed guidelines for assessing areas suitable as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs), and for preparing the required management plans, which are submitted by the proposing nation to the Committee for Environment Protection and approved at an Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.

To protect discrete areas containing values of outstanding significance, the Antarctic Treaty Parties have declared a number of Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) which protect outstanding environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values, any combination of those values, or ongoing or planned scientific research. It is an offence to enter a protected areas without a permit and the permit must not authorise any activity that has not been authorised by the plan of management.

Permits for entry to ASPAs can be applied for using the environmental approvals application form Word.

Management plans for ASPAs can be obtained from the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat.