Research themes

1. Proactively Managing the Growth of Antarctic Tourism

This research theme examines the unprecedented surge of tourism to Antarctica in the last decades and the debates framing it. It will then explore and simulate future options for proactive management that may better account for the principles and values of the Antarctic Treaty System than current arrangements.

Since the adoption of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991, the number of tourists visiting the region each year has increased exponentially.  This precipitous growth is expected to resume in coming years after the global tourism shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Environmental and social impacts of tourism activities have been reported on, and Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties have voiced concerns over these impacts for years. Yet no new policies for managing growth have been prescribed for this domain, which remains to a large extent voluntarily self-governed by tourism operators. This research aims to investigate novel policy instruments that have the potential to limit tourism growth to desirable levels while simultaneously producing funds for Antarctic conservation.

Researchers involved in this theme:

  • Dr. Bas Amelung, Wageningen University and Research (WUR), Environmental Systems Analysis group
  • Dr. Machiel Lamers, Wageningen University and Research (WUR), Environmental Policy group

2. Proactively Managing Diversification of Antarctic Tourism

Theme 2 aims to explore and map tourism diversification in the Antarctic, particularly considering the magnitude of integration of less tangible concepts of the fundamental principles and values of the Antarctic Treaty System in the development of new, novel, or particularly concerning activities on the continent. These would be derived from an exploration of the socio-economic drivers of tourism diversification and its desirability, as well as the ability to find tools to regulate undesirable aspects. The ultimate objective is to provide knowledge for the Committee for Environmental Protection process towards the development of a framework for conducting pre-assessments relating to new tourism activities.

Researchers involved in this theme:

  • Prof. Edward Huijbens, Cultural Geography Group (GEO) at Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
  • Prof. Kees Bastmeijer, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen
  • Yousra Makanse, Ph.D. candidate at Wageningen University & Research within the Cultural Geography Research Group (GEO)

3. Ensuring Adequate Implementation of Antarctic Tourism Regulation

Theme 3 focuses on jurisdictional issues in relation to Antarctic tourism. The 1991 Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty relies on the Contracting Parties’ domestic implementing legislation to ensure compliance by non-state actors. The Contracting Parties to the Protocol have adopted their own implementation approaches, including in relation to the jurisdictional scope of application of their implementing legislation. Theme 3 aims to develop a comparative legal study of the jurisdictional scope of the implementing legislation of all Contracting Parties to the Protocol. This research aims to determine the Contracting Parties’ (collective) reach in terms of jurisdiction over tourism activities in the Antarctic Treaty area; to identify any shortcomings; and to put forward concrete policy recommendations to address any issues previously identified.

Researchers involved in this theme:

  • Prof. Kees Bastmeijer, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen
  • Dr. Erik Molenaar, Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS) and the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law (UCWOSL), Utrecht University
  • Elena-Laura Álvarez Ortega, Ph.D. candidate, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen

4. The concept of non-use and the role of non-user States in regulating Antarctic tourism

Theme 4 focuses on the importance of the concept of non-use and the role of non-user States in regulating Antarctic tourism in a manner that respects the fundamental principles and values of the Antarctic Treaty System. The Antarctic has been designated as a nature reserve by the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. Moreover, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties also recognized in the General Principles of Antarctic Tourism that tourism should not be allowed to contribute to the long-term degradation of the Antarctic environment. The aims of research under theme 4 are, on the basis of a comparative study with other regimes on global goods and commons, to identify best practices and provide policy recommendations to enable proper recognition of non-use and to further the interests of non-user States.

Researchers involved in this theme:

  • Dr. Erik Molenaar, Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS) and the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law (UCWOSL), Utrecht University
  • Prof. Kees Bastmeijer, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen
  • Dr. Solène Guggisberg, postdoctoral researcher, Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS) and the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law (UCWOSL), Utrecht University