Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005
ISSN 1441 9335
Antarctica - Outcome 2
Australia’s Antarctic interests
Outcome 2: Australia’s interests in Antarctica are advanced.
The Department of the Environment and Heritage carries out Australia’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean programmes, including research.
Main responsibilities relevant to this outcome
Australian Antarctic Division
- Protecting the Artarctic environment
- Protecting the Southern Ocean
- International whaling negotiations
- Undertake scientific work of practical, economic or national significance
- Australian Antarctic Programme
- To maintain the Antarctic Treaty System, to enhance Australia’s influence in it and enhance international protection for whales and seabirds
- To protect the environment of Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands including its marine living resources
- To improve understanding of Antarctica’s role in the global climate system
- To support practical and significant Antarctic scientific research
- Australia and like-minded countries blocked Japan’s proposed management scheme for commercial whaling, and a majority of International Whaling Commission members supported Australia’s resolution calling on Japan to withdraw its proposal to extend scientific whaling
- An international regulatory approach to assigning liability for environmental emergencies in Antarctica was agreed
- Australia was instrumental in getting the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to adopt a Centralised Vessel Monitoring System to help combat illegal fishing
- Research demonstrated that the Antarctic part of the ‘ocean conveyer belt’ is able to change over a period as short as 10 years—analyses are under way to determine whether the changes are more likely to be due to a long-term natural climate cycle or to climate change
- Australia established an east Antarctic air link—the first stage of providing essential transport services—and the Australian Government allocated additional funding for the second stage
- New rules on environmental liability
- Improvements to tourism management
- Environmental inspections in Antarctica
- Antarctic Treaty secretariat
- Antarctic continental shelf
- Antarctic cooperation agreements
Australia is a key supporter of the Antarctic Treaty system—the accepted international legal system for managing Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty system has now grown into a wide-ranging regime for managing Antarctica , with a particular emphasis on environmental protection. It also provides for scientific and logistic cooperation. Because of the system’s remarkable effectiveness the Australian Government considers that support for the Antarctic Treaty system is the best way to advance Australia’s policy interests in Antarctica.
In 1959 Australia was one of the 12 original parties that signed the Antarctic Treaty. From the outset the Australian Government helped to develop critical conservation agreements under the treaty. These include the 1964 Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, the 1972 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, the 1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection.
The department’s Australian Antarctic Division represents Australia’s interests at Antarctic Treaty meetings. The most significant forums are the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, the annual meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection and meetings under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
For the past three years the chair of the Committee for Environmental Protection has been the director of the Australian Antarctic Division. This committee is responsible for developing the regulatory framework established by the Protocol on Environmental Protection.
The 28th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in Stockholm from 6–17 June 2005 in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection.
An important outcome of the Stockholm meetings was the adoption of a new annex to the Protocol on Environmental Protection. This was the most substantial addition to the Antarctic Treaty since the protocol itself was added in 1991.
The new annex to the protocol—the sixth—Fdeals with liability arising from environmental emergencies, an issue with many legal complexities. Once in force the annex will require anyone who causes an environmental accident in Antarctica to take action to clean up the pollution and prevent further environmental damage. Further, if someone else has to clean up the damage, they can claim compensation from the polluter.
The adoption of the annex concludes more than a decade of negotiations. The Australian Antarctic Division, on behalf of the government, has pushed hard throughout negotiations for effective rules on liability that will enhance environmental protection.
The annex is a pragmatic first step towards elaborating a full set of rules and procedures on liability for any form of environmental damage. When it adopted the annex the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting foreshadowed ‘future steps’ towards a more comprehensive liability regime.
While Antarctic tourism is a relatively small component of the industry worldwide, the number and diversity of operations is increasing. Each year more people visit Antarctica. Tourist numbers have doubled over the past decade and the Australian Government is concerned about the possible environmental impacts.
At the June 2005 Stockholm Antarctic Treaty meetings the Australian Antarctic Division successfully promoted guidelines for protecting sites subject to heavy concentrations of visitors in the sensitive wildlife breeding season. It was agreed to continue work on the Australian Antarctic Division’s previous proposals for accrediting tour operators.
The Australian Antarctic Division carried out inspections of foreign activities in Antarctica under the Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol on Environmental Protection.
In January 2005 the division organised an inspection of New Zealand and United States activities on Ross Island. This was the first inspection of Scott Base and McMurdo Station (the largest station in Antarctica) since the protocol entered into force. The division submitted a positive report of the inspection to the Stockholm Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
In February and March 2005 an officer from the division took part in an inspection on the Antarctic Peninsula that was undertaken with the United Kingdom. The inspection took in some 20 sites and a tourist vessel. The subsequent report to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting noted problems with fuel storage, environmental monitoring, and the establishment, maintenance and removal of research stations. The consultative meeting adopted a resolution calling on parties to fix or replace problematic bulk fuel facilities and referred the fuel storage issue to the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes for consideration at the council’s July 2005 meeting. The environmental monitoring and research station issues were referred to the Committee for Environmental Protection.
The new secretariat for the Antarctic Treaty, based at Buenos Aires, Argentina, began operating on 1 September 2004, providing support to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting for the first time at Stockholm in June 2005. The meeting was a convincing demonstration of the importance of having permanent institutional support and streamlining the operation of the Antarctic Treaty system, outcomes for which Australia campaigned for many years. The Australian Antarctic Division helped to establish operating procedures that will ensure the secretariat is cost-effective and efficient.
The Australian Antarctic Territory covers some 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent. Like other territorial claims in Antarctica the Australian Antarctic Territory is not universally recognised. The Antarctic Treaty addresses differences of view over the validity of Antarctic claims.
On 15 November 2004 the Australian Government submitted Australia’s data to define the outer limit of its continental shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The submission included areas adjacent to the Australian Antarctic Territory. The Australian Antarctic Division worked with other departments and agencies to promote an approach that would protect Australia’s territorial interests without upsetting the balance between parties to the Antarctic Treaty on the differing views relating to these issues. This approach was welcomed by other parties to the Antarctic Treaty and accepted by the Commission on the Limits for the Continental Shelf.
The Australian Antarctic Division helps the government develop bilateral cooperative agreements with other countries interested in Antarctica.
New Zealand: On 27 May 2005 the Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctica New Zealand signed a letter of understanding to facilitate closer cooperation in science, logistics and environmental protection measures. This agreement strengthened the Statement of Commitment by Australia and New Zealand for Cooperation on Antarctic Matters, which was signed by the Australian and New Zealand environment ministers in January 1999.
Romania: On 15 June 2005 the Australian Antarctic Division signed a cooperation agreement with Romania which, among other things, will allow Romania to use Australia’s Law Base (a field base in the Larsemann Hills) for scientific research.
Indonesia: On 18 March 2005 the Australian Antarctic Division and the Indonesian Agency for Marine and Fisheries Research signed a cooperation agreement. Although Indonesia is not party to the Antarctic Treaty the agreement affirms Australia’s commitment to cooperation as a basic principle for activities in Antarctica.
- Monitoring fishing
- Future of the convention
- Albatrosses and petrels
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve
The Southern Ocean has abundant wildlife but fishing and whaling are pressure points. Since 2002 the Australian Government has pushed for improvements to fisheries management in the Southern Ocean under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
Under the convention the 24-member international Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (often referred to as CCAMLR) is responsible for fisheries in much of the Southern Ocean. Australia is a founding member of the commission. The director of the Australian Antarctic Division leads Australian delegations to the commission, which meets annually.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing could deplete stocks of krill, icefish or Patagonian toothfish, and dramatically alter the ecosystem. Patagonian toothfish in particular fetches high prices on world markets.
In recent years highly organised illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean has heavily depleted several stocks. Most fishers use longlines and make no attempt to avoid seabird bycatch. Such fishing is killing tens of thousands of albatrosses and petrels each year, and has brought some seabird populations to the brink of extinction.
The Australian Antarctic Division works with other departments and agencies to develop Australia’s response to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and provides support to the Australian Government’s armed patrols in the Southern Ocean. Partly as a result of the division’s efforts, Australia has a strong record of action against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, particularly in Australian waters off the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands .
At its annual meeting from 25 October–5 November 2004 the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources agreed to several measures to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, including:
- the introduction of a satellite-based, centralised vessel monitoring system to track the movements of fishing vessels licensed by the commission’s member countries
- improvements to the commission’s catch documentation scheme for toothfish.
The vessel monitoring system is a significant outcome for Australia and other countries committed to eradicating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The system’s ability to check vessel positions remotely makes it more difficult for fishers to falsely report their positions, a major problem with previous systems. The Australian Antarctic Division helped to secure the commission’s agreement to establish the vessel monitoring system. The division worked closely with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and other Australian agencies in developing the system.
The Australian Antarctic Division is working through the commission to inform countries that are not parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources of the problems caused by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The aims are to encourage those other countries to properly control their flag vessels, to deny port access and related support to the vessels engaged in such fishing, and to deny market access for their illegal, unregulated and unreported catches.
From 5–8 April 2005 the Australian Antarctic Division co-hosted with Chile a symposium in Valdivia on the future of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The symposium, an Australian initiative, provided a forum for experts from member countries to explore the issues facing the convention as it celebrates its 25th year and to identify strategic directions for conserving Antarctic marine living resources.
The symposium’s key suggestions will be considered in future meetings of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. This is expected to lead to improved environmental outcomes for the Antarctic, including better management of approved fisheries, and the establishment of marine protected areas.
The Australian Antarctic Division leads Australian participation in the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. The agreement, which was developed under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, came into force on 1 February 2004 .
From 8–12 November 2004 the division hosted the first meeting of the parties to the agreement in Hobart . The meeting was successful, with parties agreeing to an equitable scale of contributions and a modest budget, and the establishment of an advisory committee to promote and guide conservation actions for albatrosses and petrels. Australia was also successful in its bid to host the secretariat for this agreement. The Australian Antarctic Division agreed to continue to provide interim secretariat services.
Under the agreement Australia is supporting projects to reduce the impacts of longline fishing, tackle emergency situations where a particular species of albatross or petrel is in rapid decline, and control or eradicate non-native species threatening breeding colonies.
The Australian Antarctic Division also helped develop a revised Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or By-catch) of Seabirds During Oceanic Longline Fishing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The draft plan was reviewed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and will be released for public comment in 2005–06.
The Australian Antarctic Division manages the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve on behalf of the Director of National Parks. Management results for 2004–05, including the release of a draft management plan, are reported in the annual report of the Director of National Parks (see www.deh.gov.au/parks/publications).
- Moves to resume commercial whaling
- Expansion of Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling programme
- Sanctuaries and other conservation measures
The International Whaling Commission has maintained a moratorium on commercial whaling for nearly two decades. The commission has also declared the Southern Ocean to be a sanctuary from commercial whaling.
Some countries, led by Norway and Japan , are pushing to end the moratorium and revoke the sanctuary. These countries also continue to kill whales under science programmes. The commission’s rules allow any member country to issue permits to its own nationals to kill any number of whales for the purposes of science. The ‘scientific’ whaling loophole allows Japanese fishing companies to kill hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean each year.
Australia opposes all commercial and scientific whaling. It is Australian Government policy to work through the International Whaling Commission to achieve:
- a permanent international ban on commercial whaling
- worldwide protection for all cetaceans.
This policy is based on the grounds that:
- commercial whaling is no longer required to meet essential human needs
- even with modern improvements whale killing methods continue to involve an unacceptable level of cruelty
- people world-wide are increasingly recognising and benefiting from the non-consumptive use of whales.
Australia’s opposition to commercial whaling applies equally to so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, which is in practice thinly veiled commercial whaling. Australia nonetheless recognises the needs of some subsistence cultures for continued access to whaling and whale products to meet demonstrated traditional, cultural and dietary needs.
The Australian Antarctic Division is responsible for carrying out the government’s whale protection policy through relevant international forums, including the International Whaling Commission.
The International Whaling Commission held its 56th annual meeting in Sorrento , Italy , from 19–22 July 2004. The Australian delegation argued successfully against moves to reintroduce commercial whaling. Australia also submitted a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare which showed the link between increased whale numbers and tourism revenue.
At the Sorrento meeting the International Whaling Commission set up a working group to consider the rules under which commercial whaling could be resumed. These rules are known as a ‘revised management scheme’. Australia does not support any revised management scheme.
The Australian Antarctic Division participated in two meetings of the Revised Management Scheme Working Group in order to influence the content of any proposals by highlighting deficiencies and ensuring that any proposals use best practice in fisheries management as a starting point. The working group did not agree on a revised management scheme.
At the 57th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (held at Ulsan, Korea, from 20–24 June 2005) the majority of members rejected Japan’s proposal for adopting a revised management scheme (30 countries opposed the proposal, 25 countries, led by Japan and Norway, supported it, and two abstained). Had the proposal succeeded it would have opened the way for a resumption of commercial whaling.
Japan also failed to gain support for its proposal to down-list the minke whale under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This proposal was submitted to the 13th conference of parties to the convention in October 2004. Australia helped to ensure that minke whales remain on the list under which they have the greatest protection.
On 1 April 2005 Japan announced that it would embark on another scientific whaling programme (known as JARPA II) in the Southern Ocean. This programme, commencing in 2005–06, will take up to 935 minke whales, 50 humpback whales and 50 fin whales each year.
Following the announcement Australia led other pro-conservation members of the International Whaling Commission to oppose JARPA II. Among other things:
- Australia led two demarches (diplomatic representations) on the Government of Japan
- the Prime Minister wrote to his Japanese counterpart
- Australia submitted a resolution to the 57th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission calling on Japan to withdraw its proposal and to use only non-lethal research methods.
The commission adopted Australia’s resolution, which was co-sponsored by a record 25 member countries. However the commission cannot force Japan to desist from scientific whaling. Australia will continue to seek to have Japan withdraw its programme.
At the 57th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission Australia and other pro-conservation members were successful in retaining the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, despite calls from the pro-whaling bloc to have the sanctuary abolished.
Australia and New Zealand continued to promote the benefits of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. In 2005 the International Whaling Commission asked its Conservation Committee to review the merits of this proposal. The committee received the proposal positively and continues to review it.
The pro-conservation bloc within the International Whaling Commission was successful in retaining all conservation-related items on the commission’s agenda. The Australian Antarctic Division will participate in intersessional work to investigate the impact of ship strikes on whales throughout the world.
- Environment protection laws
- Antarctic Approvals Online project
- New protected areas
- Environmental management system
- Renewable energy at Mawson
- Clean-up operations
The Antarctic Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection requires Australia and other signatories to minimise the environmental impacts of activities in Antarctica. The Australian Antarctic Division implements Australia’s environment protection programmes and legislation in Antarctica.
The Australian Government is scrupulous in minimising the environmental impacts of Antarctic operations, including cumulative impacts. This includes assessing possible impacts under the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. During the year Australia led intersessional work by the Committee on Environmental Protection to better address cumulative environmental impacts by refining the committee’s Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines.
Australia has quarantine procedures in place to protect Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands from introduced species. The Australian Antarctic Division seeks to develop and promulgate these procedures through the Antarctic Treaty system. Australia presented a working paper on quarantine to the 2005 meeting of the Committee on Environmental Protection. As a result quarantine will be a major focus of the committee’s next meeting.
Major outcomes of the work of the committee, including new rules on environmental liability, are noted on page 172.
Each year the Australian Antarctic Division receives about 160 research applications from scientists and another 30 or so applications to conduct other activities, such as tourism, in Antarctica. The Australian Government has a range of laws and processes to protect the Antarctic environment and people working in Antarctica. The Antarctic Approvals Online system ensures that an applicant only has to provide as much information as is required to undertake their activity, thereby avoiding duplication.
Over the last three years the Australian Antarctic Division has invested $0.5 million on the Antarctic Approvals Online project. This web site was finished in 2004–05 and has streamlined the applications process, saving time and costs for applicants as well as the division.
Larsemann Hills oasis: The Larsemann Hills, approximately 100 kilometres south of Davis , contain one of the four major coastal ice-free areas in Antarctica. At the June 2005 meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection the Australian Antarctic Division worked with other interested countries to finalise a draft management plan for an Antarctic specially managed area covering the oasis.
Cape Denison site and Mawson’s huts: Australia’s most significant Antarctic heritage site, Cape Denison , was approved as an ‘Antarctic specially managed area’ in June 2004. Cape Denison contains two specially protected areas for the major remaining structures of the 1911–1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition: ‘Mawson’s huts’ (top right). In January 2005 the huts were also inscribed on the National Heritage List under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Mawson’s huts rank alongside those of Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton as icons of the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration. In June 2005 the Australian Antarctic Division received $0.1 million from the Prime Minister’s Gifts to the Nation programme to produce public information and interpretative material on the huts.
Photo: G Hoffman
The Australian Antarctic Division’s environmental management system provides a transparent way to identify and manage the environmentally significant aspects of Antarctic activities. The Australian Antarctic Division was the first national operator amongst the Antarctic Treaty parties to have its environmental management system certified to the international ISO 14001 standard. The system’s certification is due to be renewed later in 2005. An audit at Mawson and Davis stations during the summer of 2004–05 showed that the system was being implemented effectively and required minimal adjustment to give full effect to the international standard.
The Australian Antarctic Division has installed two wind turbines at Mawson station. In suitable wind conditions the turbines contribute approximately 90 per cent of the station’s energy needs, so that fuel use in 2004–05 was approximately 70 per cent of the 2002 levels. The next stage in this project is to install equipment to use excess wind energy to generate hydrogen, planned for the 2005–06 Antarctic summer. The engineering team from the Australian Antarctic Division that designed these systems won the prestigious President’s Prize at the 2004 Australian Engineering Excellence Awards.
The Australian Antarctic Division has embarked upon an extensive clean-up campaign to remove 30-year-old waste from disused tip sites at Australia’s Antarctic stations, and to remediate the effects of fuel spills that have occurred. Approximately 1 000 tonnes of excavated material remains in a bunded stockpile at Thala Valley near Casey station, pending final disposal. The site will be monitored to ensure contaminants remain contained. A multi-year research project will establish the likely effects on adjacent marine environments. The results of the research and of the initial removal and remediation efforts will be shared with Australia’s Antarctic Treaty partners in a major clean-up workshop to be held in Hobart in 2006.
The Australian Antarctic Division began planning for the removal of the old Davis station, which was abandoned in the mid-1990s. The old station is now structurally unsound, contains asbestos cement sheet, has unstable foundations and is releasing lead-based paint, insulation and other materials into the local environment. Approvals are being sought under the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 and Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- Evidence of rapid and widespread changes in the deep Southern Ocean
- Effects of ozone depletion
- Effects of climate change on marine life
- Law Dome ice core project
- Atmospheric electricity project
- Automatic weather stations upgrade
Antarctica influences the global climate because of its low temperatures, circumpolar ocean and immense size. Antarctica’s vast ice sheets affect the flow of heat in the oceans and atmosphere, the shape of the southern ozone hole, and how much carbon dioxide the oceans absorb.
Climate change is beginning to cause large-scale changes to Antarctica’s ice sheets, including the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002. These changes could affect major ocean currents and food webs.
The Australian Government has a five-year research plan called the Antarctic Science Strategy 2004–2009. One of the four priorities is adding to knowledge about Antarctica’s influence on the climate. The Australian Antarctic Division works closely with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Greenhouse Office (see page 24) to carry out this research. Much of it entails marine research, and the division also works closely with the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans flagship programme.
The Australian Antarctic Division’s chartered research ship Aurora Australis carried out an eight-week research voyage between December 2004 and February 2005.
The expedition found that the deep waters near Antarctica are cooler and less salty than they were 10 years ago. The magnitude, rate and widespread distribution of the changes are a surprise: conventional wisdom assumed that the properties of the deep ocean were relatively stable and not likely to change much with time.
Water sinking near Antarctica is part of a global pattern of ocean currents known as the ‘ocean conveyor belt’ that strongly influences global and regional climate by transporting heat and carbon dioxide. The new measurements demonstrate that the Antarctic part of the conveyor belt is able to change over a period as short as 10 years.
Analyses are under way to determine whether similar changes are observed in other areas around Antarctica and whether the changes observed are more likely to be due to a long-term natural climate cycle or to climate change.
The Antarctic ozone hole can enhance the greenhouse effect by killing plankton that absorbs carbon dioxide. Phytoplankton is the base of the Southern Ocean’s food web and makes sugars by absorbing carbon dioxide. Damage to the ozone layer is likely to reduce the capacity of Antarctic waters to act as a sink for carbon dioxide.
The 2004 Antarctic ozone hole was smaller than those of recent years. According to a preliminary analysis of data from NASA’s Earth Probe satellite, the ozone hole reached a maximum area (on 21 September 2004) of about 24 million square kilometres - similar in size to the North American continent. The largest holes on record occurred in 2000 and 2003 and were about 30 million square kilometres in size.
Glaciologists taking sea ice cores near the Auroroa Australis
Photo: G Dixon
From 28 October to 3 November 2004 scientists from the Aurora Australis set up camp on Antarctic sea ice for five days to study the effects of climate change on marine life in the area. Sea ice hosts microscopic algae that feed krill and zooplankton. Climate change is reducing the time that sea ice is present in coastal areas, affecting the amount and type of food available to marine animals. The project is part of an ongoing, five-year study to investigate these changes (above). All analysis of the samples collected has been completed and data analysis is under way.
Law Dome, 100 kilometres inland from Casey station, has been a focal point for Australian glaciological research since the 1960s. Its ice sheet preserves a record of the climate. In October 2004 scientists retrieved a 120 metre ice core from near the summit. Preliminary analysis of the material indicates that the record covers 650 years. It will be used to validate the recent reports of a 20 per cent decline in sea ice, and to extend this record back over past centuries. Detailed analysis is proceeding at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre.
Australian and Russian scientists deployed equipment to measure the electric current that flows between the ground and the lower reaches of the ionosphere. The data will help determine whether changes in the sun over its 11-year cycle have an effect on the Earth’s weather system by altering the global electrical circuit and the conditions under which thunderstorms develop. Accurate measurements of the current could also enable scientists to monitor changes in global thunderstorm activity as the Earth warms.
Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division carried out the initial tests inland of Casey station, where the windy weather prevented them collecting enough data for a useful study of the global circuit. However Russian scientists deployed upgraded equipment at Vostok with the assistance of the Australian Antarctic Division. This equipment remains operational and is collecting scientifically useful data.
During 2004 the Australian Antarctic Division, in partnership with Tasmanian company Climetrics Pty Ltd, completed a major redesign of its automatic weather stations. The redesign was undertaken to add improved technology and to ensure long-term access to spare parts. The division has been making and installing automatic weather stations in Antarctica for 20 years, with 19 stations operating there prior to the recent upgrade. Some are now buried by snow but still sending data useful to glaciologists, climatologists and meteorologists.
In January 2005 Australia and China cooperated in a project to install the upgraded automatic weather stations in Antarctica. One of the stations was installed at a new location around 1 200 kilometres inland from Davis at what is believed to be the coldest place on Earth - Dome A, the highest point in Antarctica. In addition to providing essential weather observations the automatic weather stations will help build a more comprehensive picture of the climate.
See also: understanding of climate change.
- Antarctic science grants
- Antarctic air link
- International management meetings
- International Polar Year preparations
Antarctic science provides direct benefits to Australians - examples include more reliable weather forecasts, clues to locating mineral deposits in Australia, and new ways to contain and treat pollutants in cold environments. Support for Antarctic research reinforces Australia’s influence in the Antarctic Treaty system.
Providing logistic support for researchers as part of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions is one of the main responsibilities of the Australian Antarctic Division. The division maintains four permanent stations in Antarctica and at Macquarie Island. Each summer the division deploys around 200 people to these stations and to field camps. The expeditions are supplied using chartered ships and aircraft.
The Australian Government’s support for increasing numbers of scientists in Antarctica has steadily increased the number of peer-reviewed publications (the best measure of scientific output) since 1999. Each year the government’s Antarctic science programme supports about 130 projects, leading to 150–200 peer-reviewed scientific research papers and an additional 200 unrefereed papers.
For more information about specific research projects see www.aad.gov.au/default.asp?casid=16714.
The Australian Antarctic Division supports the Australian Antarctic Science grants scheme. Applications for 2004–05 grants were sought nationally in May 2003, prompting 177 research proposals. Following independent assessment 54 proposals were awarded grants with a total value of $0.8 million.
CASA 212 'Gadget' at Mawson
Photo: D Neilson
During the year the department established an air service to transport personnel and scientific equipment around the eastern part of Antarctica. Two ski equipped turbo prop aircraft (CASA 212-400) linked stations and field bases up to 500 kilometres from the coast during the 2004–05 summer.
The aircraft - named Ginger and Gadget after dogs belonging to Australian scientist and polar explorer Sir Douglas Mawson - have a greater payload and range than aircraft previously used to support Australia’s Antarctic programme. Their fuel efficiency allows non-stop flights between all Australian stations.
To establish the intracontinental air service, the Australian Antarctic Division signed a 12-year contract worth $60 million with Sydney-based Skytraders Pty Ltd in June 2003. The air service started operating in Antarctica in mid-December 2004 following ski trials of the CASA 212 aircraft in Greenland.
Based mainly at Davis, the aircraft allowed the Australian Antarctic Division to transfer personnel between stations and to remote field locations, eliminating the transfer of personnel by ship between the stations. Both aircraft returned to Hobart at the end of the season in March 2005.
The next step in this project is to establish a permanent, intercontinental air link between Australia and Antarctica. Funding of $46.3 million over four years for this link was announced in the May 2005 Budget. The Australian Antarctic Division has completed feasibility studies, including runway construction trials, at a cost of $3.2 million. A 4 000 metre ice runway will be constructed near Casey station over the next two summers to allow a long-range jet aircraft to land in Antarctica. The Australian Antarctic Division expects to finalise the aircraft type for the service by early 2006, with trial flights scheduled to commence in early 2007.
Australian Antarctic Division scientists and managers participate in the international Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes and the Standing Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations. These bodies represent countries with a national presence in Antarctica. They promote better management through the sharing of operational experience and innovations.
Concurrent meetings of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes were held in Bremen on 26–30 July 2004, where Australia displayed its new CASA 212 aircraft.
The International Polar Year will be held over 24 months from March 2007 to March 2009. It will mark the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year, which lasted 18 months from July 1957 to December 1958, and helped to stimulate development of the Antarctic Treaty.
At its October 2004 meeting the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, an international committee under the Antarctic Treaty system, endorsed Australia’s proposal to coordinate an international Census of Antarctic Marine Life as a major contribution to the International Polar Year. The Australian Antarctic Division will host the project manager and is seeking additional funds for coordination from the Sloan Foundation, which is funding the international Census of Marine Life.
|Performance indicator||2004–05 results|
|Antarctic Treaty system|
|Australia’s positions are advanced in the decisions of the Antarctic Treaty system||Secretariat established (September 2004)
Agreement on liability arising from environmental emergencies adopted (June 2005)
Site-specific guidelines for heavily visited tourist sites in place (June 2005)
|Number of policy proposals and briefings completed for and participation in international forums||Multiple policy proposals and delegation briefings (for Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, Committee for Environmental Protection, and Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and related meetings)|
|Provide chair and other support for the Committee for Environmental Protection||Director of Australian Antarctic Division completed first year of his second two-year appointment, supported by secretariat based in the division
Helped to increase Australian influence within the Antarctic Treaty and advance Australia’s environmental objectives
Significantly improved committee’s efficiency and strategic focus
Widespread praise from other committee members
|Influence, by directed research, the decisions of Antarctic Treaty system||Submitted or co-submitted 11 working papers and 6 information papers to guide discussions at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting
Australian Antarctic Division researchers developed new management plans for an Antarctic specially protected area and an Antarctic specially managed area, and revised management plans for 3 other Antarctic specially protected areas. All were adopted by the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
|Report on technical and practical measures to minimise environmental impacts in the Antarctic region||Refinements to impact assessment guidelines adopted by Committee for Environmental Protection
Paper on quarantine and introduced species influenced agenda of 2006 meeting of Committee for Environmental Protection
Continued development of online system for reporting on state of the Antarctic environment, including work with France and other countries to develop indicators and reporting processes
Four management plans for Antarctic specially protected areas approved by Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting
|Effective administration of the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands in accordance with Australian legislation and international obligations||Public comments supported draft management plan for the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve
New web site developed to increase public awareness of reserve
|Number of permits issued or administered under Antarctic environmental protection legislation||41 permits (21 - Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980, 11 - Antarctic Marine Living Resources Conservation Act 1981, 6 - Heard Island and McDonald Islands Environment Protection and Management Ordinance, 3 - Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)|
|All new activities subjected to prior environmental impact assessment in accordance with legislation and relevant management plans||61 assessments - Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980|
|Environmental impact assessments completed for all relevant activities in Antarctica||Assessments completed for all relevant activities under Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 and (where appropriate) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999|
|Number of environmental impact assessments reviewed or completed||61 assessments - Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980
Also reviewed 2 draft comprehensive environmental evaluations submitted to Antarctic Treaty parties by Germany and United Kingdom
|Australia’s obligations under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty are met||Obligations met - continued leadership on quarantine, conservation of flora and fauna, and state of the Antarctic environment reporting|
|Number of environmental policy proposals and briefings completed for Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and the Committee for Environmental Protection||Multiple policy proposals and briefings (for the Committee for Environmental Protection, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting environmental issues, Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes)|
|Extent of the collection of scientific data or modelling of natural phenomena or development of scientific instrumentation to be used in further scientific research or operational planning||High — contributions from Antarctic Marine Living Resources, Human Impacts and Biology programmes included ecosystem modelling of the fish stocks in the Heard Island region of the Southern Ocean.|
|Extent to which environmental management practices in Antarctica are improved as a result of initiatives promulgated by Australian Antarctic Division||High — Antarctic Treaty parties accepted Australia’s system for reporting on state of the Antarctic environment as a foundation for Antarctic Treaty environmental monitoring and reporting
Support for official inspections of 16 stations of Antarctic Treaty parties led to further action by Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting to improve station management
Online discussion forum for Committee for Environmental Protection is facilitating out-of-session work
Australia’s recovery plan for albatrosses and petrels presented as a model to Committee for Environmental Protection for application to ‘specially protected species’ under Annex II of the Madrid Protocol
|Extent of advice provided to industry, national agencies and government||High — advised Republic of Korea, Japan and Canada on developing legislation to implement Protocol on Environmental Protection
Convened working group to review procedures for environmental impact assessment; and submitted a draft management plan for a new Antarctic specially protected area for Scullin and Murray Monoliths, near Mawson station
|Successful completion of relevant projects in accordance with the Antarctic Science Strategy 2004–05 to 2008–09||None completed yet - 13 projects are under way, first year when projects will be completed is 2005–06|
|Successful completion of relevant projects in accordance with Australia’s Antarctic Science Programme Strategic Plan 2000–2005||19 projects were completed|
|External assessment of the quality of the outputs of the research programme||Annual assessment completed by Antarctic Science Advisory Committee|
|Number of research reports, articles and papers prepared and publicly released||43 scientific papers and popular articles were published on climate related research|
|Extent to which information, data and research findings of an informative or educational nature are distributed to outside parties (measured by web site hits, printed material distributed, presentations etc)||High — 2 million individual visitors to Antarctic web site, generating 50 million hits and viewing
> 12 million web pages
Publication of the Australian Antarctic Magazine, which showcases science conducted under the Australian Antarctic programme
Provision of online access to data and research via the Australian Antarctic Data Centre
|Extent of the collection of scientific data and/or modelling of natural phenomena and/or development of scientific instrumentation to be used in further scientific research or operational planning||High — 35 projects collected data on climate research|
|Successful completion of relevant projects in accordance with Australia’s Antarctic Science Programme Strategic Plan 2000–2005||56 projects completed|
|External assessment of the quality of the outputs of the research programme||Annual assessment completed by Antarctic Science Advisory Committee|
|Extent to which fisheries management practices are improved as a result of initiatives promulgated by Australian Antarctic Division||High — consistent influence on the quality and success of proposals put to Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources|
|Number of research reports, articles and papers prepared and publicly released||440 publications (including 161 Category 1 scientific publications - the most important and valuable type of publication in the peer-reviewed international literature)|
|Extent to which information, data and research findings of an informative or educational nature are distributed to outside parties (measured by web site hits, printed material distributed, presentations etc)||> 2 million individual visitors to Antarctic web site, generating 50 million hits and viewing > 12 million web pages
Also 5 Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowships awarded, which are aimed at promoting awareness of Antarctica through art and writing
|Extent of advice provided to industry, national agencies and government||High — advice provided to Australian public and private sector entities as well as international bodies on issues such as fisheries management and practices, climate change and marine science|
|Extent of the collection of scientific data or modelling of natural phenomena or development of scientific instrumentation to be used in further scientific research or operational planning||High — 134 projects, 110 scientists in expeditions in the 2004–05 season|
Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act 1933
Australian Antarctic Territory Act 1954
Antarctic Marine Living Resources Conservation Act 1981
Antarctic Treaty Act 1960
Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Act 1953
Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act 1923 - insofar as it relates to the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory
|Element of pricing||Budget prices¹
|Output 2.1: Influence in Antarctic Treaty system||13 739||16 598|
|Output 2.2: Protecting the Antarctic environment||34 431||43 885|
|Output 2.3: Understanding global climate system||21 381||25 391|
|Output 2.4: Undertake scientific work of practical, economic or national significance||17 840||20 639|
|Total||87 391||106 513|
|¹Prices are the estimated full-year revenues for departmental outputs and full-year expenses for administered items that are shown in the 2004–05 portfolio additional estimates statements.|
See also: summary resource tables.
¹The Madrid Protocol provides for two types of protected areas: Antarctic specially managed areas are protected from some environmental impacts, while Antarctic specially protected areas enjoy stronger protection. A protected area is established if the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting accepts a management plan for the area.