Managing Human Activities in Antarctica: Should Wilderness Protection Count?

New Zealand Yearbook of International Law, 2005

20 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2007


Antarctica is often described as one of the world's last wildernesses. In 1990, the IUCN stated: "It is agreed almost universally that Antarctica should be conserved for its wilderness qualities, natural beauty, almost unsullied environments and unique flora and fauna." In harmony with this general perception, the wilderness values of Antarctica also received legal status with the adoption of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty (hereinafter the Protocol) in 1991. Article 3(1) of the Protocol obliges the Contracting Parties to recognise the protection of wilderness values as a fundamental consideration in the planning and conduct of all activities in the Antarctic Treaty area. Some other provisions of the Protocol also refer to wilderness protection. This commentary focuses on the question to what extent the concept of protecting wilderness values received attention in the international management of Antarctica since the adoption of the Protocol in 1991. Are wilderness values taken into account in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for proposed Antarctic activities? Have Antarctic areas been designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs), specifically because of their wilderness values? The recent discussions at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCMs) on the question whether additional measures should be adopted to manage Antarctic tourism also receive attention. In the International Journal of Wilderness, Antarctic tourism management has been considered to be "a frontier for wilderness management"; however, do wilderness values indeed play a role in this international debate? For instance, have certain types of tourist activities, such as the use of snowmobiles or the establishment of structural facilities for tourists, been restricted or prohibited?

Keywords: Antarctica, wilderness, Protocol on Environmental Protection, tourism, EIA

JEL Classification: K32, K33, N50, Q26

Suggested Citation

Bastmeijer, Kees, Managing Human Activities in Antarctica: Should Wilderness Protection Count?. New Zealand Yearbook of International Law, 2005, Available at SSRN:

Kees Bastmeijer (Contact Author)

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE


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