Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010
Outcome 3 - Protecting Antarctica
Advancement of Australia's strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic by protecting, administering and researching the region.
||Australian Antarctic Division|
- In 2009-10 a total of 119 science projects were conducted within the Australian Antarctic Program. Of these, 44 projects sent personnel south. The major research field projects undertaken included: ice drilling through the Amery Ice Shelf; retrieval of a 120 metre ice core from Mill Island; the second year of ICECAP (Investigating the Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate); a geophysical aerial survey of the ice sheet near Casey Station (a collaborative Australian, USA and UK project); marine research on impacts of fishing gear; research associated with an environmental assessment of sewage treatment at Davis Station; and a major whale research program, including a joint Australia-New Zealand research voyage on the NZ Research Vessel Tangaroa and an aerial whale survey using a CASA 212 aircraft off the coast of the Bunger Hills.
- Australia actively participated in the meetings of all elements of the Antarctic Treaty system and made key contributions to:
- progressing work to prevent the unintended transfer of species to and within Antarctica
- ensuring the orderly development of the krill fishery.
- International collaboration included transportation by air of Italian, French, US and Chinese expeditioners to and from Antarctica. Australia also successfully evacuated an injured Chinese expeditioner, a sick French expeditioner and two US personnel from Antarctica, in three separate operations. Australia received logistic support from the US and Chinese programs to assist our own operations.
- Maintain the Antarctic Treaty system and enhance Australia's influence in it.
- Enhanced international collaboration with key Antarctic nations to meet national policy and research needs.
- Protect the environment of Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and the territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, including marine living resources and seabirds.
- Improve understanding of Antarctica's role in the global climate system.
- Conduct and support science projects to protect the Antarctic environment and Southern Ocean ecosystems.
- Support practical and important Antarctic scientific research.
- Provide data to Australian and international institutions and support them in undertaking research.
In 2009-10 Australia undertook a highly collaborative scientific program to support national policy and environmental management priorities. The following statistics summarise the scale of the research undertaken:
- A total of 119 projects from 32 institutions were undertaken as part of Australia's Antarctic program. The projects involved collaboration with a further 187 institutions from 24 countries.
- A total of 137 scientists utilised Australia's logistics system in 2009-10. In its third season the new Antarctic Air Link transported 33 scientists to Antarctica to undertake research at Australia's Casey Station and beyond.
- Of the 137 scientists 123 were from Australia, including 55 from the department's Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and 14 from overseas (five from the United States, two from the United Kingdom, two from France, four from New Zealand, and one from Canada).
- The Australian Antarctic program supported 143 higher degree students, including 93 PhD students.
- During the 2009 calendar year 245 publications were produced under the auspices of the Australian Antarctic program. This total includes: 146 that were published in peer-reviewed international literature, 33 papers that contribute to supporting Australia's position in key policy forums such as the Antarctic Treaty, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
- Development of a plan for the future of the Australian Antarctic program commenced. This plan, which will implement the Government's Key Policy Priorities, will be completed for government consideration later in 2010.
- Reviews were undertaken of four management plans for Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, and the amended plans were adopted by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM).
- During 2009-10 the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) commenced a two-year work program, initiated by Australia (together with France and New Zealand), to develop guidance on how to prevent the unintended transfer of organisms to and within Antarctica. The CEP meeting in Uruguay in May 2010 supported the outputs from the first year and accorded a high priority to the continued development of practical prevention and response measures.
- Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with other countries were reviewed and new business rules developed to ensure a more strategic approach, in line with the AAD's international engagement strategy.
- Preparations were made for domestic legal implementation of Australia's obligations under Measure 16 (2009) Amendment of Annex II to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Commencement of the new arrangements is awaiting the entry into force of the measure.
- The Environment Protection and Management Ordinance 1987 for the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands was amended to make it consistent with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for environmental protection as a declared Commonwealth Reserve. The amendments also provide for improved administrative efficiency in regulating access to, and activities in, the Territory.
- The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the meeting of its advisory Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) were held in May 2010, in Uruguay. The Australian delegation was successful in obtaining consensus agreement to key proposals, including: cooperation between the Antarctic Treaty and the IMO; improvements to protected area management plans; and adoption of revised management plans for key protected areas. An Australian Antarctic Division officer was re-elected to the position of CEP Vice-chair.
- During the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in October-November 2009, members: agreed to the first CCAMLR-designated marine protected area; established a fund to build scientific capacity within the Scientific Committee; and adopted further measures to ensure the orderly development of the krill fishery, including expanding observer coverage in the fishery and distributing fishing effort.
- Australia showed leadership in the conservation of endangered albatrosses and petrels by: administration of the Threat Abatement Plan to reduce bycatch in longline fisheries; continuing research on ways to improve mitigation measures; and by providing substantial support for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
- AAD organised, supported and led official Antarctic Treaty inspections of stations and facilities of other nations in Antarctica, completing inspections of Japan's Syowa station, and Russia's Soyuz, Druzhnaya IV, and Molodezhnaya stations. Australia will report on the findings of these inspections to the next Antarctic Treaty meeting.
Antarctic support services
- A successful season in which AAD implemented approximately 80 projects on land and sea in the Antarctic and Subantarctic. These projects included science, arts, media and infrastructure work. Major projects included a joint Australia/New Zealand non lethal whale research project, retrieval of an ice core, an airborne whale survey project and significant enhancements to facilities at our stations. The department operated four stations and three deep field camps to support these projects.
- During the 2009-10 Antarctic season the Australian Antarctic Division conducted a range of shipping, air, training and infrastructure activities in support of the Australian Antarctic program. The shipping program included: a marine science trial voyage, incorporating a light resupply to Macquarie Island; six voyages to the stations to resupply, transfer cargo and deliver and return expedition personnel; an Antarctic whale expedition aboard the Tangoroa; and the first of several voyages to Macquarie Island to implement the joint Commonwealth/State Pest Eradication Program and to bring home expedition personnel from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) project.
- Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 compliance statistics:
- Eighteen new claims were reported to Comcare during 2009-10, and there were 25 open claims.
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (OHS) compliance statistics:
- eighteen incidents reported to Comcare, in accordance with section 68 of the OHS Act
- no direction was issued under section 45 (a direction of 'Do not Disturb' for a period of time)
- no notices were given under sections 29 (Provisional Improvement Notice), 46 (Power to issue prohibition notices) or 47 (Power to issue improvement notices)
- one internal investigation report was provided to Comcare (that is, a senior management review on the Davis incident), with a request for a second report (Diving bends report)
- one reactive investigation was initiated, under section 41 of the OHS Act.
- Environmental protection and risk management of ship-to-shore fuel transfer operations have been significantly improved through the refinement of standard operating procedures, equipment and training.
- Logistics and project planning are well under way for removal of the remaining 500 cubic metres of waste stockpiled at Thala Valley, near Casey Station, in the 2010-11 shipping season.
- Two fuel spills occurred, one at Casey Station and one near Davis Station this year. Both spills were cleaned up as well as possible, utilising fuel spill equipment. They will be monitored following the melt for any further cleanup requirements.
- A scientific diving program at Davis Station was conducted to inform policy decisions on the design parameters for a new wastewater treatment plant.
- A fuel drum washer/crusher has been delivered and tested for installation at Davis Station to reduce storage and shipping space, to reduce the environmental risk of windblown empty drums, and to facilitate the re-use and recycling of used fuel drums.
The department, through the Australian Antarctic Division, actively participates and leads discussion in key forums including: the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM); the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP); the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
Australia is committed to valuing and protecting Antarctica, and demonstrates this commitment by: developing internationally accepted environmental protection measures through the Antarctic Treaty system, and pursuing the agreement of other nations to them; developing, implementing and managing practical ways to minimise the effects of our own activities; restoring past work sites; and undertaking research to ensure that management of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is based on sound scientific principles and the best available scientific knowledge. Australia's research contributes to understanding environmental systems and the effects of global climate change. Australia also has a significant role in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean.
Australia continues to undertake scientific research in accordance with: the Science Strategy for Australia's Antarctic program (2004-05 to 2010-11); Australia's National Research Priorities; and the nation's policy interests and associated government goals. This priority science supports Australia's interests in environmental protection, determining the role that Antarctica plays in the global climate system, and gaining an understanding of how organisms and ecosystems are adapting to an extreme and changing environment.
As well as the unanticipated involvement in the successful evacuation of an injured Chinese expeditioner, a sick French expeditioner and two US personnel from Antarctica in three separate operations, the Australian Antarctic Division successfully:
- completed scheduled non-science projects
- produced 245 scientific publications in 2009
- undertook 119 science projects from 32 institutions.
As part of its focus on improving performance, the Australian Antarctic Division pursued its roadmap objectives to achieve the following outcomes, to:
- be recognised as an international leader in:
- science focused on national needs
- environment and Occupational Health and Safety Management
- maintaining a healthy Antarctic Treaty System and related forums
- have an effective policy and administrative framework for the Australian Antarctic Territories (AAT)
- have an enhanced capability to deliver Australian Antarctic priorities
- have an enhanced community understanding and buy in for the Australian Antarctic program (AAp)
- have fulfilled, capable, motivated and empowered staff.
The following achievements were progressed during the year:
- The development of a new science strategy incorporating the setting of research priorities and establishing direction for: research methods; population status and trends; data collection; data management; and collaborative initiatives. This achievement came as a result of intensive collaboration and consultation in which a wide range of researchers were brought together.
- Progress on negotiations on the utilisation of our airlink capability to increase collaboration with other nations on shared logistics, and working effectively in these very challenging economic times.
- Progress in achieving better coordination with a range of government areas: for example with Science, Climate Change, Defence, Customs, and the Attorney General's Department.
To gain a much better understanding of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet structure (ice thickness, ice elevation and information on the bedrock), together with its dynamics and likely future change, a joint Australian, USA and UK project ICECAP (Investigating the Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate) has successfully completed the second of three summers conducting aerial geophysical surveys from Casey Station. In the 2009-10 season, nine flights out of Casey produced 17,000 line kilometres of data. Flights from McMurdo and Dumont D'Urville added data from a further 62,000 line kilometres. The data is revealing information about the ice sheet that will be fundamental for modelling to predict its future change. The data is revealing a wide variety of landscapes beneath the ice, from smoothly rolling plains in the deep basins, to large mountain ranges cut by deep valleys, and many indications of wet subglacial conditions and new lakes beneath the ice. It is also revealing areas of very deep ice that are more extensive than previously thought and regions where the ice rests on bedrock below sea-level.
A ski-equipped Basler BT-67 turboprop (an upgraded DC-3) from Kenn Borek Air Ltd, of Canada, carried a suite of geophysical instruments to explore the glaciological and geological properties of the vast Aurora and Wilkes subglacial basins.
Photo: Australian Antarctic Division
The Antarctic ice sheet traps a valuable archive of past and present climate information. By retrieving ice cores scientists can answer a series of important climate questions. Variations in trace impurities trapped with the snowfall that makes up the ice carries information on past climatic conditions:
- A major result, just published, finds a climate link between increased snowfall at Law Dome and drought in south-west Western Australia. This climate link is potentially connected with impacts from anthropogenic changes in ozone and carbon dioxide. The ice core also shows that recent decades are unusual in the 750 year record.
- In January-February 2010 a collaborative research team of glaciologists and climatologists from Macquarie University and the Australian Antarctic Division, drilled a 120 metre deep ice core from near the summit of Mill Is (located at 65° 33.429' South, 100° 47.183' East), the most northerly ice cap in East Antarctica. The core is expected to span the past 100-200 years and is being analysed to produce a quasi-monthly record of climate variability associated with the Davis Sea region of the southern Indian Ocean.
While ice cores tell us much about the past climate, ice shelves can tell us a lot about the present and likely future changes. Ice shelves are in contact with the atmosphere above, and the ocean below, making them the most vulnerable component of the Antarctic cryosphere. They have a buttressing effect on the ice sheet, slowing the discharge of inland ice from the continent, so that changes in ice shelf shape and size can affect the flow of ice from the interior of the continent.
The Amery Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in the Australian Antarctic Territory, is at the edge of the Lambert Glacier (the largest glacier in the world); that is, where it flows into (floats on) the ocean at Prydz Bay. Ocean water penetrates over 550 km under the Amery, which thins as it flows towards Prydz Bay and loses mass by calving of icebergs at its face. It is also diminished by melting where it meets ocean water underneath, an interaction with potential implications for the flow of the glaciers. Some of the supercooled water under the ice shelf flows out into Prydz Bay, where its interactions with ocean water and ice influence the bay's circulation and thus the local ecosystem. It also contributes to the formation of dense 'Antarctic Bottom Water', which ventilates the deep ocean.
In 2009-10 the Amery Ice Shelf Oceanographic Research project drilled two new 600 metre deep boreholes on the Amery Ice Shelf: the first on the marine ice flowline to enhance understanding of the re-freezing process beneath the shelf; and the second in a region of known interest for circulation patterns in the ocean cavity below the shelf. Instrument deployments at both sites should provide valuable annual cycle data over the next four to five years.
Whale Survey Team 2010 - Casey vicinity.
Photo: Natalie Kelly, AAD
The Australian Antarctic Program conducted a very significant and highly successful whale research program during 2009-10 including:
- The largest ever aerial survey of whales off the Australian Antarctic coastline. A team of five scientists aboard a fixed-wing Casa 212 aircraft surveyed 55,559 nautical miles of ocean and pack-ice off Australia's Casey station for Antarctic minke whales over a two-month period from December 2009 to February 2010. Novel statistical methods are being used to analyse the data and will provide a much more accurate estimate of minke numbers in Antarctic waters than ever before.
- A six-week joint Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Whale Expedition (AWE) voyage with scientists from Australia, New Zealand and France in the Southern Ocean, aboard the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research vessel R.V Tangaroa. The AWE research voyage successes included the:
- completion of the first successful non-lethal whale research voyage that directly contributes towards the core research projects of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership
- demonstration of a successful model of using small boats, working around a capable ship, for non-lethal whale research in high latitude seas
- collection of over 60 biopsy skin samples, and over 60 individually identifiable tail fluke photographs from humpback whales in their Southern Ocean feeding grounds
- satellite tagging of 30 humpback whales in their Southern Ocean feeding grounds
- demonstration of the use of passive acoustics to locate and track the movements of the Antarctic blue whale
- recordings of humpback whale 'songs' in the feeding grounds. Prior to this, such songs have only been shown to occur in lower latitude breeding grounds and nearby migratory routes
- detection of sounds that are most likely associated with Antarctic minke whales; a species that has been historically difficult to define acoustically
- collection of hydro-acoustics data of whale prey in regions of high and low whale densities that can be used to better define the correlations between krill and whales in the Southern Ocean.
Together with these two large field projects, ongoing whale population genetic and acoustic research projects, are also yielding valuable results. In 2009-10 the deployment of bottom mounted acoustic recording devices off Casey Station will enable the continuous acoustic monitoring of this location over a year-long time frame. These acoustic techniques will help provide answers to important questions about the presence, relative abundance, seasonality, movements, and distribution of Southern Ocean marine mammals, that are necessary for effective management.
Program 3.1: Antarctic Science, Policy and Presence
|Program 3.1 Deliverables
The deliverables and further specific targets for this program are outlined in the tables below
|Delivering Australian Antarctic science for the period 2004-05 to 2010-11 that is guided by a science strategy.The effectiveness of this strategy will be reviewed and a new 5-year strategy has been developed this year.||Deliverable achieved. Antarctic science has been guided by a science strategy since 2004.
New science Plan 2011-12 to 2020-21 developed and approved by the Minister for Environment Protection for publication in 2010-11.
|Conducting high priority scientific research to understand the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the global climate system, to protect the Antarctic environment and undertake work of practical, economic and national significance.||Deliverable achieved. The department undertook scientific research in accordance with the Science Strategy for Australia's Antarctic program (2004-05 to 2010-11).|
|Pursuing Australia's Antarctic policy objectives through participation in the Antarctic Treaty system and related forums, including meetings of:
||Deliverable achieved. The department participated in the Antarctic Treaty system and related forums as listed in the following KPI table.|
|Administering the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, including the authorisation and management of Australian activities in accordance with relevant legislation and environmental protection measures.||Deliverable achieved. The territories were administered in accordance with relevant legislation and environment protection measures.|
|Maintaining three stations in the Australian Antarctic Territory and one station in the sub-Antarctic, listed below:
||Deliverable achieved. The 4 permanent research stations were maintained providing a permanent presence and support for research.|
|Operating a transport and logistics network using shipping and air services to:
||Deliverable achieved. The Aurora Australis operated 199 shipping days, the Tangaroa operated for 42 shipping days and L'Astrolabe for 12 days. Of the 253 days, 30 were externally funded for the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (18) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency project (12).|
|Key Performance Indicator||2009–10 Results|
|The effectiveness of the Australian Antarctic program in conducting and supporting internationally recognised scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean can be measured by the number of published scientific papers and the number of international institutions collaborating in the Australian Antarctic program.||245 scientific papers published.
Institutions from 24 countries participated.
The department has met this KPI over many years and particularly since 2004.
|Governments have consistently taken the view that the Antarctic Treaty system is the best way of advancing Australia's Antarctic policy interests. The Australian Antarctic Division, as the leader of Australia's Antarctic program, plays a key role in maintaining the Antarctic Treaty system and enhancing Australia's influence in it, including through participation in its various forums.||In 2009-10 Australia was active in the Antarctic Treaty system and led negotiations on a number of important initiatives in all of the scheduled meetings. These included: the 33rd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), the 13th meeting of the Committee on Environmental Protection (CEP), the 28th meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and an Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts (ATME) on Ship-borne tourism, and another on the implications of climate change for Antarctic management and governance.
The department has met this KPI over many years.
|Measures of our influence include the extent to which Australia's objectives are achieved and the number of senior positions (for example Chair or Vice-Chair held by Australia).||At the 33rd ATCM, Australia was re-elected as Vice-Chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection for a further two-year term. Australia was also elected as the Chair of the Legal and Institutional Working Group of the ATCM. AAD scientists also continued to hold positions as convenors of two of the Scientific Committees to CCAMLR's working groups.|
|Australia demonstrates its commitment to protecting the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean environment by ensuring that its Antarctic program complies with all Australian Antarctic environmental protection legislation. The program's target is 100% compliance.||Compliance is audited insofar as logistic support can be made available. Two potential breaches of the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 are currently being investigated.
The department has met this KPI over many years.
|The program's success is dependant upon the performance of its shipping and air services. The effectiveness of these services can be measured by combining the number of expeditioners and the volume of cargo transported during the year.||General cargo moved to Antarctica consisted of 12.2 tonnes by air and 1,564 tonnes by sea. Total general cargo returned to Australia was 8.77 tonnes by air and 837 tonnes by ship.
14 flights by A319 aircraft were made in direct support of the AAD, of which one flight went to McMurdo and the remaining 13 to Wilkins. 5 A319 flights were made in support of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) during the season, in return for two USAP LC130 flights from McMurdo to Casey skiway.
A charter to carry members of the Italian Antarctic program occurred in mid-November. This flight took Italian program members from Christchurch in New Zealand to McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
In late February 2010 a flight evacuated two USAP members from McMurdo Station to Christchurch NZ.
The flights moved a total of 337 Australian Antarctic program expeditioners to and from Antarctica and a further 410 passengers for other nations as part of our international collaboration program.
CASA 212 fixed-wing intercontinental aircraft flew over 445 hours, with helicopters flying 747 hours in support of the Australian Antarctic program during the 2009-10 Austral Summer.
|The program operates permanent stations as a demonstration of Australia's continued presence and commitment. The level of utilisation (measured by the number of expeditioners and occupied bed nights) is an indicator of the program's performance in maintaining Australia's presence.||The 4 permanent research stations were operated, maintained and developed.
Over the last 12 months 78.74% of bed capacity was used. This equals 33,399 bed nights.
|Key Performance Indicator||2009–10 Budget Target||2009–10 Results|
|Senior positions held on Antarctic Treaty related organisations. [number]||2||4|
|Australian Antarctic program compliance with Antarctic environmental protection legislation. [%]||100||100|
Refer to Appendix 2: Resources for Outcomes - Expenses and Resources for Outcome 3.
- Letter of transmittal
- Executive summary
- Outcome 1 - Conserving our natural assets
- Outcome 2 - Living and working sustainably
- Operation of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989
- Operation of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989
- Operation of the product stewardship arrangements for oil including the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000
- Operation of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000
- Outcome 3 - Protecting Antarctica
- Outcome 4 - Adapting to a future with less water
- Outcome 5 - Protecting and enhancing Australia's culture and heritage
- Corporate Outcome - Improving organisational effectiveness
- Financial statements
- List of requirements