Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012
Outcome 3: Antarctica
‘Advancing Australia’s interests in the Antarctic.’
Advancement of Australia’s strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic by protecting, administering and researching the region.
Main responsibilities for this outcome
Overseeing the Antarctic Treaty System, Antarctic and Southern Ocean environment protection, Australian Antarctic Territory and Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands administration, and Antarctic and Southern Ocean research. Australian Antarctic Division
Australia’s Antarctic program objectives are based on the region’s strategic, scientific, environmental and potential economic importance for Australia. They include:
- conducting scientific research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean that supports national policy and environmental management priorities, in particular taking advantage of the special opportunities the Antarctic offers for globally significant and coordinated research
- preserving our sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory, including our sovereign rights over adjacent offshore areas
- protecting the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean environment, having regard to its special qualities and effects on our region
- maintaining Antarctica’s freedom from strategic and/or political confrontation
- being informed about and able to influence developments in a region geographically proximate to Australia
- deriving any reasonable economic benefits from living and non-living resources of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean (excluding deriving benefits from mining and oil drilling in the Antarctic Treaty area)
- developing arrangements with other Antarctic programs to enhance cooperation in science and logistics.
- This department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade successfully hosted the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative meeting with more than 300 delegates from among the 50 Antarctic nations in June 2012. At this meeting Australia participated in discussions leading to the adoption of a number of environmental protection initiatives and institutional improvements.
- The Australian Antarctic science program undertook a total of 97 science projects from 27 institutions; these involved collaboration with a further 244 institutions from 37 countries. In 2011-12, 237 publications were produced from the Australian Antarctic science program. Of these, 147 were published in peer-reviewed international literature and 11 contributed to supporting Australia’s position in key policy forums.
- Australia commemorated 100 years of exploration and science in Antarctica. Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition was celebrated through a range of activities, including a service at Mawson’s Huts Historic Site at Commonwealth Bay, Cape Denison, Antarctica.
- The Senate passed the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Amendment Bill 2011 in late June 2012. The Bill amends the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 to align the legislation with Australia’s revised obligations pursuant to three measures under the Antarctic Treaty and its Protocol on Environmental Protection (the Madrid Protocol). The Measures established more stringent arrangements to protect the Antarctic environment, and human and vessel safety in the Antarctic.
- Australia played a leading role in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Progress was made at CCAMLR’s 30th meeting (held on 24 October to 4 November 2011) towards a number of Australia’s key priorities including:
- a representative system of marine protected areas in East Antarctica
- the development of a compliance evaluation procedure
- continuation of precautionary catch limits on krill fishing
- sustainable management of fisheries in the Indian Ocean sector of the CCAMLR area
- standards for data poor fisheries
- revised financial regulations and new investment principles.
- A research project supported through the Australian Antarctic program successfully pioneered new techniques for counting penguins from space. This collaborative study used satellite mapping technology to reveal that the population of emperor penguins in Antarctica is twice the existing estimate. This was the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space. The study offers innovative and cost-effective ways to conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact whilst providing accurate information for international conservation efforts.
- A new super-insulated building providing living quarters at Davis Station in Antarctica won a State Engineers Australia Award for Excellence 2011 and was nominated for a National Award. The building method offered a largely prefabricated solution which was transportable, strong, spatially efficient and offered outstanding thermal properties, providing an innovative solution to construction in one of the world’s most inhospitable climates.
- Formal cooperation agreements were signed with China, France and the Russian Federation to facilitate future cooperation in the fields of Antarctic science, operations and policy.
- The department offered significant logistical and station support to the Tasmanian Government’s Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program, the largest attempted eradication ever undertaken on an island in the world to date. The goal of the eradication of rabbits and rodents on Macquarie Island is to facilitate the restoration of natural ecosystems and native species.
- Australia continued to lead in the development of technologies for the remediation of contaminated sites in Antarctica, including fuel spills, and constructed the first full scale biopile in Antarctica. This passive treatment facility at Casey Station holds more than 1000 tonnes of highly contaminated soil. The system stimulates bacteria naturally found in Antarctica to break down fuel into harmless products. In the first year of operation, fuel contamination dropped by half, a significant result given that for nine months of the year the soil is frozen and covered in snow. This approach is cheaper than removing soil from Antarctica and has better environmental outcomes because the soil, which is rare in Antarctica, can be used on station or put back into the ground after treatment.