Netherlands Polar Data Center

Project - Increasing Diversity of Human Activities in Antarctica: Relevance of the concept of ´Wilderness Protection´


Over the last two decades the diversity of tourist and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica has increased substantially. Activities conducted in the Antarctic include ski expeditions, mountain climbing, snow board adventures, kayaking, marathons, long distance swimming, scuba diving, helicopter excursions, various types of art projects, and iceberg expeditions. This diversification of tourist activities has frequently been discussed by the 28 Consultative Parties that collectively manage the Antarctic; however, there is currently no consensus amongst these states on the need to take regulatory action beyond the existing regulatory framework. Discussions on marathons, camping activities and the possible future establishment of hotels show that decision making is complicated. Based on the conviction that a subjective approach in regulating human activities should be prevented, certain Consultative Parties put emphasize on regulating and managing ´measurable impacts´, while other Consultative Parties are seriously concerned that this approach leaves space for developments that will ultimately result in serious impacts on the wilderness qualities of Antarctica. This would be contrary to the legal recognition of wilderness values in Article 3 of the Protocol and the general principles for tourism of Resolution 7(2009). The objective of this project is to gain knowledge that may help the ATCM to find solutions for this dilemma, particularly by studying the following central question: To what extent can the concept of protecting Antarctic wilderness values constitute a basis for regulating tourism and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica, taking particular notice of experiences and lessons learnt in other wilderness areas in the world?

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