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© 1996-2006
Bob Starkgraf


Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Antarctica
Government type:
Antarctic Treaty Summary - the Antarctic Treaty, signed on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 23 June 1961, establishes the legal framework for the management of Antarctica. The 24th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in Russia in July 2001. At the end of 2001, there were 45 treaty member nations: 27 consultative and 18 non-consultative. Consultative (voting) members include the seven nations that claim portions of Antarctica as national territory (some claims overlap) and 20 nonclaimant nations. The US and Russia have reserved the right to make claims. The US does not recognize the claims of others. Antarctica is administered through meetings of the consultative member nations. Decisions from these meetings are carried out by these member nations (within their areas) in accordance with their own national laws. The year in parentheses indicates when an acceding nation was voted to full consultative (voting) status, while no date indicates the country was an original 1959 treaty signatory. Claimant nations are - Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the UK. Nonclaimant consultative nations are - Belgium, Brazil (1983), Bulgaria (1998) China (1985), Ecuador (1990), Finland (1989), Germany (1981), India (1983), Italy (1987), Japan, South Korea (1989), Netherlands (1990), Peru (1989), Poland (1977), Russia, South Africa, Spain (1988), Sweden (1988), Uruguay (1985), and the US. Non-consultative (nonvoting) members, with year of accession in parentheses, are - Austria (1987), Canada (1988), Colombia (1989), Cuba (1984), Czech Republic (1993), Denmark (1965), Estonia (2001), Greece (1987), Guatemala (1991), Hungary (1984), North Korea (1987), Papua New Guinea (1981), Romania (1971), Slovakia (1993), Switzerland (1990), Turkey (1995), Ukraine (1992), and Venezuela (1999). Article 1 - area to be used for peaceful purposes only; military activity, such as weapons testing, is prohibited, but military personnel and equipment may be used for scientific research or any other peaceful purpose; Article 2 - freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation shall continue; Article 3 - free exchange of information and personnel, cooperation with the UN and other international agencies; Article 4 - does not recognize, dispute, or establish territorial claims and no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force; Article 5 - prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes; Article 6 - includes under the treaty all land and ice shelves south of 60 degrees 00 minutes south and reserves high seas rights; Article 7 - treaty-state observers have free access, including aerial observation, to any area and may inspect all stations, installations, and equipment; advance notice of all expeditions and of the introduction of military personnel must be given; Article 8 - allows for jurisdiction over observers and scientists by their own states; Article 9 - frequent consultative meetings take place among member nations; Article 10 - treaty states will discourage activities by any country in Antarctica that are contrary to the treaty; Article 11 - disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the ICJ; Articles 12, 13, 14 - deal with upholding, interpreting, and amending the treaty among involved nations. Other agreements - some 200 recommendations adopted at treaty consultative meetings and ratified by governments include - Agreed Measures for Fauna and Flora (1964) which were later incorporated into the Environmental Protocol; Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972); Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980); a mineral resources agreement was signed in 1988 but remains unratified; the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed 4 October 1991 and entered into force 14 January 1998; this agreement provides for the protection of the Antarctic environment through five specific annexes: 1) marine pollution, 2) fauna and flora, 3) environmental impact assessments, 4) waste management, and 5) protected area management; it prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources except scientific research.
Legal system:
Antarctica is administered through meetings of the consultative member nations. Decisions from these meetings are carried out by these member nations (within their areas) in accordance with their own national laws. US law, including certain criminal offenses by or against US nationals, such as murder, may apply extra-territorially. Some US laws directly apply to Antarctica. For example, the Antarctic Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. section 2401 et seq., provides civil and criminal penalties for the following activities, unless authorized by regulation of statute: the taking of native mammals or birds; the introduction of nonindigenous plants and animals; entry into specially protected areas; the discharge or disposal of pollutants; and the importation into the US of certain items from Antarctica. Violation of the Antarctic Conservation Act carries penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and one year in prison. The National Science Foundation and Department of Justice share enforcement responsibilities. Public Law 95-541, the US Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978, as amended in 1996, requires expeditions from the US to Antarctica to notify, in advance, the Office of Oceans, Room 5805, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520, which reports such plans to other nations as required by the Antarctic Treaty. For more information, contact Permit Office, Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia 22230; telephone: (703) 292-8030, or visit their website at


Economy - overview:
Fishing off the coast and tourism, both based abroad, account for the limited economic activity. Antarctic fisheries in 2000-01 (1 July-30 June) reported landing 112,934 metric tons. Unregulated fishing, particularly of tooth fish, is a serious problem. Allegedly illegal fishing in antarctic waters in 1998 resulted in the seizure (by France and Australia) of at least eight fishing ships. The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources determines the recommended catch limits for marine species. A total of 12,248 tourists visited in the 2000-01 antarctic summer, down from the 14,762 who visited the previous year. Nearly all of them were passengers on 21 commercial (nongovernmental) ships and several yachts that made trips during the summer. Most tourist trips lasted approximately two weeks.