Magazine article Ecos

Protection Measures against Antarctica's Tourist Invasion

Magazine article Ecos

Protection Measures against Antarctica's Tourist Invasion

Article excerpt

Australia is leading the initiative to control the impact of rapidly increasing Antarctic tourism, and to ensure that operators are properly regulated.

At a special Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting of Experts in Norway during March, an Australian delegation led by the Australian Antarctic Division presented Australia's vision for an Antarctic tourism policy.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone said, 'Over the past decade tourist visits to Antarctica have doubled and tourist vessels operating in Antarctica have increased from 12 to 47.'

'There is every indication that this interest in Antarctica will continue to grow. We must make sure we do not destroy the world's last great wilderness.'

According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), the number of ship-based tourists visiting Antarctica has grown from 6704 in 1992-93 to 13 263 in 2002-03. IAATO has estimated the number of ship-based tourists landing in Antarctica was over 20 000, last season.

While the Antarctic continent is as large as Australia, tourism is concentrated in small areas, for example on the Antarctic Peninsula close to South America.

At the Norway meeting, Australia argued for the following to be put in place:

* An accreditation scheme to encourage adherence to voluntary guidelines and codes of behaviour by all tourist expeditions;

* An environmental monitoring framework capable of identifying both short-term and cumulative impacts arising from tourism activities;

* Activity guidelines addressing environmental and safety issues which will assist in the planning and conduct of activities commonly undertaken by tourists to ensure that such activities have no more than a minor or transitory environmental impact and are conducted in a safe and responsible manner;

* A site management system incorporating site-specific guidelines to identify and put in place management controls lot sites identified as being at risk;

* An Antarctic shipping code for consideration by the International Maritime Organization to encourage appropriate environmental and safety standards for commercial shipping in the Antarctic Treaty area;

* A coordinated inspection/observer scheme to audit compliance with regulatory and voluntary measures governing tourism activities;

* Effective quarantine procedures to prevent the introduction and spread of exotic species in the Antarctic environment;

* A database on tourism activities to assist in the management of these activities; and

* A financial security system that requires all tourism activities to carry adequate insurance, provide a bond or otherwise indemnify or reimburse others against the cost of support provided in the event of accidents or an emergency. …

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