Management of Antarctica
Antarctica is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists. Indeed, tourist numbers have gone from 9,000 in 1992-93 to 46,000 in 2007-8 with over 100 companies being involved. Visitor numbers dropped but are now rising again. Visitors are mainly from rich nations (39% American, 15% British) and tend to fly to New Zealand or Chile or Argentina and set sail from there.
There are some very accessible sites and boats tend to stop there preferentially. These are Honey pot sites and the animals get disturbed from their usual feeding and breeding routines. In addition, many ships have run aground and had accidents and oil spills are an increasing hazard. Waste from tourist boats is also a problem, and by law ships are required to discharge waste well away from the edges of Antarctica. This is managed by;
1. The IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) is an organisation which rules the companies and tries to be environmentally friendly. They regulate the boat companies and try to ensure a sustainable future for the ice continent.
2. Boats are limited to 500 passengers which should reduce the impact of tourism.
3. Visitors cannot visit SSSIs or Sites of Special Scientific Interest which often contain vulnerable wildlife, again reducing the impact of tourism. There are hundreds of these areas around the Antarctic continent, but they are small in scale and protect the most vulnerable areas e.g. penguin breeding grounds.
4. Permits must also be obtained to go, and these permits include sections on waste management, risk management and how the applicant will minimise their Environmental Impact whilst in Antarctica. Find out how to get a permit from the UK here.
5. The Antarctic Act of 1994 is a UK Act that supports the Antarctic Treaty of 1961 and makes environmental damage in Antarctica by any British citizen punishable by law.
International Agreements - The Antarctic Treaty
Antarctica is also protected by the rules of the Antarctic treaty, signed in 1961, where many countries promised to demilitarize Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only. The Treaty also tries to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica and to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.
The Madrid Protocol of 1998 went one step further, and banned all mining activities in Antarctica. This will be reviewed in 2048 and deposits of gold, iron ore, coal and oil have been discovered, although they are currently uneconomic to mine.
The area has no permanent residents but a number of governments maintain scientific research stations. The number of people living in Antarctica varies from 1000 in winter to 5000 in the summer. The area has long been an area of intrigue for humankind, and the race to the South Pole saw British explorer Captain Scott battle with Norwegian Amundsen to be the first to reach the South Pole at the start of the 20th century.
The use of technology
Technology is helping to monitor change in cold environments, helping people to communicate better so improving their lives and even bringing new employment opportunities to cold environments. Satellite technology has been used to monitor ice thickness in the Antarctic. In 2017 a huge crack was identified on the Larsen C ice shelf and scientists are using the data to predict when it may break of into the sea. Satellite data is also used to monitor the hole in the Ozone layer over the continent.
The internet has arrived in parts of the Arctic Tundra allowing native people better communication access, whilst a fibre optic internet cable is being laid through the Arctic. Finally, Tech firms are investing in tundra areas as costs are low and the cold climate reduces the costs needed to cool down servers and other equipment. Facebook has opened a data centre at Lulea, Sweden, 900 kilometres from Stockholm, at the edge of Arctic Circle.