The Federal Government will spend $102.3 million in 2002–03 to deepen understanding of Australia’s Antarctic Territory and to protect Southern Ocean fisheries, among other activities.

Parliamentary Secretary for Antarctica, Dr Sharman Stone, said the Antarctic program would include further efforts to combat illegal fishing, installation of wind turbines to power Antarctic stations, research into whale distribution and abundance, and large-scale studies of the way Antarctic ice affects the world’s oceans.

“The $102.3 million program for 2002–03 demonstrates the Federal Government’s strong commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment and gaining knowledge about the region’s role in global climate processes,” Dr Stone said.

“The program will continue state-of-the-art research into the remediation of past waste sites in Antarctica and revise Australia’s waste management plan for Antarctica. It will also pursue measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish.

“The Government will support renewable energy initiatives with the installation of wind turbines at Mawson station, which will reduce reliance on fossil fuels for power generation by 75%. Three turbines will be operating in March 2003, weather permitting.

“The Government will also pursue certification of Australia’s environmental management system to meet globally-recognised International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards and establish a baseline for continuous improvement of environmental protection practices.”

(The ISO standards are guidelines for streamlining environmental management and ensuring that adequate environmental management is integrated into an organisation’s activities.)

This year the Government will also:

  • Develop an Australian strategy for managing tourism in Antarctica.
  • Investigate factors affecting krill, a key part of the Antarctic food web. This will include a major study to assess whale distribution and abundance in relation to krill.
  • Study the diet and behaviour of seals, whales and seabirds, including locating their food sources using an innovative, non-intrusive molecular technique developed by Australian scientists.
  • Assess the effects of exploitation of marine species around Australia’s Heard and McDonald Islands with the use of an Australian-developed computer-modeling program.
  • Continue important research into the interactions between the ice shelf and the ocean, ice shelf dynamics, and their influence on global ocean circulation and climate.