Tourism in Antarctica: Increasing Diversity and the Legal Criteria for Authorization

New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 7, 2003

29 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2007


Both the intensity and the diversity of tourist activities in Antarctica are increasing. Activities conducted in the Antarctic today include ski-expeditions, mountain climbing, marathons, long-distance swimming and scuba diving. In this article the question is discussed whether the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty and the domestic implementing legislation of the Contracting Parties provide a system of clear normative criteria for authorizing Antarctic tourist activities. This question is answered in the negative. Although the Annexes to the Protocol have been incorporated into domestic law, most of the requirements and prohibitions are in fact 'conditions' for conducting activities in the Antarctic and do not provide clear guidance for the 'go-no go' decision. Article 3 provides more fundamental principles, but not all Contracting Parties consider this Article legally binding. Furthermore, the wording of this Article is not very clear, and in particular the consequences of Article 3(2)(b) in relation to tourist activities appear to differ from state to state. The laws of the various Contracting Parties seem to exclude the possibility of refusing authorisation for any activity that will not cause 'more than a minor or transitory impact'. Based on these findings, combined with the expectation that in the future the diversity of tourist activities will further increase, the author questions whether, in the longer term, the current legal system is strong enough to safeguard the Antarctic as a 'natural reserve, devoted to peace and science'.

Keywords: Tourism, Antarctica, criteria for authorization, Protocol on Environmental Protection

JEL Classification: K32, K33, N50, Q26

Suggested Citation

Bastmeijer, Kees, Tourism in Antarctica: Increasing Diversity and the Legal Criteria for Authorization. Available at SSRN:

Kees Bastmeijer (Contact Author)

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE


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