LETTERS I BOOKS I POLICY FORUM I EDUCATIONFORUM I PERSPECTIVES
edited by Jennifer Sills
Antarctic Treaty System Ready for a Challenge
IN THEIR POLICY FORUM “CHALLENGES TO THE FUTURE CONSER-
vation of the Antarctic” (13 July, p. 158), S. L. Chown et al.
discuss concerns about the Antarctic Treaty System’s (ATS’s)
ability to navigate future challenges. We believe ATS has dem-
onstrated that it is both robust and adaptable.
Chown et al. raise the issue of marine resource harvesting,
biological prospecting, and potential mineral and hydrocarbon
exploitation. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarc-
tic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) regulates the harvest-
ing of marine resources in the Southern Ocean, and it has argu-
ably the most highly developed system for ecosystem-based
management of any international agreement (1). Underpinning
CCAMLR’s decision-making processes is the precautionary
approach which, as it has evolved, has set very conservative
catch limits on fish stocks and provided other mechanisms for
reducing harvesting impacts. The Southern Ocean krill fishery is arguably the largest under-
exploited fishery in the world. For many years, CCAMLR has been developing mechanisms in
advance of projected escalation of interest in the fishery, including setting precautionary catch
limits, establishing small-scale management areas, and invoking trigger points where, when a
predesignated catch is exceeded, additional conservation measures will apply.
In their discussion of the submissions of several Antarctic claimant states to the Commis-
sion on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), Chown et al. have misconstrued both the
actions of those Antarctic Treaty Parties and the effects of those actions. All Antarctic Treaty
Parties are bound by the Antarctic mining ban (2). Submission of data to the CLCS in relation
to Antarctic or other continental shelves has no bearing on that ban or a party’s obligation to
uphold it. Mitigating unacceptable human impacts in Antarctica is a substantial focus for the
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties, as Chown et al. note. There is no evidence that human
interest in Antarctica will outpace the capacity of the ATS to respond.
CREDI T: PE T T Y OFFICER 2ND CLASS JOHN K. SOKOLOWSKI/U.S. NAVY
The historically steady climb in Antarctic tourism numbers from the 1990s has been
reversed since the 2008 financial crisis (3) and also since the International Maritime Orga-
nization introduced a ban on the use and carriage of heavy and intermediate fuel into the
The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Par-
ties have addressed past challenges firmly
and overtly within the Antarctic Treaty’s twin
pillars of peace and science (5). Reforms to
the operation of the Antarctic Treaty Con-
sultative Meeting, increased opportunities
for engagement with relevant international
organizations, and the presence of nongov-
ernmental organizations as observers to ATS
them, the UN Food and Agriculture Orga-
nization regarding IUU fishing; the Inter-
national Hydrographic Office in relation to
charting Antarctic waters; and the Interna-
tional Maritime Organization in the devel-
opment of the Polar Shipping Code. We
concur that the challenges facing the region
defy complacency. The quickening pace of
global change requires scientists and policy-
makers to work together. With this as a fun-
damental underpinning for future action, we
believe the ATS is well placed to meet these
meetings and as members of
national delegations since
the mid-1980s all work to
strengthen the institutional
resilience of the ATS. The
number of parties acceding
to instruments of the Ant-
arctic Treaty System has
steadily increased (includ-
ing, notably, Malaysia and
Pakistan in 2011). At the
same time, the Antarctic
Treaty Consultative Par-
ties have increased engage-
ment with relevant interna-
tional organizations: among
United. Treaty nation flags fly over the South Pole.
Letters to the Editor
Letters (~300 words) discuss material published
in Science in the past 3 months or matters of
general interest. Letters are not acknowledged
upon receipt. Whether published in full or in part,
Letters are subject to editing for clarity and space.
Letters submitted, published, or posted elsewhere,
in print or online, will be disqualified. To submit a
Letter, go to www.submit2science.org.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:
1. A. Constable, Fish Fisheries 12, 138 (2011).
2. Article 7, Protocol on Environmental Protection to the
Antarctic Treaty, Antarctic Treaty Secretariat ( www.ats.
3. International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators,
Tourism Statistics ( http://iaato.org/tourism-statistics).
4. Annex I, Chapter 9, “Special requirements for the use
or carriage of oils in the Antarctic area,” International
Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
(MARPOL) (International Maritime Organization Resolution MEPC.189(60), 26 March 2010).
5. Articles I and III of the Antarctic Treaty, Antarctic Treaty Sec-
retariat ( www.ats.aq/documents/ats/treaty_original.pdf).