Tourists, bio-prospectors and fishers are now descending onto this great white continent and its seas in great numbers, putting increasing pressure on its fragile eco-systems.
Highly sophisticated boats, GPS systems, sea-floor mapping and up-to-the-minute weather and sea-ice information have allowed us to exploit these polar waters in an unprecedented way.
Unfortunately, these advances in fishing have not been coupled with a greater scientific understanding of the life-cycles and breeding habits of these deep-sea fish, which is causing great concern in the scientific community
Antarctica now plays hosts to 40,000-30,000 tourists a year, and without stringent regulations they may be unwittingly introducing invasive species into this delicate frozen landscape.
Despite its frosty, inhospitable appearance, it already it has a range of plants, mites, fleas and flatworms from foreign climes.
The largely unregulated hunt for plant, animal or microbial species that may be used in anything from pharmaceutical to agricultural products has grown rapidly in recent years.
Antarctica is of particular interest to bio-prospectors because it harbours a range of extremo-philes - organisms that prosper in environments with extreme physical conditions.
Developing proper regulations around bioprospecting is essential to safeguard Antarctica’s environment and it is something that Forest & Bird actively supports.
The burgeoning tourism industry in Antarctica is putting great pressure on this largely unspoilt continent.
The industry - which was once dominated by small wilderness tours - has been overtaken in the past decade by global operators that carry tens of thousands of tourists into the icy landscape each year.
Forest & Bird would like more protective measures put in place, so this continent remains first and foremost a natural reserve’.
Antarctic Ocean Alliance
Forest and Bird has joined a coalition aiming to protect the biodiversity in Antarctica’s oceans through a network of marine reserves.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) wants to create 19 no-take marine reserves in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, to protect ecological areas and landforms such as rare seamounts and important breeding habitats for toothfish.
Sixteen environmental organisations have backed the proposal, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).