It is very bizarre that given the negative impact of tourism on the pristine ecosystem of Antarctica, there are no stringent rules among nations on the regulations of tourism in Antarctica. The statistics on the degree temperature changes in the Antarctica Peninsula are very threatening. A record of 30 Celsius in the past 60 years is enough to rouse every world government body to act in the defense of the world’s last pristine environment. However, the response of world governing bodies is far from saving the world’s largest ice-sheet.
It is on record that over 40,000 tourists visit the Antarctica every year leaving their negative impacts on it. Therefore, Ecotourism has been striving to minimize to the barest the impact of tourism on this sensitive part of the world, because there are no natural human inhabitants on this world’s icecaps to advocate for it. Some of these visitors do not have good ecotourism training on how to affect minimally on this natural environment.
The impacts of ecotourism in Antarctica are still not very noticeable. However, several treaties have been signed amongst nations to ensure the integrity of Antarctica ecosystem. One of such treaties is The Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in 1991. This treaty holds that all its 34 member countries should adhere to its regulations in order to preserve the polar environments. The limitations to this treaty can be seen from the number of its member countries, which leaves a significant gap on the ability of The Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty to have control over the effects of tourism on the Antarctica.
A stricter organization “The International Maritime Organization” came up with a very strict code on almost all the shipping companies who run tours on the Antarctica. Every shipping company who belong to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) is mandated to adhere to these restrictions.
- Every tourist travelling from any country that adhere to the Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty must wear bio-secure suits and properly disinfect his clothes in order to avoid introducing some invasive species.
- All visiting tourists must stay 15 feet away from the coastlines so as not to disturb the penguins.
- Tourists are only permitted to bring their cameras along during tours, even biodegradable materials are not allowed.
- Tourism should be well controlled and precautions must be taken to ensure less impact on the ecosystem.
There is still more to do in order to create more impact of ecotourism in Antarctica. IAATO is actually doing their best to see that Antarctica does not become a lost region. Nevertheless, the onus falls on us to become advocates of this “no permanent human continent” and aim to conserve the natural environment, which is the sole message and purpose of ecotourism. If we can all agree to converse the Antarctica, we all should strive to uphold:
- Ecotourism along with responsible travel
- Support ecotourism industries to help drive this message home.
- Respect restricted areas and protection of flora and fauna.
- Prevent any form of pollution and discharge of waste.
- Comply with the specifications of IAATO especially for the shipping companies.
- Always co-operate with Antarctica environmental inspectors.
- Be vigilant and monitor the activities of one another.
- Every nation’s government should awaken to this clarion call.
If we can adhere to these and some other necessary rule, we can leave Antarctica as pristine as we met it.