NZLII Home | Databases | WorldLII | Search | Feedback

New Zealand Yearbook of International Law

University of Canterbury
You are here:  NZLII >> Databases >> New Zealand Yearbook of International Law >> 2009 >> [2009] NZYbkIntLaw 18

Database Search | Name Search | Recent Articles | Noteup | LawCite | Download | Help

Hughes, Trevor --- "The Antarctic Treaty System" [2009] NZYbkIntLaw 18; (2009) 7 New Zealand Yearbook of International Law 343

Last Updated: 23 May 2013


I. 1959 Antarctic Treaty1

The 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) was hosted by the United States in Washington D.C. and Baltimore from 6-17 April

2009. The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty was

commemorated by a series of special events in Washington D.C. on 6 April which included an opening address by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A Ministerial Declaration on the 50th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty was also adopted whereby Ministers reaffirmed “their continued commitment to the objectives and purposes of the Antarctic Treaty and the other elements of the Antarctic Treaty System”.2 In addition the conclusion of the International Polar Year was marked by the first joint Antarctic Treaty- Arctic Council meeting. New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Murray McCully, chaired a session of the joint meeting on International Polar Year achievements.3

The 32nd ATCM was a productive meeting for New Zealand. A draft resolution on the collection and use of Antarctic biological material, which was a joint initiative between New Zealand and Australia, was supported by the meeting.4 In adopting the resolution (Resolution 9 (2009)) the ATCM reaffirmed that the Antarctic Treaty System is the appropriate framework for managing the collection of biological material in the Antarctic Treaty area and for considering its use.

By Decision 7 (2009) the ATCM agreed to convene in Wellington in December 2009 an Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts (ATME) to consider matters related to the management of ship-borne tourism in the Antarctic Treaty area. The decision also established the terms of reference for the meeting, which included trends in Antarctic ship-borne tourism and relevant developments in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), maritime safety in the Antarctic Treaty area, the protection of the Antarctic environment, the particular issues raised by vessels flagged to non-Parties, and cooperation between the ATCM and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO).

1 Antarctic Treaty (opened for signature 1 December 1959, in force 23 June 1961).

2 Washington Ministerial Declaration on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty (6

April 2009) reproduced in the Final Report of the Thirty-second Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM X X XII, Baltimore, United States, 6-17 April 2009) Appendix 1 (hereinafter, the Final Report of the X X XII ATCM ).

  1. See the Antarctic Treaty – Arctic Council Joint Meeting Washington Ministerial Declaration on the International Polar Year and Polar Science reproduced in the Final Report of the X X XII ATCM, Appendix 2.

4 Resolution 9 (2009) Collection and Use of Antarctic Biological Material.

The Wellington ATME, which took place from 9 to 11 December 2009, was attended by 72 delegates from 19 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties and 14 invited experts from six international organisations including the IMO and IHO. The meeting was co-chaired by Caroline Forsyth, Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Dr Olav Orheim of Norway. Lieutenant Commander Carlos Salgado of Chile and Dr Ewan McIvor of Australia were elected Vice-Chairs. The purpose of the meeting was to endeavour to accelerate consideration of matters relating to the management of ship-borne tourism in Antarctica, in the wake of a spate of serious incidents there involving tourist vessels, and to provide recommendations to the 33rd ATCM in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in May 2010.5

More than 30 papers were presented at the meeting. New Zealand’s contributions included an overview of the issues arising from ship-borne tourism in Antarctica and expert presentations on sea-ice changes around Antarctica, hydrographic surveying and charting in the Ross Sea region, the environmental effects of marine oil spills, oil spill response, port State control for vessels departing to Antarctica, cooperation between Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres and National Antarctic Programmes, response to environmental emergencies and the Liability Annex to the Environmental Protocol.6

In an address to delegates at Parliament on 9 December the Hon. Murray McCully spoke of his concern that, unless action was taken, there would be a serious maritime casualty involving a tourist vessel in Antarctica which would result in a humanitarian and environmental disaster. He urged delegates to take constructive steps to reduce the prospect of such a disaster.

The ATME agreed 17 recommendations for the 33rd ATCM.7 These included proactively applying port State control to vessels bound for the Antarctic Treaty area; the need to develop guidelines for responding to large

scale marine oil spills; and, considering ways to enhance the cooperative working relationship between the ATCM and IMO. Emphasis was placed on the importance of the Treaty Parties contributing to the development of the proposed IMO mandatory Code for ships operating in polar waters. New Zealand was tasked with presenting the report of the meeting to the ATCM and to provide an information paper to the IMO.

Overall the ATME was a considerable success, not least through having

brought together Antarctic Treaty and maritime experts, in many cases for the first time, for a focussed discussion on the problems around the management of tourist vessels in Antarctica. The meeting also enjoyed extensive media

  1. See the Chairs’ Report: Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts on the Management of Ship-borne Tourism in the Antarctic Treaty Area 9-11 December 2009, Wellington, New Zealand (hereinafter 2009 ATME Report).
  2. All working papers submitted to the meeting are available on the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat’s website at

7 See the 2009 ATME Report at 3-5.

coverage and succeeded in raising awareness of the need for further regulation to improve safety and reduce the environmental impacts and risks presented by passenger vessels in the Antarctic.

II. 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic

Marine Living Resources8 (CCAMLR)

New Zealand has been an active contributor to efforts within CCAMLR to implement spatial management for the purposes of marine protection. New Zealand’s particular focus has been on the Ross Sea where two of the eleven priority areas identified by CCAMLR in 2008 are located. In June 2009 New Zealand hosted a Ross Sea Region Bioregionalisation and Spatial Ecosystem Processes international expert meeting. The meeting was tasked with assembling and analyzing available environmental and biological spatial data for the Ross Sea region with a view to developing the design for spatial management in the region. Major outputs for the meeting included fine scale benthic/demersal and pelagic bioregionalisations of the Ross Sea region, and an agreed list of spatially bounded ecosystem processes of particular importance for conservation of the regional ecosystem. This work will be progressed through CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee in support of the goal of achieving a representative network of marine protected areas in the Ross Sea region in the future.

Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand chaired the 28th annual meeting of the CCAMLR Commission which was held in Hobart from 26

October to 6 November 2009. New Zealand was successful in having a daily reporting regime for finfish and crab fishing vessels in CCAMLR’s exploratory fisheries adopted by the Commission. Compared with the previous five-day reporting system, the CCAMLR Secretariat is now able to predict much more accurately the closure dates for these fisheries and thereby avoid exceeding the Total Allowable Catch limit set for each fishery. New Zealand’s proposed toothfish stock assessment for the Ross Sea was also agreed by the Scientific Committee and the Commission.9

A significant achievement for the 28th meeting of the Commission was the adoption of the first ever marine protected area on the high seas in the Convention Area. The marine protected area was proposed by the United Kingdom and covers approximately 94 000 square kilometres south of the South Orkney Islands in the South Atlantic.10 This was an encouraging development for those Members such as New Zealand who wish to progress the development of marine protected areas on the high seas in the Southern Ocean.

Trevor Hughes
Head, Antarctic Policy Unit
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington

8 Opened for signature 5 May 5 1980, entered into force 7 April 1982.

  1. All CCAMLR Conservation Measures are reproduced in full on the CCAMLR Commission’s website at <> .

10 Conservation Measure 91-03 (2009) Protection of the South Orkney Islands Southern Shelf.

NZLII: Copyright Policy | Disclaimers | Privacy Policy | Feedback