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Protecting Antarctica from Non-Native Species: The Imperatives and the Impediments

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AbstractThe introduction of non-native species and disease into the Antarctic environment has long been recognised as a matter of concern within the Antarctic Treaty System. Yet the system’s forums have little-considered the policy implications and the practical means of addressing the issue – suggesting there is merit in revisiting the protection imperative as it exists for Antarctica, and in exploring the impediments to advancing the region’s biosecurity. Factors bearing on action taken to minimise introductions include the perspectives held as to where the introduction threats and management priorities lie, parties’ differing interpretations of the practical obligations arising from the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the complexity of program operations coupled with the dictates of logistical expediency, the projected costs of implementing precautionary protection measures, the commitment of individuals to implementing quarantine procedures, and the realisation that no system can provide complete protection. Notwithstanding such issues, in May 2008, Australia, China, India, Romania and the Russian Federation jointly agreed upon a suite of measures aimed at minimising introductions to the Larsemann Hills, Princess Elizabeth Land, East Antarctica, where they all have operational bases. It is hoped that the development of this first multilateral Antarctic biosecurity initiative will prompt other parties to actively engage on determining the best means of providing Antarctica with an appropriate level of protection.

Affiliations: 1: School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of


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