Several processes contribute to the overall management of the Antarctic region, including the framework for protected areas, as well as activities on the stations and in the field.
Under the Madrid Protocol, all of Antarctica has a high level of environmental protection. However, certain areas can be afforded additional protection if they have outstanding environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values. The parties to the Antarctic Treaty have developed guidelines for assessing areas suitable as ASPAs and preparing the required management plans, which are submitted by the proposing party to the Committee for Environmental Protection and approved at an ATCM. The management plans identify:
- the reasons for designating an area as an ASPA
- restricted zones
- the conditions under which permits may be granted
- the conditions under which an area may be accessed and the kinds of activities that may be conducted.
Reviews every 5 years help to determine whether the management objectives are achieved and the values are preserved. Entry into an ASPA is prohibited unless a permit has been issued either by the AAD or the equivalent government department of another country.
Australia administers management plans for 12 ASPAs in Antarctica.
Australian Antarctic Division environmental management system
In 2002, the AAD became the first national Antarctic program to implement an environmental management system certified to the international standard ISO 14001. The environmental management system continues to provide a framework for the systematic management of how the Australian Antarctic Program interacts with the environment.
Each station has a nominated environmental officer who is responsible for reporting environmental issues as they occur and suggesting improvements in the way activities are carried out. However, environmental protection is everybody’s responsibility. A web-based reporting system allows any expedition member to submit information or suggestions on environmental issues.
Training and awareness
The AAD, as lead agency for Australia’s Antarctic program, ensures that everyone involved in the program is aware of their personal responsibility to care for the environment. When appointed, all expeditioners must agree to abide by a code of personal behaviour, which includes a practical commitment to Australia’s environmental management responsibilities. Induction and training of new employees includes an introduction to the relevant Australian laws and the AAD’s approach to environmental matters. At Australia’s Antarctic and subantarctic stations, the station leader is responsible for environmental management, and is assisted by the station environment committee, a station environmental officer and a station waste-management officer.