At a glance
Antarctica is governed through the international agreements of the Antarctic Treaty System, including the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. These agreements establish Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science; environmental protection and conservation of marine living resources are key objectives. Parties to these agreements implement environmental management arrangements for activities in Antarctica conducted by their nationals. Australia is active in international forums to advance our national interest in Antarctic environmental protection, including through efforts to advance the objectives of the Protocol on Environmental Protection and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in relevant international forums. Australia administers associated domestic legislation, conducts and supports science to inform the wise management and protection of Antarctica, and manages Australia’s Antarctic program in a way that promotes best practice in environmental stewardship.
In the Australian Antarctic Program, Australia implements and manages practical measures to minimise the effects of our Antarctic activities, and address past impacts through cleaning up former work sites and waste disposal sites. Australia also plays a significant role in combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean.
Research ensures that management of activities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is based on sound scientific principles and the best available scientific knowledge. Australia’s research contributes to understanding how environmental systems function and how global climate change affects the Antarctic environment.
Although climate change cannot be mitigated through the management of activities in Antarctica, Australian research helps to inform strategies to maximise the resilience of the Antarctic environment and ecosystems.
Protecting Antarctica’s environment is a key national interest for Australia. Australia has played, and continues to play, a key role in leading and fostering the development of international environmental management initiatives through the Antarctic Treaty System, such as developing the protected areas system (including marine protected areas under CCAMLR), and establishing practices and standards for the clean-up of contaminated sites.
There are 4 main types of human activities in the Antarctic region:
- national Antarctic programs
- commercial tourism
- other nongovernmental activities, such as private expeditions.
The AAD administers Australia’s national Antarctic program, which focuses mainly on the East Antarctic region of the continent, but also Australia’s subantarctic islands and the Southern Ocean. Other countries—such as China, India, Japan, Norway and Russia—also operate in East Antarctica, including within the AAT. Tourism, including by Australian tour operators, occurs mostly in the Antarctic Peninsula region, away from the Australian Antarctic Program’s main areas of interest.