Issues in Cold Environments – The Antarctic

Antarctica is unique for a number of reasons:

  • Unique – not been affected by large scale human activity
  • 90% of earths ice and 70% of our fresh water
  • Covers 14 million km2

Antarctica has a fragile ecosystem:

  • One of the driest places on earth
  • Average temperature Is 49 celcius
  • Little sunshine in winter so few plants and animals can survive there.
  • Abundant sea life – although very fragile to loss of species

Antarctica has a number of resources including large oil reserves below the southern ocean, beautiful scenery, 300 different species of fish and 8 species of whale and largest deposits of coal and iron ore beneath the Transantarctic Mountain. This makes Antarctica an attractive area for fishing, tourism, mining and oil extraction.

Antarctic Treaty: There are no native people to Antarctica so no one can claim ownership of it causing conflicts between nations. In 1961 12 countries agreed to set aside disputes over who owns Antarctica to come up with laws to protect it. It includes many protocols and conventions banning certain activities. The Madrid Protocol bans oil extraction and mining it was agreed upon 1998 to 2048.  Protocol on Environmental Protection: Came into force in 1998 stating that scientists had to remove most of their rubbish and treat sewage. Whaling was previously legal but has been banned due to decrease in whale population (1/4 million à 1000 whales) In 1994 Antarctica was declared a whale sanctuary.  Convention of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources includes quotas to prevent over fishing.

IAATO: Tour operators are self regulated by the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators; with rules such as only 100 visitors on shore at any given time.


Number of tourists visiting still rising by 60,000 a year and fishing quotas are being broken because few people are enforcing them.