Tourism is an important source of income, prosperity and happiness for many people, but not everywhere. The increasing number of cruiseships, loaded with tourists, heading for Antarctica threatens the fragile ecosystem, habitat of many animals, in this region. Tourism to the frozen continent has increased nearly ten-fold in the last 15 years. See also the warnings of IMO Report on Southern Ocean Vessel Issues of 2008.
Celebrating this year the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty and the conclusion of the 2007-2009 International Polar Year, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting has put the preservation of wildlife, including the management of tourism, high on its agenda. At its 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, for the first time together with the Arctic Council, in Baltimore, the Obama Administration has now called for new strict regulations to limit Antarctic tourism. As Secretary of State Mrs Clinton said “The United States is concerned about the safety of the tourists and the suitability of the ships that make the journey south. We have submitted a resolution that would place limits on landings from ships carrying large numbers of tourists. We have also proposed new requirements for lifeboats on tourist ships to make sure they can keep passengers alive until rescue comes. And we urge greater international cooperation to prevent discharges from these ships that will further degrade the environment around the Antarctica”.