Compared to many other parts of the world the Antarctic is relatively unmodified by human activities. Protection of native fauna and flora has been a concern for the Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty from the beginning. In 1964 Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora were adopted, and many other measures dealing with related issues followed in subsequent ATCMs.
Article 3.2 of the Environment Protocol provides that activities to be undertaken in Antarctica shall be planned and conducted so as to avoid “detrimental changes in the distribution, abundance or productivity of species or populations of species of fauna and flora” and “further jeopardy to endangered or threatened species or populations of such species”. Annex II to the Protocol sets out specific measures to give effect to this. It provides several different mechanisms to protect Antarctic species, including:
- the prohibition of taking (removing) and of harmful interference, except in accordance with a permit;
- the prohibition of introducing non-native species, except in accordance with a permit; and
- the designation of Specially Protected Species.
The ATCM has also adopted specific measures to manage human disturbance of Antarctic fauna and flora, including Recommendation XVIII-1: Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic, adopted in 1994, and the Guidelines for the Operation of Aircraft Near Concentrations of Birds in Antarctica, adopted in 2004.
In recent years, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting has adopted a Non-native Species Manual. This manual is regularly updated and can be accessed through the link below.