The Antarctic Treaty has been in existence since 1959. It is a unique agreement ensuring that member countries work together in Antarctica for peaceful and scientific purposes.
Early last century seven countries made territorial claims in Antarctica sometimes over disputed territory. During the Cold War political unease that Antarctica could be used for military purposes increased. Without an agreed legal system, disputes could not be resolved. In 1959, following the successful international scientific collaboration during the (1957-58) International Geophysical Year (IGY), it was suggested that this co-operative spirit and peaceful use of Antarctica as a giant scientific laboratory be continued. The twelve countries participating in the IGY agreed, signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 and ratified it in 1961. The treaty is a unique international agreement - no other part of the world is covered in such a way.
The twelve original signatories to the Antarctica Treaty were:
||Russia (ex Soviet Union)
|United States of America
A document on the Antarctic Treaty can be downloaded below.
INTERNATIONAL TREATY GROUPS
Members of Antarctic Treaty nations meet annually in a variety of forums generally held mid year between Antarctic summer seasons. These forums gather together member nations of the Antarctic Treaty to discuss matters relating to Antarctica and the environment. Up to 45 nations attend the meetings. New Zealand sends a delegation to each meeting which includes various government officials and representatives from Antarctica New Zealand.
ANTARCTIC ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICERS NETWORK (AEON)
AEON is comprised of the environmental officers or managers of more than twenty national Antarctic or environmental agencies. It is organised through the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP). The network has existed since 1996 to provide a forum for exchange of information, experience and ideas about practical environmental issues in Antarctica. AEON aims to promote understanding and application of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty, and to provide advice to COMNAP on environmental issues. The network is organised primarily through a website and by email. Meetings of AEON members are usually held on an opportunity basis in conjunction with other Antarctic environmental workshops and conferences.
ANTARCTIC TREATY CONSULTATIVE MEETING (ATCM)
The Antarctic Treaty established a consultative system where countries meet every year. Meetings are held annually and are conducted in the four languages of the Treaty System - English, French, Spanish and Russian. ATCMs discuss matters relating to the management of the area covered by the Antarctic Treaty. Meetings also further develop the the Antarctic Treaty system, providing a political framework for Antarctica. Recommendations, which regulate human activity in Antarctica, are considered and adopted. Exchanges of information, preservation of historic sites, conservation of flora and fauna, environmental impact assessment procedures, establishment of protected areas and special reserves and procedures for waste management and pollution control have all been considered. Tourism has also been addressed at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings where guidelines and reporting requirements for Antarctic tourist operations have been agreed. New Zealand is a strong supporter of the Antarctic Treaty Principles with delegates participating in consultative meetings since the Treaty's inception.
Exchange of Information is provided in accordance with New Zealand's obligations under Article III (1)a and Article VII (5) of the Antarctic Treaty to provide information on New Zealand's activities in Antarctica, and also under Article 17 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Information provided by New Zealand and other Antarctic Treaty Nations is available on the Antarctic Treaty website.
CONVENTION ON THE CONSERVATION OF ANTARCTIC MARINE LIVINE RESOURCES (CCAMLR)
The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) came into force in 1982. The aim of the Convention is to conserve marine life of the Southern Ocean, though the term “conservation” includes rational use. CCAMLR applies to all marine living resources between the Antarctic continent in the south and the Antarctic Polar Front (a natural oceanographic feature) in the north (at about 50°S). However CCAMLR does not apply to seals south of 60°S (regulated by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals) and whales (regulated by the the International Whaling Convention). The Convention was established mainly in response to concerns that an increase in krill catches in the Southern Ocean could have a serious effect on populations of krill and other marine life; particularly on birds, seals and fish, which mainly depend on krill for food.
The Convention establishes a Commission, which meets annually in Hobart, Tasmania. Membership of the Commission is open to States as well as regional economic integration organisations (such as the EU). The Commission is supported by The Scientific Committee - to provide scientific advice; The Secretariat - to provide administrative support; and an annual budget. The functions of the Commission include the facilitation of research into studies of Antarctic marine living resources, the compilation and publication of data and information (including the status and changes in population of Antarctic marine living resources), and the formulation and adoption of conservation measures.
Conservation measures may be adopted for a variety of purposes including: the regulation of harvesting of commercial species (including catch limits and the designation of open and closed seasons and areas); the designation of protected species, and the regulation of methods of harvesting. The Commission also has responsibility for implementing the system of observation and inspection established under the Convention. In regulating the commercial exploitation of marine species the Commission takes full account of the advice of its Scientific Committee, though the Commission routinely takes a "precautionary" approach so as to minimise risk associated with unsustainable practices in conditions of uncertainty. As resources assume growing economic importance, there has been a significant temptation for fishing organisations to work outside conservation or regulatory measures, leading to “illegal, unregulated and unreported” (IUU) fishing. The introduction of a Catch Documentation Scheme by CCAMLR in 2000 to monitor landings of, as well as global trade in, Antarctic toothfish (the most lucrative Southern Ocean fish species) constituted an unprecedented initiative aimed at combating and assessing IUU fishing for toothfish species. New Zealand is a member of the CCAMLR Commission and upholds its mandate in the Ross Sea region of the Southern Ocean.
COMMITTEE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (CEP)
The Committee was established in Article 11 of the Environmental Protocol. Its functions are to provide advice and formulate recommendations to the treaty parties in connection with the implementation of the Protocol, including the operation of its Annexes, for consideratuion at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetins (ATCM), and other function as may be referred to it by the ARCM. The Committeee presents a report to the ATCM wich is circulated to Parties and Observers and is then made publicly available. The CEP consists of representatives of the Antarctic Treaty Parties who are Party to the Environmental Protocol.
COUNCIL OF MANAGERS OF NATIONAL ANTARCTIC PROGRAMMES (COMNAP)
COMNAP was established in 1988 to bring together those managers of national agencies responsible for the oversight of Antarctic operations supporting science. The Council includes representatives from twenty-nine countries. Membership of COMNAP is open to all national organisations responsible for planning and conducting that nation's research in the Antarctic, provided that the national government is a party to the Antarctic Treaty and the country is actively engaged in research in the Antarctic.
The activities of COMNAP are wide and varied. They are addressed through:
- annual meetings of the representatives;
- biennial symposia on Antarctic logistics and operations;
- technical workshops on topics of interest to member agencies;
- working groups considering particular issues e.g. contingency planning, Antarctic tourism, environmental monitoring, air operations, etc;
- close cooperation and joint activities with SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research).
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ANTARCTIC DATA MANAGEMENT (SC-ADM)
SCAR in partnership with The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs established the Standing Committee on Antarctic Data Management (SC-ADM) which is comprised of representatives of National Antarctic Data Centres. Its purpose is to advise SCAR (Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research) and COMNAP (Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes), on the management of Antarctic data. It is a joint committee of SCAR and COMNAP. SC-ADM is responsible for the Antarctic Master Directory (AMD), the freely accessible web-based, searchable record of Antarctic data set descriptions. The Antarctic Master Directory is a resource for scientists to advertise the data they have collected and to search for data they may need. Antarctica New Zealand is the National Antarctic Data Centre for New Zealand and provides metadata descriptions to the AMD via the Global Change Master Directory (GCMD). Scientists are encouraged to provide additional data to the metadata sets to make them as useful as possible to other scientists and researchers.
SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON ANTARCTIC RESEARCH (SCAR)
The International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-58 included a major Antarctic component. The International Council for Science (ICSU) set up a Special Committee on Antarctic Research to coordinate the scientific research of the twelve nations active in Antarctica during this period. New Zealand is a nation member of SCAR, represented at SCAR meetings by delegates from the National Committee on Antarctic Research. SCAR is charged with the initiation, promotion and co-ordination of scientific research in Antarctica. It also provides international, independent scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty system.
SCAR is the single international, interdisciplinary, non-governmental organisation which can draw on the experience and expertise of an international mix of scientists across the complete scientific spectrum. It is, therefore, the source of advice on a wide range of scientific questions and it is ideally placed to provide the answers. For over 30 years SCAR has provided such scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty System and made numerous recommendations on a variety of matters, most of which have been incorporated into Antarctic Treaty instruments. Foremost amongst these have been the advice provided for the many international agreements which provide protection for the ecology and environment of Antarctica.