Proactive Management of Antarctic Tourism: Exploring the Role of ATS Principles and Values and Best Practices Beyond the ATS


Antarctic tourism has significantly increased. Numbers grew from 6,500 tourists in 1991-92 to 56,000 in 2018-19 and may exceed 78,000 in 2019-20. The diversification of Antarctic tourism during this period led to marathons, base-jumping, heli-skiing and other activities. Many of the 29 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCPs) that jointly manage Antarctica are concerned that the 1991 Environmental Protocol and other tourism regulations provide insufficient protection for human safety, scientific research and the Antarctic environment. In addition, the agreement to disagree on the question of sovereignty over Antarctic territory has culminated in diverging approaches regarding the jurisdictional scope of application of domestic implementation legislation. The consequential gaps, overlaps and conflicts may undermine compliance with Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) tourism regulation and thereby its fundamental principles and values. Moreover, due to consensus decision-making at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCMs), adopting new tourism regulations has proven extremely difficult. The ‘default situation’ in ATS tourism regulation is therefore that growth and diversification can continue unless constraints are adopted by consensus. This not only threatens the principles and values of the ATS, but, for a global commons like Antarctica, also raises questions on the role of non-use (e.g. closed areas, seasons or prohibited uses) and non-user States (e.g. their involvement in decision-making).
The research program focuses on four themes:
1. tourism growth, by developing a cap-and-trade system of visitation permits, whose revenues will be used for tourism management (e.g. monitoring research).
2. tourism diversification, by identifying drivers and developing a framework for conducting pre-assessments relating to new, novel or particularly concerning activities;
3. domestic implementation of the Protocol, by identifying gaps, overlaps and conflicts in and between domestic implementation legislation, and developing proposals to address these; and
4. the role of non-use and non-user States, by identifying their current role in the ATS and developing proposals for their enhancement.
The interdisciplinary research of the program will be carried out by a consortium of three universities (TiU, WUR and UU) with long-standing expertise in Antarctic research. The program combines environmental science and geography (themes/projects 1 and 2) with national and international law research (themes/projects 3 and 4).
The research is conducted in close collaboration with Netherlands policy officers, stakeholders (e.g. tour-operators, industry associations and environmental NGOs) and an international Scientific Advisory Board, to ensure that (a) research is informed by ATS debates and developments; (b) research outcomes are transposed into concrete proposals for policy measures (e.g. proposals, papers and/or presentations at ATS meetings). In developing proposals, account will be taken of best practices from other regions (e.g. the Arctic) and intergovernmental regimes (in particular international law of the sea and international law relating to global goods and commons). The program foresees regular consortium staff meetings, regular and incidental national meetings with Netherlands policy officers and stakeholders, as well as two intergovernmental meetings aimed at ATCP-representatives and competent authorities, an industry-oriented meeting and two international ‘hybrid’ meetings, including a large international conference to discuss research outcomes and proposals for policy measures in year 3.





Prof. dr. C.J. Bastmeijer

Verbonden aan

Tilburg University, Faculteit Rechtswetenschappen, Europees en Internationaal Publiekrecht


01/11/2020 tot 01/11/2024