Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2003-04

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335

Review of performance: Outcome 2 - Antarctica (continued)

Influencing the Antarctic Treaty System

The Department takes the lead on issues of concern to Australia and develops initiatives for international consideration. It supports Australia's compliance with the requirements of the Antarctic Treaty System and cooperation with Antarctic Treaty partners.

In 2003-04, the Department participated in international activities related to:

The Australian Antarctic Division contributed to this output.

Antarctic Treaty System

Objective

To maintain the Antarctic Treaty System, to enhance Australia's influence in it and to enhance international protection for whales and seabirds.

Activities
Representation in the Treaty System

To further Australia's interests, the Department has a strong presence at Antarctic Treaty meetings and related forums, which include:

During 2003-04, the Department was instrumental in developing the details for establishing the permanent secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. This year's Antarctic Treaty meeting agreed on the remaining legal and operational issues, which will enable the secretariat to commence work in Buenos Aires in September 2004.

Australia played a leading role at the 2004 meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection. The Director of the Department's Australian Antarctic Division was re-elected to chair the committee for a further two years. The committee adopted Australia's proposal for an Antarctic Specially Managed Area and associated Antarctic Specially Protected Area for Mawson's Huts at Cape Denison.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources coordinates approaches to the sustainable management of Antarctic fisheries. Through the commission, Australia is leading international efforts to combat illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean.

The Department represents Australia on the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes and many of its subgroups, including the Standing Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations. Four departmental officers hold leadership positions in the council's working groups and networks - as chair of the standing committee and as coordinators of three out of four council networks (namely energy management, training, and environment).

Scientists working for the Department played a major role in committees of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Managing tourism

Over the past decade, tourist visits to Antarctica have doubled with 20 000 visitors last year. Tourist vessels operating in Antarctica have increased from 12 to 47. There is every indication this interest in Antarctica will continue to grow. Antarctic tourism needs to be managed to prevent future damage to the environment.

Australia is working closely with other parties to the Antarctic Treaty to improve the management of tourism in Antarctica. At the Antarctic Treaty's meeting of experts on Antarctic tourism in Norway in March 2004, the Department made a number of proposals, which included:

Achieving integrated management of tourism in Antarctica was also a priority for the Australian delegation at the May 2004 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Cape Town. To help protect Antarctica's wilderness and wildlife, the delegation presented a proposal for the development of an Antarctic tourism industry accreditation scheme and other proposals to better manage non-government activities.

Managing fishing

There is a long history of over-exploitation of Antarctic marine living resources (whaling and sealing) and recently illegal fishing for toothfish has increased, with consequent damage to Antarctic ecosystems.

Through the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Department was instrumental in obtaining support for a trial of a centralised vessel monitoring system - a key tool for combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. While the commission already has a catch documentation scheme (an earlier Australian initiative) that tracks the taking, landing and trading of the highly prized Patagonian toothfish, a centralised vessel monitoring system is seen as essential to verify and validate claims made by fishing vessels.

Australia has worked with commission members to support the vessel monitoring system trial and to bolster support for full adoption of the system at the 2004 commission meeting. Australia also argued strongly for the addition of vessels to the commission's illegal, unregulated and unreported, or 'pirate', vessel list and other initiatives to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The Department's research directly contributed to the revision or renewal of key conservation measures relating to:

The research directly influenced key elements of these measures such as total allowable catch limits. A scientist working for the Department was awarded a prestigious Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship for his work into seabird by-catch mitigation.

Albatross and petrel conservation

The recovery of 21 albatross and two giant petrel species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was supported through implementation of a recovery plan. The mitigation of by-catch of these birds in longline fisheries - a key threatening process for seabirds - was managed through implementation of the threat abatement plan for the incidental catch (or by-catch) of seabirds in oceanic longline fishing. As a result, the by-catch of albatrosses has been reduced to extremely low levels in all Australian longline fisheries, although the by-catch of flesh-footed shearwaters still needs to be further reduced.

Conservation of highly migratory species such as albatrosses and petrels cannot be achieved by any single country acting independently of other nations that share the same species populations. Australia has therefore encouraged other countries to act to protect these seabirds both nationally and internationally. This has been pursued through international forums such as the Convention for Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals - and a number of other international forums including the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and fishing forums.

In 2004, the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels came into force. Australia is the depositary government of the agreement. This activity was funded through an administered appropriation as a national investment project of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Australia was instrumental in developing the agreement, providing support for meetings to negotiate the text of the agreement and assisting delegates from developing countries to attend the meetings. To date there are 11 signatories to the agreement and six nations (Australia, the United Kingdom, Ecuador, New Zealand, Spain and South Africa) have also ratified the agreement. There is now strong international commitment to protecting albatrosses and petrels.

Whale protection

In July 2003 the Department transferred responsibility for international marine species (whales and albatrosses) to its Australian Antarctic Division. These responsibilities include Australia's approach to the International Whaling Commission. A research plan to support Australia's position in the commission was developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders and recruitment of new research staff commenced. In 2003-04, scientists working for the Department also played a significant role in the commission's scientific committee.

Australia maintained its position on seeking a permanent ban on commercial whaling, opposing so-called 'scientific' whaling and seeking the continuation and creation of whale sanctuaries. Australia continued to pursue these issues in the lead up to the 56th meeting of the International Whaling Commission in July 2004.

April 2004 saw the 25th anniversary of Australia's change of policy on whaling. This was a significant Australian milestone and provided an opportunity to highlight the Australian Government's continuing commitment to protecting whales in Australian waters and improving the protection of whales throughout the world. To mark the occasion, a commemorative reception was held at Parliament House where the Australian Government was presented with a Gift to the Earth award for its commitment to whale protection.

The second workshop on the Convention on Migratory Species and marine mammal conservation in the South Pacific was held in Apia in March 2004. The workshop, which was partly funded by the Department, was a success in both attendance and outcomes. It confirmed widespread interest in both Convention on Migratory Species membership and developing a regional arrangement for marine mammal conservation. Samoa announced it would become the first island state of the South Pacific to join the convention.

Data management

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research biodiversity database, which the Australian Antarctic Data Centre developed, is fully operational and accepting new biological observations from the international Antarctic biological research community.

The Australian Antarctic Data Centre has added 118 000 records to the database, including observations from the United Kingdom and records from the Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change workshop in Paimpont, France. The system has been expanded to accommodate satellite tracking data from species. It has also been exposed to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility using international standards for sharing data (Web Services). The Department's Australian Antarctic Data Centre was the first Australian organisation in the facility. This delivery strategy enables simple, standardised access to a large base of biological data from around the world. Over the next year, the Web Services protocols will be extended to enable the biodiversity database to support the National Oceans Office's anticipated Oceans Web Portal.

The Australian Antarctic Data Centre's approach to scientific data management has been widely acknowledged as highly successful, and the Department's advice is sought by many Australian and overseas organisations. An external review of the centre in November 2003 confirmed this status. The Chinese and New Zealand Antarctic Data Centres are using the Australian Antarctic Data Centre's data management strategy as a scientific information management model.

The synergy between scientific data management and Australia's Antarctic Mapping Programme within the Australian Antarctic Data Centre results in efficient production of a wide range of digital map and other geographical information system products online. The centre hosts a comprehensive web-based Antarctic Map Catalogue. Six Antarctic Treaty nations have contributed 76 maps to this online catalogue over the past 12 months. Of these, the centre produced 47.

Managing Antarctic programmes

At this year's meeting of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes in July 2004 a Symposium was held under the council's auspices and the Department provided several posters outlining Australia's operational activities in the Antarctic. In addition, one of the CASA 212 aircraft which has been purpose-built for use by the Australian Antarctic Division within Antarctica was on display. Two CASA 212 aircraft will begin operating within Antarctica in the 2004-05 season.

Result

Australia worked closely with other parties to the Antarctic Treaty on a number of initiatives to improve the management of tourism in Antarctica, including measures on insurance and contingency planning for tourism and adventure expeditions. Australia also played an active role in negotiating rules for liability for environmental damage.

Australia was instrumental in working out the details for the establishment of a permanent secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. The secretariat will commence work in Buenos Aires in September 2004.

An electronic system developed by Australia for Antarctic State of the Environment reporting was endorsed for further development by the 2004 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.

Australia played a lead role in the development of key conservation measures at the 2003 meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to better manage exploratory and established fisheries, to minimise bycatch and to combat pirate fishing. Australia also played major roles in the commission's scientific committee and working groups.

The Australian Antarctic Division continued its efforts in Southern Ocean whale research.

The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, for which Australia is currently acting as the interim secretariat, entered into force. The agreement marks a considerable step forward in the international work to protect these threatened seabirds.

Australian scientists continued to play prominent roles in the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and its sub-committees.

The Director of the Australian Antarctic Division was re-elected to chair the international Committee for Environmental Protection for a further two years.

Report on performance information

Table 39 reports performance results against the indicators in the 2003-04 portfolio budget statements.

Table 39: To maintain the Antarctic Treaty System and enhance Australia's influence within the System (departmental appropriation)
Performance information(a) Result
'Australia's position is advanced by policy proposals, briefings and attendance at key forums within the Antarctic Treaty System including:
  • Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings;
  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources;
  • Committee for the Environmental Protection;
  • Council of Managers of National Antarctic programmes; and
  • Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.'
The Department played a key role in these forums in 2003-04 and Australia's key objectives were advanced including in relation to tourism, protected areas and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
'Provide Chair and other support for the CEP [Committee for the Environmental Protection].' The Director of the Department's Australian Antarctic Division was re-elected as chair of the Committee for the Environmental Protection for a further two years. Australia as chair continues to improve the committee's processes.
'Influence, by directed research, the decisions of ATS [Antarctic Treaty System], including CCAMLR [Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources].'

'Produce general policy and management measures for by-catch species for consideration by CCAMLR [Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources].'

'Produce methodological papers for International Whaling Commission (IWC) and CCAMLR [Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources].'

'Advocate, using scientific data, precautionary catch limits on toothfish in Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Exclusive Economic Zone, and for icefish and other fish off AAT [Australian Antarctic Territory].'
The Department contributed directly to conservation measures for:

  • the Antarctic krill fisheries and exploratory finfish fisheries in the Antarctic;
  • established fisheries for Patagonian toothfish and mackerel ice fish around Heard Island; and
  • minimising incidental mortality of seabirds associated with fishing.
The Department was instrumental in gaining support for a trial of a centralised vessel monitoring system, a key tool for combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
'Influence the decisions of the ATS [Antarctic Treaty System] by high quality Human Impacts research.'

'Brief CEP [Committee for the Environmental Protection] delegation on recommendations arising from experiments on contaminant dispersion, remediation and monitoring.'

'Contribute to report for CEP [Committee for the Environmental Protection] on technical and practical measures to minimise the risk of introduction and spread of non-indigenous species to the Antarctic region.'
Reported in Table 41 in the next section 'Protecting the Antarctic environment'.
'Involvement in the planning and execution of major SACR [Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research] scientific programmes.'

'Key role played by Australian scientists in the planning and execution of Antarctic and Southern Ocean components of the World Climate Research Programme.'

'Development of the SCAR [Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research] Biodiversity RiSCC database to operational stage.'

'Publish results from 'Space Ship Earth' analyses of cosmic anisotopes and transients.'

'Provide 400kyr palaeoenvironmental chronology (IMAGES) from South Tasman Rise and Chatman Rise.'
Scientists working for the Department continue to play a major role in Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research committees, in particular steering committees for programmes investigating Antarctic sea ice and climate.

Space Ship Earth observations of the impact at earth of a huge burst of radiation from the sun in 2001 were analysed and published. Three further blasts, observed between 29 October and 3 November 2003 by the network, are being analysed. The Space Ship Earth network also observed a number of space weather storms. Analysis tools to aid in their prediction are being developed.
'Effective administration of the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands in accordance with relevant Australian legislation and international obligations.'

'Permits issued or administered under Antarctic environmental protection legislation.'

'Develop a management plan for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.'

'All new activities subjected to prior environmental impact assessment in accordance with legislation and relevant management plans.'
The Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands were administered in accordance with the relevant legislation and international obligations. The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve was managed under delegation from the Director of National Parks. A draft management plan was developed for the marine reserve. This is expected to be released for public comment in the second half of 2004. A land-sea research programme on the marine ecosystems of Heard Island and the surrounding Southern Ocean in 2003-04 is informing development of the management plan for the reserve.
'Continue Australia's leadership in applied mapping and data management.'

'Support and populate biodiversity database for the SCAR [Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research] Regional Sensitivity to Climate Change programme.'

'Prepare ICG [Intersessional Contact Group] Working Paper (with New Zealand) on State of Antarctic Environment Reporting to the CEP [Committee for the Environmental Protection].'

'Maintain and up-date the Antarctic spatial data dictionary for SCAR [Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research] Working Group on Geodesy and Geographic Information.'
An Australian model for State of the Environment reporting was accepted by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research biodiversity database, developed by the Australian Antarctic Data Centre, is now fully operational and accepting new observations from the international biological research community.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research's Antarctica Data Dictionary has evolved with international standards into what is now known as the Antarctic Feature Catalogue. Scientists working for the Department played a leading role in the Climate and Cryosphere project, a major initiative of the World Climate Research Programme. As well as being represented on the executive of the Scientific Steering Group of Climate and Cryosphere, glaciologists working for the Department contributed to the work of the Climate and Cryosphere Data Management and Information Panel; the Climate Variability and Predictability Programme [CLIVAR]/Climate and Cryosphere Southern Ocean Panel; and the International Programme.

(a) The performance information from the portfolio budget statements is paraphrased in some cases to reduce length, and not always quoted verbatim as in the similar tables for Outcome 1.

Table 40: Pricing information for Table 39(a)
Appropriation Estimated price Revised price Actual expenses
Influence in Antarctic Treaty System - Output 2.1 (departmental) $13.332 million $14.424 million $14.287 million

(a) See also the summary resource tables at the end of this 'Review of performance'.

Before you download

Some documents are available as PDF files. You will need a PDF reader to view PDF files.
List of PDF readers 

If you are unable to access a publication, please contact us to organise a suitable alternative format.

Help