On the occasion of the 31st meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), over 300 delegates from Antarctic nations around the world met in Kyiv, Ukraine, in June, to discuss a broad range of Antarctic legal, policy and environmental protection matters. Just two days before the meeting, Monaco acceded to the Treaty — the 47th accession since its inception in 1961.
As well as the environmental outcomes of the meeting — see accompanying story on the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) – the management of tourism in Antarctica continued to be a priority issue for the ATCM. Among the highlights were a Resolution that implemented new visitor site guidelines for four additional priority locations which are subject to high number of visitors, and a Resolution calling on operators of tourist vessels to report regularly on their vessel positions while south of 60ºS. These reports will go to the relevant maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. New Zealand also announced that it will convene an Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on the management of ship-based tourism in the Antarctic in late 2009.
Biological prospecting received further attention, including a request by the ATCM that the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research conduct a review of published research on Antarctic biological prospecting, undertake a survey of current biological prospecting activity, and report back to the next meeting.
In the lead up to the next ATCM a number of issues will be progressed in inter-sessional discussions: the United Kingdom will coordinate inter-sessional work on developing a tourism strategy for Antarctica; Norway will convene further work by the Inter-sessional Working Group on Passenger Vessel Safety; The Netherlands will convene an informal meeting on Antarctic biological prospecting; and Argentina will lead an inter-sessional group to review arrangements for the conduct of Antarctic Treaty inspections.
In science, Australia reported on the progress of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life and cooperation among Antarctic Treaty Parties, which led to 18 research vessels collaborating in data collection across the Southern Ocean. The census has gathered much new information on the marine biodiversity of the region.
Australia participates actively in all meetings of the ATCM, consistent with the government’s objective of maintaining the Antarctic Treaty system and enhancing Australia’s influence in it. The annual meetings are the primary international forums for discussion of issues relating to governance in the Antarctic region. Decisions at ATCM and CEP meetings are taken by consensus. The next meeting will be held in Baltimore, United States, from 6 to 17 April 2009.
General Manager, Policy, AAD