Help Protect the Environment
Antarctica represents a more profound manifestation of international peace than any other place in the world, managed during the past half-century through the Antarctic Treaty's unprecedented global cooperation of nearly 50 countries, and formally designated a "natural reserve dedicated to peace and science." Antarctic Treaty Information for visitors: http://www.ats.aq/e/ats_other_tourism.htm.
Our agreed best practices - based on decades of combined operating experience - demonstrate that first-hand, environmentally responsible visitation is possible in remote and fragile wilderness areas. Our focus on protection, management and education promotes a greater worldwide understanding and protection of the Antarctic, with a goal of leaving it as pristine and as majestic for future generations as it is today.
As a responsible vessel operator, we ask you to join our efforts to preserve one of the finest places on earth. A slideshow of guidance for Antarctic visitors, covering many of these points, is available in the Guidelines & Resources section.
- Leave no trace of your visit - plan ahead for your waste. Antarctica is one of the most pristine environments in the world; please help keep it that way. Not only is waste litter unsightly, it can also damage the environment, entangling or poisoning animals, and food waste - especially poultry scraps - can introduce disease. Carry storage containers to remove all waste from Antarctica. Use sealable barrels and dry bags to bring out your biodegradable wastes (allow roughly eight liters per person per week) plus cans, bottles, household rubbish, used oil, coolant and dirty bilge water. For sewage, use your holding tank, especially when in harbor. If you don't have one, keep your toilet paper onboard. Nothing - not even toilet paper - rots in the cold water.
Remember the adage Bring it in - Take it out. Nothing must go over the side, and bilge, or other pumps, should not be left on auto. Once north of 60°S (the Treaty Area boundary) biodegradables may be disposed of at sea.
- Avoid introducing non-native species. Non-native species can eradicate unique endemic species of plants, animals and invertebrates. Please take new gear or make sure it's cleaned thoroughly before you go. Vacuum pockets, turn-ups, backpacks and camera bags to remove seeds, and use a disinfectant wash (like Virkon® S) to disinfect items like footwear, camera tripods or hiking poles.
For more information on how, and why not to "pack a pest", see the Don't Pack a Pest page.
- Protected Areas. Some areas in Antarctica have been given special status for scientific or ecological reasons. Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) are areas where visitors are not allowed to enter.
Antarctic Specially Managed Areas (ASMAs) are areas where several activities may take place - science, visitation, etc. These may be entered, but there are usually special codes of conduct required. There are also sites which have Visitor Guidelines which should be followed; these are sites of particular interest to visitors and the guidelines are useful indications of what to see at these sites while causing minimum disruption. It is important to know the location of ASPAs, ASMAs and Site Guidelines and abide by any specific guidelines.
Information on ASPAs and ASMAs can be found at http://www.ats.aq/e/ep_protected.htm and information on Visitor Guidelines can be found at http://www.ats.aq/e/ats_other_tourism.htm.
- Protect the Wildlife. Antarctica's wildlife is unique and is unafraid of humans. As such, it can be particularly susceptible to disturbance. It is important not to feed, touch or harm any wildlife. Minimum approach distances have been shown to allow visitors good viewing experiences without disturbing animals. These are illustrated in the pictures below. Animals should be given the right of way, and it is important to walk, or to maneuver vessels, slowly in the vicinity of wildlife to avoid alarming birds or mammals. If cruising in the vicinity of whales or seals, do not drift down on them as this can disrupt feeding. Remember, birds and mammals are particularly vulnerable when breeding or molting, so please be especially careful around them. Guns, explosives, hunting and fishing are all prohibited, as is the removal of any bones, eggs, feathers or fossils.
For more information on how to make the most of wildlife viewing opportunities while minimizing disturbance see the IAATO Wildlife Watching Guidelines.
Do not approach wildlife closer than 5m/15 feet, extend this to 15m/30 feet around fur seals
When maneuvering around whales or seals do not approach them closer than 30m/100 feet
(Depending on your nationality, this minimum approach distance can vary up to 100m/300 ft)
- Protect the vegetation. Despite its inhospitable environment, Antarctica hosts unique vegetation that must struggle to survive. These plants, including mosses and lichens, are fragile and can be easily damaged if walked on. Please stay off the vegetation and don't pick any plants.
- Protect the physical environment. The untouched beauty of Antarctica can appear overwhelmingly powerful and immutable, but small changes from a series of visitors could have an impact. It is illegal to remove any rocks, stones or fossils. Rubbish burning, BBQs and open fires are prohibited as they scar the landscape and can damage historic buildings and artifacts. Do not drill into rocks for yachting or mountaineering purposes.