The Price of Cumulative Human Activities in the Antarctic

There are many ongoing, cumulative and serious challenges including, for example, the continuing practice of open waste burning without efforts to “reduce harmful emissions” or “to limit particulate deposition” As mandated in the Protocol, disposal of waste into the environment (littering) by both national operator staff and other visitors, the presence of non-native soils and house plant species within station buildings, deterioration and pollution through poor or no maintenance of present or past infrastructure, repeated minor or major oil spills, inconsistent levels of sewage treatment and control of effluent release, high levels of (unpermitted) human disturbance of animals even by station personnel and official delegations, nearshore and shoreline pollution from marine debris, and poor to no application of recommended biosecurity procedures aimed to prevent the introduction of non-native species. 

In recent years, a considerable increase in all types of human activities has been clear on Fildes Peninsula, most striking being expansion in national operator traffic and personnel, further growth of air-cruise tourist programs and sporting events, and the creation of at least one tourist camp for overnight stays, with none of the latter being able to exist without sometimes substantial collaboration with National Antarctic Programmes. These upwards trends are expected to resume as the current global crisis recedes. Clearly, strict, and consistent implementation of the existing legal requirements, guidelines and recommendations is vital for the future rational use and protection of Fildes Peninsula and its habitats and ecosystems. The question is already being openly asked of whether we are blindly, or even deliberately, acquiescing in the creation of an Antarctic sacrificial area in the name of servicing logistic and tourism needs, or are prepared to redouble efforts to convince all regional stakeholders to avoid further degradation of the local environment and engage energetically and constructively to achieve one of the founding principles of the Antarctic Treaty itself, to protect and preserve Antarctica and its ecosystems. This article was published in the international journal, named, 'Antarctic Science,' by the Cambridge University Press.

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