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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2001 > October
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 3, 2001
U.S. Antarctic Program

Tenth Anniversary of the Protocol on Environmental Protection of Antarctic

October 4, 2001, marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. This year also marks the fortieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Antarctic Treaty on June 23, 1961.

For forty years the Antarctic Treaty system has protected Antarctica for science and ensured that Antarctica is used only for peaceful purposes, free of international discord. The Treaty provides the governance structure for the region and a framework by which states are able to cooperate for the common good.

The Protocol provides additional protection of the environment by designating Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. It sets forth principles and requirements applicable to all human activities in Antarctica. Its five annexes cover Environmental Impact Assessment, Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora, Waste Disposal and Waste Management, Prevention of Marine Pollution, and Area Protection and Management. The Protocol, with 29 Parties including the United States, also prohibits all activities related to mineral resources other than scientific research. It entered into force on January 14, 1998.

Scientific cooperation by the Parties has shown how countries can work together for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of all humankind. The United States Antarctic Program, funded and managed by the National Science Foundation, supports scientists working in Antarctica to expand knowledge of the world's climate system, obtain a better understanding of the origins of our planet and the universe, and advance understanding of living organisms in Antarctica and how they survive the extreme cold, dark, and drought. The United States maintains three year-round research stations in Antarctica: McMurdo on Ross Island, Amundsen-Scott South Pole, and Palmer on Anvers Island. In addition, the program operates two ice-capable research ships in Antarctic waters.

U.S. regulations to implement the requirements of the Protocol, developed primarily by the National Science Foundation, cover all U.S. citizens and expeditions; the regulations protect native animals and plants, regulate entry into Antarctic Specially Protected Areas, and prescribe procedures for the handling of hazardous materials and waste. The U.S. Antarctic Program's longstanding commitment to environmental protection and stewardship has been demonstrated in a proactive program of careful waste management and recycling. All solid waste is removed from the continent and recycle rates consistently exceed 65 %, substantially better than any U.S. city.

Another initiative developed under the Antarctic Treaty system, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), provides ecosystem-wide management of the marine resources of the waters surrounding the continent. Parties adopted the Convention in 1980, and the United States signed it that year. The Convention, which entered into force in 1982, seeks to ensure that any harvesting of Antarctic marine living resources is consistent both with the health of the target population and with that of dependent and related species. The Convention protects toothfish and other finfish, krill, squid, crabs and, through the protection of their food sources, the marine mammals and birds of the Southern Ocean.

In keeping with its strong interest in preserving peaceful uses and environment protection in Antarctica, the U.S. Department of State earlier this year conducted its eleventh inspection of the Antarctic Treaty stations since the signing of the Treaty in 1961. The inspection was conducted from February 2 to 16, 2001, using R/V Laurence M. Gould, an ice-strengthened research vessel under long-term charter to the National Science Foundation, which is tasked with funding and managing the U.S. Antarctic Program. The ten-person U.S. Inspection Team was lead by Raymond Arnaudo of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and included representatives from the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coast Guard and the National Science Foundation. This was the first inspection of foreign bases and research stations conducted by the U.S. since the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty entered into force in 1998.

For information about the U.S. Department of State’s role in directing U.S. international relations regarding Antarctica, please contact Susan Povenmire, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, at 202-647-3486. For information about the U.S. Antarctic Program, please see: http://www.nsf.gov/home/polar/.

Released on October 3, 2001

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