Lawmaking in the Antarctic Treaty System

Dr AJ (Tony) Press1

1Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart, Australia, 2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Australaia

The Antarctic Treaty System consists of the Antarctic Treaty and the subsequent agreements made pursuant to the Treaty, and the bodies established by the Treaty and these agreements: the Antarctic Treaty; the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals; the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (and its Annexes). [Although it never entered into force, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities also has a special place in Antarctic lawmaking].

The suite of laws and decisions made by Antarctic Treaty System comprises the full body of Antarctic lawmaking. Some commentators in recent years have implied that the Antarctic Treaty System is moribund or at best lethargic, because no new treaties or conventions have been made since the Madrid Protocol (1991).

This paper looks at these claims and evaluates the performance of the Antarctic Treaty System in establishing law in the Antarctic.


Tony Press is an Adjunct Professor at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and the University of Tasmania. He was the CEO of the ACE CRC from 2009 to 2014. He was Director of the Australian Antarctic Division from 1998 to 2008; Australian Commissioner to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1998 – 2008); Australian Representative to the Committee for Environmental (1999 – 2008), and its chair from 2002 – 2006; and Australian Delegate and representative the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (1999 -2008). Tony is a commentator on Antarctic law and policy.

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