Meld. St. 32 (2014–2015)

Norwegian Interests and Policy in the Antarctic

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8 Business activity and resource management

8.1 Introduction

Norwegian businesses have long traditions in the Antarctic. In recent times they have focused in particular on activities in which Norwegians possess special expertise or other advantages, in some cases provided to them by nature. Norwegian companies today operate extensively in the Antarctic. The sectors in which they and the Norwegian authorities are active, or in which there may be a potential for economic activity, include:

  • Fisheries and fisheries management

  • Tourism and travel

  • Space activities

  • Shipping

  • Bioprospecting

Common to all these forms of activity is that they are conducted within a policy framework whose paramount concerns and goals are responsible management, sustainable resource use and conservation of the natural environment. Within this framework there should be room for environmentally sound research, tourism and commercial activity. The Norwegian authorities have developed national laws and regulations that fulfil our international legal obligations and, at the same time, facilitate business activity in the Antarctic.

8.2 Fisheries and fisheries management

8.2.1 Fisheries and fisheries management

Extending from the Antarctic Convergence to the Antarctic mainland is the distinctive Antarctic marine ecosystem. The climate is cold and variable, and over thousands of years the ecosystem’s distribution of species and other dynamic processes have developed in unique ways. The ecosystem, which is subject to large natural variations, is dominated by krill. Krill, in other words, is the most important building block for all life higher up in the food chain, including fish stocks, seabirds and marine mammals. The ecosystem is vulnerable because many of the organisms have adapted to extreme conditions. Land-based birds (including penguins) and marine mammals(seals in particular) are vulnerable to environmental changes that force krill concentrations away from the areas where those animals nest and bear their young. There are indications that global warming and ocean acidification may have consequences for the krill-based ecosystem, partly by altering the krill population and partly by altering its geographical range. The toothfish, an important harvestable species in the Antarctic, is vulnerable because individual toothfish grow slowly. If these stocks were overexploited or subjected to other negative influences, it would take a long time to build them up again. We have little basic knowledge of these species – including where, for example, the toothfish spawn – so the consequences of climate change are hard to assess.

Figure 8.1 Norway is working to promote sustainable fisheries in the Antarctic.

Figure 8.1 Norway is working to promote sustainable fisheries in the Antarctic.

Photo: Bjørn Krafft, Institute of Marine Research.

Figure 8.2 Krill is the most important resource for the Norwegian Antarctic fishery.

Figure 8.2 Krill is the most important resource for the Norwegian Antarctic fishery.

Photo: Bjørn Krafft, Institute of Marine Research.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) employs an ecosystem-based approach to resource management in which conservation is seen as including both the responsible use of resources and the maintenance of ecosystem integrity. Emphasis has been placed on making sure that harvests taken by humans do not compromise access to food for other species that depend on the species being harvested, such as krill. The area under CCAMLR’s administrative responsibility is divided into subareas, and each year the Commission approves overall quotas for a range of species in the different areas. The quota setting is based on research data and recommendations issued by CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee. The legal framework for CCAMLR’s activity is examined in more detail in chapter 4.3.

Within the area covered by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Martine Living Resources (the CAMLR Convention), the fishing industry directly targets toothfish (Dissostichus sp.), mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari) and Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba); limited fishing for crab species and other species also takes place. CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee each year evaluates the status of these fisheries and issues management recommendations on the basis of the best available scientific information. This information includes detailed data from the fishing activity itself and from international scientific surveys. CCAMLR regulates fishing by way of equipment rules, by-catch rules, reporting obligations and catch documentation. Other resource management tools used by CCAMLR include rules for bottom-fishing gear to protect vulnerable habitats, the authority to close off areas to fishing and programmes to systematically monitor predator species that are dependent on the species being harvested in any given ecosystem.

8.2.2 Krill

Krill has been fished since the 1970s. The peak harvest, in excess of 500,000 tonnes, came in 1982. The harvest was greatly reduced after the fall of the USSR. In recent years it has increased again, with several new countries participating in the catch. Compared to fisheries in other oceans, however, the activity is small and takes place across an extremely large area. The density of fishing vessels in the Antarctic is such that a single vessel in the entire North Sea would represent the equivalent density. Today, the vast majority of fishing occurs in CCAMLR Area 48, which includes the South Shetland Islands, the South Orkney Islands and South Georgia (see Figure 8.4 below). This area is particularly prized because of its dense stock of krill in shallow waters combined with predictable interannual catch volumes and the fact that the harbours and the fishing zones are relatively close together. There are major krill resources in the convention area. In Area 48 alone, CCAMLR estimates the total krill biomass at approximately 60 million tonnes. Although assessments vary, researchers believe that the total krill stock in waters around Antarctica amounts to several hundred million tonnes. Nevertheless, a catch limit of only 3.7 million tonnes has been set for the entire convention area. Vast distances and challenging weather and ice conditions during the harvest season affect the vessels’ ease of access to the fishing areas, and thereby the length of time and the amount of krill the vessels can extract. In recent years the total krill harvest has ranged between 220,000 and 280,000 tonnes. In Area 48 the catch limit is set at 620,000 tonnes, which is to say more than twice the current catch level. The catch limit is determined on the basis of historical fishing data and the best available scientific information. The governing principle is that harvest activity must not adversely affect species such as krill.

According to CCAMLR regulations, at least 50 per cent of krill vessels belonging to each flag state are to carry international observers.

The Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK), which represents business interests, contributes importantly to the knowledge- base that underpins CCAMLR’s management of krill. The organisation works on the assumption that the industry itself has a responsibility to help ensure the sustainable use of resources. It currently has members from the krill industry in Norway, Chile and South Korea. ARK is an observer to the CCAMLR, and has drawn praise for the efforts of its members to fish in accordance with regulations.

Today krill is used in dietary supplements, Omega 3 products, medicines and cosmetics, while its by-products are useful in such products as aquaculture feed. If it is possible to overcome the technical and market barriers that currently limit the degree of krill exploitation, krill could become an even more important nutritional source.

Textbox 8.1 Mackerel icefish

The catch of mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari) is restricted to less than 3,000 tonnes. The stock collapsed after excessively large harvests in the 1970s and 1980s. In one year during that period, more than 200,000 tonnes were caught. Norwegian actors do not participate in this fishery.

Figure 8.3 Mackerel icefish.

Figure 8.3 Mackerel icefish.

Photo: Bjørn Krafft, Institute of Marine Research.

8.2.3 Toothfish

Many countries also fish for toothfish. Toothfish fishing is conducted in all waters surrounding the Antarctic continent. An upper limit for the harvest has been established. Quotas are distributed over several areas. The fishery is regulated in ‘Olympic’ fishing style, with free competition among participating vessels after setting aside quotas dedicated to special research plans. Catches are reported continually, and fishing is stopped when the catch ceiling is reached. All vessels are required to have an observer on board, so that resource managers can learn from the fishing activity itself. The total annual catch is about 15,000 tonnes, divided between Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides, ~11,000 tonnes) and Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni, ~4,000 tonnes). There is significant interest in this fishery, because toothfish have high market value. The commercial fishing fleet itself helps regulate the fishery through a tagging and recapturing programme during which biological information is collected. All vessels are required to tag and release a certain portion of their catch and to report recaptures. The recapture data and other available information are analysed by CCAMLR in determining the basis for quota setting.

8.2.4 Science-based management

Resource management in the convention area is to be based on knowledge and carried out in accordance with advice from the CCAMLR Scientific Committee. The base of information for managing Antarctic resources is extremely limited. Annual quotas are set using a precautionary approach. The scientific foundations of the Commission’s management decision-making are crucial to fulfilling the sustainability obligations established by the convention. Research is important so that enough information is gathered when exploiting the resources. If we wish to increase resource exploitation in the Antarctic, we must meet the increased need for scientific studies.

Figure 8.4 Overview of CCAMLR’s activity area, including statistical subareas.

Figure 8.4 Overview of CCAMLR’s activity area, including statistical subareas.


The need for monitoring and research became obvious in connection with the Commission’s decision to introduce a Feedback Management Strategy (FBM) for the krill fishery. Currently under development, this is a new and more dynamic management tool. Since FBM is still at an early stage in development, there is little practical experience to indicate how well it will work. The system in any case relies on the timely use of data collected by scientists or by the fleet itself, so the fisheries can be told –within the same season – when activities must be halted or moved to other areas.

There is a major need for scientific surveys to quantify the following:

  • How climate variations, anthropogenic climate change and ocean acidification may alter the function and carrying capacity of the ecosystem.

  • How the physical environment affects local krill distributions and density levels.

  • How the annual fishery affects the local distribution of krill and the ability of apex predators to find food.

The second and third points above relate to information that must be obtained through a combination of science conducted while commercial fishing is under way and dedicated independent research.

8.2.5 Strengthening efforts to combat Antarctic fisheries crime

The Commission has made a large effort to prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported toothfish fishing, and has put a number of measures into effect. These include a system for blacklisting vessels that have participated in illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing, including vessels from CCAMLR member states and non-member states. It has been challenging to achieve consensus within the Commission on blacklisting member-state vessels that have taken part in illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing, but on this matter, too, developments in recent years have been positive. The Commission, moreover, has introduced a catch-documentation system to monitor international commerce in toothfish as well as measures to ascertain whether the fish have been caught in conformance with regulations. Norway implemented this system in 2000. Norway places very strong emphasis on efforts to reduce illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and has worked actively to strengthen CCAMLR’s measures to combat such fishing. This is something the Government will carry on doing.

In 2013, a working group on fisheries crime was set up at INTERPOL. This group’s work includes intelligence-sharing, operations to counter specific illegal activities and capacity- building. Since the group’s establishment, parties active in the Antarctic have been in the spotlight. In September 2013 Norway became the first country in INTERPOL’s history to request the publication of a ‘purple notice’ regarding a certain fishing vessel that had conducted unregulated fishing in the CCAMLR area since 2004. Through such a notice Norway sought information on the vessel and its owners, operators and others who profit from its activity. A few weeks later, the vessel was inspected in ports in the Indian Ocean. In December 2013, New Zealand requested INTERPOL to publish a new notice, with support from Australia and Norway, regarding another vessel. Some months later that vessel was detained by Malaysian authorities and prosecuted. New Zealand also initiated the publication of three notices in January 2015, requesting information on the ownership and control of vessels active in the CCAMLR area.

These cases demonstrate that broad international cooperation on enforcement measures is urgently needed in the waters of the Antarctic. It must also be acknowledged that illegal fishing begins and ends on land. Not only must such activity be stopped at sea, but punitive action must be taken against those who plan, conduct and profit from it. When unlawful activities are detected it is possible for the authorities to respond even if their physical presence in the violation area is limited. The challenge is to introduce a system that allows for secure information- and intelligence-sharing and can provide operative support to the responding agency. INTERPOL has proved itself a useful tool in the fight against fisheries crime.

The Government will:

  • Support international cooperation at operational level through INTERPOL and other relevant organisations to uncover fisheries crime across the Antarctic.

  • Work for a more robust law-enforcement regime that can contribute to more effective sanctions against unlawful fishing in the Antarctic.

8.3 Norwegian policy in CCAMLR

Norway is the leading krill-harvesting nation in Antarctic waters, and the Norwegian authorities set the same standards for responsible management in these ocean areas as in other areas where Norwegian actors harvest resources.

The top considerations relating to Norway’s presence in the Antarctic – among them the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty and its Protocol on Environmental Protection (the Environment Protocol) – are also fundamental to Norwegian policy in CCAMLR. Safeguarding Norway’s special interests as a territorial claimant and commercial actor within the CCAMLR’s ambit is also important.

All substantive CCAMLR decisions are based on consensus. Norway works actively to ensure that the organisation makes targeted decisions that will succeed operationally. On several complex issues it has been important for Norway to achieve agreement between fishing and conservation interests. To do so we draw on resource-management experience from our immediate vicinity and the development of comprehensive management plans for Norwegian waters.

For Norway, it is important that decisions made in CCAMLR are based on the best available scientific knowledge, so the country pays close attention to the recommendations of CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee. With regard to the krill fishery, Norway advocates balancing the need for new management measures against the degree of likelihood that harvest limits are being exceeded. To date, the actual harvest of krill has been far below the level considered consistent with the precautionary principle. It is important in any case to make sure the Scientific Committee has sufficient data on which to base its recommendations for the krill stock. The Institute of Marine Research undertakes annual monitoring expeditions in which it cooperates with the fishing industry and with the efforts of other countries. The fishing industry also helps with information- gathering through its extensive reporting on catches and its cooperation with researchers. Fishing trials and research catches are also important in generating knowledge about the marine ecosystem.

Textbox 8.2 CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP)

The CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP) was established in 1985. This is a programme to monitor the effects of fisheries on species that themselves are dependent on the various species being fished. Such monitoring is one of several methods the Commission uses to ensure that the fisheries are run in compliance with the CCAMLR mission statement on protection and responsible use of marine living resources in the Antarctic.

The goals of CEMP are:

  1. To make observations exposing significant changes in critical components of the marine ecosystem in the convention area, and

  2. To distinguish between changes resulting from the harvesting of commercial species and changes stemming from environmental variability, both physical and biological.

As a basis for this monitoring, a set of indicator species has been selected. It is thought that these species will respond measurably to changes in their access to species being targeted by humans.

The indicator species currently used in the CEMP are:

  • Adélie penguin

  • Chinstrap penguin

  • Gentoo penguin

  • Macaroni penguin

  • Black-browed albatross

  • Antarctic petrel

  • Cape petrel

  • Antarctic fur seal

To ensure that localities can be compared over time, CCAMLR has agreed to a set of data collection methods, data submission formats and data analysis procedures. The CEMP programme at Bouvetøya provides data and scientific knowledge about population size, fitness and reproductive success of krill predators in an area relatively unaffected by fishing. This is valuable in evaluating the possible effects of fishing in areas where fishing activity is high.

8.3.1 Krill fishing notifications

In the last few years, interest in the krill fishery has been increasing. In the notification process for the 2014/2015 season, 21 vessels from six member states gave notice that they wished to take part in the fishery. The harvest estimates in their notifications total 611,000 tonnes. This would suggest a krill catch near the policy level in the area where fishing currently takes place. The notifications, however, do not give a true picture of the upcoming season’s likely catch or of the krill-fishing vessels to be involved. Norway would like the CCAMLR to devise systems capable of providing a more realistic view of plans for taking part in the krill harvest – for example, by assessing whether to charge a notification fee in connection with fishing vessel registration.

8.3.2 Vulnerable benthic habitat

Regarding vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) on the sea floor, CCAMLR has actively implemented measures adopted in UN fisheries resolutions from 2006 and 2011. Out of concern for such ecosystems CCAMLR has adopted a number of rules for fishing with bottom gear. Equipment constraints and area closures are among them. Both trawl and gillnet fishing are prohibited. In addition, threshold density levels have been adopted for indicator species (a pre-defined list of species associated with fragile habitats); such thresholds trigger a duty, embedded in the regulations, to notify the CCAMLR secretariat. If a vessel reports 10 or more indicator units within a defined line segment, the area within a radius of 1 nautical mile from the line segment is to be immediately closed to fishing. Such an area is to remain closed until the matter has been considered by both the Scientific Committee and the Commission.

8.3.3 Marine protected areas

In recent years the commission has discussed whether marine protected areas should be established in the CAMLR Convention area. Marine protected areas (MPAs) or other area-based conservation measures are part of the global objective under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity with a view to protecting 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.1 Of particular interest are areas important to biodiversity and ecosystem services. In 2009 CCAMLR established a MPA of ​​94,000 km2 around the South Orkney Islands, following a recommendation from CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee. In 2011 the CCAMLR parties came to agreement on an overarching framework for creating MPAs (Conservation Measure 91/04). It still has proved difficult, however, to agree on concrete measures for designating new MPAs, because the parties emphasise different interests. Norway actively supports efforts within the CCAMLR to establish MPAs, and is working to ensure that specific proposals are given a form and content that all parties can support. The Norwegian view is that proposed measures should be based on well-founded scientific recommendations, and that such measures comply with the framework created in 2011. It is hoped that the Scientific Committee will be assigned a more active role in developing the specific proposals. Establishing a MPA that is consistent with the framework and with current scientific standards will provide useful experience in continuing efforts to develop the framework and decision-making processes. The creation of a MPA with positive, verifiable effects could also serve as a model for drawing up similar measures elsewhere in the CCAMLR activity area.

MPAs can be important means of conserving natural assets ​​and ecosystems within the convention area, and may also be a tool for the sustainable management of marine resources. Protected areas can be set up as reference areas for research on the consequences of climate change. Norway emphasises that decisions to designate MPAs should rest on solid science; their purpose should be clearly defined and their protective measures should be effective, targeted and suitable for long-term protection of the natural environment and ecosystems. Where marine ecosystems within the CCAMLR are less impacted, and where environmental conditions indicate an area should be protected for the future, it should be possible to protect it without regard to whether the area in question is under pressure today. On establishing a MPA within CCAMLR’s convention area, fishing may be permitted as long as it is not in conflict with the objective of the protective measure. Fishing activity permitted in a protected area must be regulated in a way that supports the objective of the protective measure.

Norway is keen to ensure that CCAMLR management decisions relating to the establishment of MPAs include plans for monitoring and data-acquisition, so that the protective measures function as intended. When a sustainable fishery is combined with a well-designed research programme, the fishing fleet itself can play a key role in monitoring the protected area and acquiring more information. Differentiated degrees of commercial regulation inside a MPA would make it possible to design programmes for the different vessels active there, treating them as scientific platforms in a cooperative approach to research that Norway has already practiced with krill vessels. Norway has worked to increase understanding among the CCAMLR parties that the fishing fleet can contribute positively to the implementation of conservation measures, and that regulated fishing can be accommodated within such measures.

It is important that the establishment of protected areas does not lead to poorer access for collecting research data; nor should it move the fishing fleet in a way that creates excessive fishing pressure in a different area. The fishing fleet is a resource for monitoring and information gathering. All management measures aimed at dynamic natural processes should be followed up with monitoring. The same applies to MPAs, because climate change may lead to changes in the Antarctic environment. Norway believes effective measures must be introduced to acquire more knowledge about the designated areas. Priorities should be established, both geographic and thematic, for building this knowledge base. Because of the distances involved and the resource and capacity constraints on Antarctic research, it is crucial to make sure protected-area designations do not become ‘dormant’ measures lacking in practical effect. Regular reassessments and potential revisions of MPAs are important to ensure that the measures imposed serve their intended purposes.

8.3.4 Norwegian coastal state jurisdiction in relation to the CAMLR Convention

Bouvetøya is outside the Antarctic Treaty area but south of the Antarctic Convergence, and it lies within the CAMLR Convention area. Bouvetøya is therefore a part of the Antarctic ecosystem. Norwegian management of Bouvetøya can be an important factor in CCAMLR’s ecosystem management, and vice versa. Norway, for example, contributes monitoring data from Bouvetøya to CCAMLR’s ecosystem monitoring programme, CEMP (see Box 8.2). More detail about the Bouvetøya monitoring programme is provided in the white paper on Bouvetøya.

Because Bouvetøya lies within the CAMLR Convention area, there is a degree of overlap between the convention’s provisions and Norway’s management of marine living resources in the waters around Bouvetøya. The CAMLR Convention states in Article IV (2) (b) that nothing in the convention and no acts or activities taking place while the convention is in force shall be interpreted as a renunciation or diminution by any of the contracting parties of the rights that the coastal states possess under international law.

The CAMLR Convention came into being with the parties’ agreement on a final statement. In this statement, the chairman elucidated how the rights of the contracting parties are to be interpreted with respect to marine areas surrounding islands where the other contracting parties have recognised the sovereignty of pertinent parties. The final statement focuses materially on whatever conservation measures CCAMLR might adopt in the future. It asserts that it is up to the relevant coastal state itself to decide whether such measures shall also apply within the area of jurisdiction of the coastal state.

With regard to Bouvetøya, therefore, the introduction of any protective or other conservation measures would be a national matter.

The Government will:

  • Actively help to ensure that CCAMLR has a sound scientific basis for making decisions and developing its management regime for the Antarctic marine ecosystem.

  • Help to develop and improve efficiency in CCAMLR fisheries management by expanding the knowledge base for krill management.

  • Help to ensure that CCAMLR retains an ecosystem-based management approach in which conservation and rational use of marine living resources are viewed in relation to each other and properly balanced.

  • Improve research and monitoring of marine living resources by seeking to establish international five-year monitoring and research programmes for marine ecosystems in the CCAMLR area.

  • Work to see that CCAMLR creates a representative network of marine protected areas and other effective area-based management measures within the convention area.

  • Work to introduce a system in which a notification fee is charged to register vessels for fishing in the CCAMLR area.

8.4 Norwegian fisheries

Norway stands for responsible, sustainable and ecosystem-based management of marine resources in the Antarctic. Resource exploitation must be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. The intention is to manage the marine environment in such a way that ecosystem productivity remains unchanged or is strengthened. Norway is working to ensure that the international management of Antarctic marine resources facilitates a healthy balance between use and protection.

The interest in Antarctic fishing is primarily directed at krill and toothfish stocks. Today, Norway represents more than half of the krill fishery in the Antarctic, followed by South Korea and Japan. Norway plays a dominant role in the krill fishery, with three vessels accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total harvest. Norway also has one vessel that fishes for toothfish.

8.4.1 The krill fishery

In the 2013/2014 season, the Norwegian fleet (Aker BioMarine and Olympic Seafood) harvested about 160,000 tonnes of krill. This constitutes about 60 per cent of the total catch of krill in the convention area.

The two Norwegian krill-fishing companies are affiliated with the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK). This organisation, founded by the Norwegian companies, works to ensure that the industry itself takes responsibility for keeping fisheries sustainable by developing technology, strengthening CCAMLR’s krill-management database and making other contributions. The three Norwegian krill vessels always have an international observer on board to monitor the fishing and collect research data for CCAMLR; in this way they set a standard far above the CCAMLR’s requirement of 50percent observer coverage.

Figure 8.5 The krill vessel Saga Sea in action.

Figure 8.5 The krill vessel Saga Sea in action.

Photo: Bjørn Krafft, Institute of Marine Research.

The Norwegian companies have also contributed to CCAMLR’s data-acquisition efforts by making their vessels available for scientific surveys. The Institute of Marine Research and the fishing industry work together to produce estimates of the krill death rate during harvest. The industry funds a week of field research every year in CCAMLR Area 48.2 in cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research.

The Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund (AWR) was established in January 2015 by representatives of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), the Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF-Norway and Aker BioMarine. The Fund has a scientific advisory group composed of leading scientists in the field of Antarctic research, and its goal is to facilitate and promote research on the Antarctic ecosystem. The research is funded by donations from both commercial partners and individuals, and shows that both industry and private persons want to help preserve a living and sustainable ecosystem in the Southern Ocean by raising the level of scientific understanding.

Cooperation between the krill industry and the research community is an excellent example of how industry and resource managers can work together to improve the informationbase and monitoring systems for the benefit of krill stock management. This cooperation should be strengthened so that Norway can contribute even more to CCAMLR’s management of living resources in the Antarctic.

8.4.2 Toothfish

Many countries also fish for toothfish. Toothfish, unlike krill, are caught by vessels capable of operating in different fisheries in other areas for the rest of the year. Toothfish are fished at between 500 and 2,000 metres’ depth, and the fishery is a lucrative one.

Since the 2011/2012 season, a Norwegian shipping company, Ervik Havfiske, has assigned one vessel to the toothfish fishery in the CCAMLR area. Traditionally, according to notifications, the vessel has fished in areas 88.1–88.2. The same shipping company, using a different Norwegian vessel, took part in the fishery in the period 2003/2004–2006/2007.

8.4.3 Research

Research is important as a foundation for resource exploitation. Norwegian fishing of both krill and toothfish is based on sustainable marine management principles. Should there be a desire to exploit additional resources in the Antarctic, the need for scientific data would increase. Conducting research in the Antarctic is both challenging and cost-intensive because of the special weather conditions and enormous ocean areas.

The CCAMLR Scientific Committee is the key actor in developing research plans for the convention area, including research on krill. Norway makes a significant contribution to the work of the Committee. Given Norway’s role as an important fishing nation, there may be reason to consider increasing Norwegian involvement in the Committee’s various working groups.

In 2011 the Institute of Marine Research began a krill-monitoring programme in the South Orkney Islands. A commercial fishing vessel equipped with acoustic instruments operates there one week per year on a fixed course to assess the amount and composition of the krill stock. Its measurements are compared with the results of similar surveys conducted in other harvest areas by research groups in the UK and the United States. See chapter 6 for more detail on Norwegian research activity in the Antarctic.

The Government will:

  • Facilitate continued value creation through sustainable harvesting of krill and toothfish resources by the Norwegian fleet.

  • Work in CCAMLR for a general requirement that 100 per cent of vessels harvesting krill carry scientific observers.

  • Encourage private businesses to invest more in acquiring Antarctic knowledge and expertise, and to collaborate in international polar research. A good example is how the krill industry and the research community work together to improve scientific knowledge and monitoring systems with a view to sound krill management. This cooperation should be strengthened so that Norway can contribute even more effectively to CCAMLR’s management of marine living resources in the Antarctic.

Figure 8.6 The South Pole expedition undertaken by Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft in 2001 is an example of a privately planned Antarctic expedition.

Figure 8.6 The South Pole expedition undertaken by Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft in 2001 is an example of a privately planned Antarctic expedition.


8.5 Tourism in the Antarctic

8.5.1 Antarctic travel and tourism

The easiest way to reach the Antarctic is by sea, and at present there is very little air traffic to the continent for tourists. Figures from tour operators show that around 40,000 tourists now visit the Antarctic each year,2 and most of these are cruise tourists. By comparison, only about 7,000 tourists came to the Antarctic in the 1992/1993 season.3 The Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) is Norway’s administrative authority for environmental and safety regulations in the Antarctic, and processes reports and impact assessments submitted by private Norwegian expeditions and Norwegian-organised tourism bodies. Participants in activities that have been approved in Norway, or in another state that has comparable regulations and has ratified the Antarctic Treaty’s Environment Protocol, are not obliged to give notice under Norway’s Antarctic Regulations. On average in recent years, about two private expeditions per year have been approved. NPI has not issued a general prohibition against expeditions, but required that one expedition be postponed. See chapter 5.3 for a discussion of the regulations.

Textbox 8.3 International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)

IAATO is a membership organisation established in 1991 to promote and practice environmentally sound private-sector tourism to Antarctica. There are currently 116 IAATO members. The organisation’s members collaborate on developing, approving and implementing operational standards to counteract potential environmental impacts. Many guidelines have been put in place during the past 20 years. These have proven effective at reducing negative environmental effects and include, but are not restricted to, the following: Location-specific guidelines, criteria for site selection, number of passengers per guide, number of passengers ashore, guidelines for cleaning footwear, measures to prevent the spread of non-native species, wilderness etiquette, garbage-handling routines, navigation planning, communication procedures, emergency and evacuation procedures, reporting routines, guidelines for marine species, rules for station visits, etc.

Parties to the Antarctic Treaty have adopted a number of measures to ensure that tourism in the Antarctic is conducted in an environmentally friendly fashion. These include requirements for emergency preparedness and insurance, a limit on the number of passengers on cruises that offer shore visits, and coordination of landings by tour operators. Representatives to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) have adopted strict traffic guidelines for tourism, and ‘Visitor Site Guidelines’ have been issued for 36 locations. These guidelines state clearly where visitors are permitted to move about, how many passengers may go ashore at any given time, how long the visit may last, the required number of guides per passenger, the permissible size of ships putting tourists ashore and the number of ships allowed per day. Camping policies, recommended paths, prohibited areas and other matters have also been specified.

In addition, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has developed its own rules for ship tourism. The Organisation has also produced a certification scheme for guides and expedition leaders called the IAATO Field Staff Online Assessment, which applies to the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia.

Antarctic tour operators are eager to instil in visitors an increased awareness of environmental and safety concerns. Knowing more about the fragile Antarctic environment may cause tourists to take better care of it during their stays on the continent; environmental awareness may also enrich their experience.

Cruise tourism is the largest and most accessible form of tourism in the Antarctic. ‘Air & land’ tourism has grown in popularity, but this form of tourism still constitutes a small part of the whole.4 Antarctic tourism is generally divided into five travel types:5

  • Cruise with shore visit

  • Cruise without shore visit

  • Air & cruise, with shore visit

  • Air & land, the Antarctic interior

  • Overflight without landing

8.5.2 Cruise tourism

Over half of cruises to the Antarctic include disembarkation on the continent. The combination ‘air & cruise’ now accounts for a relatively small share, around five per cent of the total. Formerly there were two Norwegian cruise operators offering trips to the Antarctic. At present there is one Norwegian cruise operator in the Antarctic: Hurtigruten Group ASA, with its expedition ship MS Fram. The ship made 10 journeys in 2013/2014, and nine are planned for 2014/2015.

Figure 8.7 Norwegian tourism in the Antarctic: Hurtigruten (MS Nord-Norge) is the largest Norwegian actor.

Figure 8.7 Norwegian tourism in the Antarctic: Hurtigruten (MS Nord-Norge) is the largest Norwegian actor.

Photo: Øystein Overrein, Norwegian Polar Institute.

8.5.3 Sustainable tourism

Today the Antarctic is a relatively expensive niche destination that only a few experienced operators can offer. In all likelihood this will not change greatly in the near future. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware that demand will increase if it becomes easier to travel to, or around, the Antarctic. One of the challenges associated with increased tourism to the Antarctic is ensuring that human activities do not result in litter, pollution, landscape damage or importation of invasive species.

Future Antarctic tourism must take place within a sound framework of environmental and safety policies. What Norway has learned in Svalbard may be transferable to the Antarctic.

Today there is very little air traffic carrying tourists to the continent. Tourists and private expeditions bound for Dronning Maud Land normally fly via Novo Airbase using the services of The Antarctic Company (TAC). Norwegian expeditions also use this transport route. The airstrip at Norway’s Troll station is used only for research purposes, and lacks the capacity to accommodate tourists. The Troll station itself also prioritises research-related activities, and is not equipped for tourism. Several other countries have less restrictive policies with regard to visits by tourists at their Antarctic research stations.

8.6 Space activities

8.6.1 Satellites

Antarctica is ideally situated for the establishment of ground stations to serve satellites travelling in polar orbits. Downlink stations in Antarctica make it possible to receive data more frequently and thereby free up capacity on polar-orbiting satellites. Antarctica also has certain geographical advantages for space activities. The continent’s high open plateaus provide excellent line-of-sight communication with satellites and views of space for observatories. Moreover, interference from light, radio-frequency noise and other pollution is minimal compared with the inhabited parts of the world.

Several countries, including the United States, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea and South Africa conduct satellite-based activities and space-related research in Antarctica. Stations such as McMurdo (United States) and TrollSat are very important for retrieving data from weather and earth-observation satellites. Norway currently cooperates with a number of key actors, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Union (EU) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). Countries such as the United States, Germany, Japan, Russia and China engage extensively in space-related research activities in Antarctica.

Figure 8.8 The TrollSat satellite station near the Troll research station in Dronning Maud Land.

Figure 8.8 The TrollSat satellite station near the Troll research station in Dronning Maud Land.

Photo: KSAT.

Textbox 8.4 Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT)

Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) is the largest supplier in the world of services related to data downlinks and satellite operations in polar orbit. The company operates more than 40 antennas positioned around the world, including Svalbard (SvalSat) and Dronning Maud Land (TrollSat).

The company is half owned by Kongsberg Gruppen and half by Space Norway, which itself is owned by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. The company is headquartered in Tromsø, and has 135 employees. KSAT had sales of approximately NOK 500 million in 2014.

8.6.2 The TrollSat satellite station

The satellite station TrollSat is situated near the Troll research station in Dronning Maud Land. The state-owned company Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) owns and operates TrollSat, and is one of the world’s leading providers of downlink and control services for satellites in polar orbits. TrollSat is the largest station for receiving satellite information in Antarctica, and provides access to important data used in such fields as meteorology, environmental monitoring and navigation. TrollSat also has the capacity to deliver near-real-time services for Antarctic environmental monitoring – of oil spills and sea ice, for example, as well as for ship detection. Today, four antennas are available for data downlinks and three for transmitting satellite-based information back to users.

In addition to earth-observation antennas, TrollSat has a reference station for the civilian European navigation satellite system Galileo. Troll-Sat is a strategically important station for Galileo and ensures reliable navigation data in the Antarctic. TrollSat is remotely operated from Tromsø, but a local presence is needed to perform the necessary maintenance and operational tasks.

The Antarctic Treaty lays out certain broad frameworks for activity in the Antarctic, and these extend to space activity. TrollSat’s services are consistent with the scope of activity and duties outlined in the Antarctic Treaty. In contrast to similar activities at Svalbard, the satellite downlink services at Troll have not to date been the subject of special national regulations; see Norway’s regulations concerning the establishment, operation and use of satellite ground stations, which are primarily designed to safeguard ground-station activities at Svalbard. The ground-station regulations are being revised, and separate regulations for ground stations in Antarctica are currently being drafted.

8.6.3 Benefiting research, resource management and business

Satellites that move in polar orbits pass over the North Pole and the South Pole 14 times a day. They are used in large part for earth observation, meteorology and navigation. The satellites are especially useful in resource and environmental management and in weather forecasting services. Data received by TrollSat provide insight into weather, air quality, wind, waves, ocean salinity, air and water temperature and a variety of other types of information used in climate and environmental research. Weather forecasts in general, and extreme weather warnings in particular, rely on satellite-based observations.

It is helpful to place ground stations as far north and as far south as possible in order to downlink data as often as possible and maximise the efficiency of the station network. KSAT is the only company that can offer downlink services from both the Arctic (Svalbard) and Antarctica (Dronning Maud Land). By integrating the stations at Svalbard and Dronning Maud Land, meteorological data can be supplied every 50 minutes. This capability helps make weather forecasting more reliable. The Norwegian ground stations are critical to the provision of weather data. Both the American weather-forecasting agency NOAA and the European organisation EUMETSAT are dependent on these stations to provide their services. In addition, the Chinese meteorology organisation CMA is considering using TrollSat for data reception.

TrollSat’s downlink services are also of interest to commercial clients, and the station supplies environmental and weather data to several international customers. Orbital path monitoring and data downlinks are also necessary during satellite launches to ensure that events unfold as planned and to make corrections if necessary.

8.6.4 Future Norwegian space activities in Dronning Maud Land

Troll is a key site for different types of space weather observations. The term ‘space weather’ refers to short-term changes in space phenomena such as the solar wind, electromagnetic radiation and the interplanetary magnetic field that cause shifts in the earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere. Space weather can affect radio communications, navigation systems, electronic equipment and electrical systems, sometimes putting human life at risk. As a result of improved technology and expertise, the use of space weather observations is becoming operationally useful in communications and navigation. Regular observations from Antarctica will be important to obtaining a global picture. Other countries expect that Norway will assume its share of responsibility for this in the Antarctic. Magnetometers, aurora cameras and GPS and Galileo downlink receivers for ionospheric measurements will enable Troll to contribute to global space weather services in the future.

In a joint agreement on satellite navigation between Norway and the EU, which was signed in 2010, Norway committed itself to operating Galileo’s terrestrial infrastructure for at least 20 years. Three additional earth observation antennas are also planned to ensure continued service to the US and European weather services through 2042.

The Government will:

  • Facilitate continued Norwegian space activity in Antarctica in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty; see the white paper Meld. St. 32 (2012–2013) Between Heaven and Earth: Norwegian space policy for business and public benefit.

  • Facilitate expansion of TrollSat’s ground station services and data reception for international earth observation satellites, as a long-term contribution to international environmental and resource monitoring.

  • Potential establishment of new activities or infrastructure will conform to overall guidelines governing the infrastructure at Troll.

8.7 Shipping

8.7.1 Ship traffic in the Antarctic

Most ship traffic in the Antarctic is made up of cruise ships and fishing vessels, along with the supply ships that transport personnel and supplies to the research stations. From time to time, private pleasure craft also come to the Antarctic.

All tour operators active in the Antarctic with vessels exceeding 500 GT (apart from fishing vessels) are members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Currently, only one Norwegian-registered cruise vessel operates in the Antarctic: the Hurtigruten ship Fram (300 passengers). At present 31 commercial fishing vessels with a license to operate in the Antarctic are registered, and five of these are Norwegian. The vessels operating in the Antarctic are large oceangoing vessels with crews ranging from 22 to 136 persons.

The Antarctic is characterised by vast distances, extreme weather and periods of darkness and ice-covered water. Ships and crews at work in these areas face constant challenges.

8.7.2 Regulations

The greatest challenges in the Antarctic are cross-border ones that can only be handled through close international cooperation. The law of the sea, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, is the legal framework for all activities in marine areas. The law of the sea and other international rules as stipulated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), such as vessel standards and crew training apply to Antarctic shipping just as they do to shipping in other areas. But until now few laws and regulations have addressed the special conditions faced by ships in the polar areas. Norway, therefore, has pushed for the introduction of additional binding global rules for navigating in polar areas (the Polar Code) by the IMO. Norway has worked to develop a Polar Code with provisions ensuring that design and equipment are suitable for polar operations, and that environmental factors are properly considered.

In the Antarctic, the Polar Code’s geographical area of ​​application begins at 60° S latitude. Generally, the Polar Code will apply to both existing and new vessels covered by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The code contains a section on safety and another on the environment, and both sections include a binding portion and a portion containing guidelines and recommendations. For ships operating in these waters the Polar Code applies special standards with regard to construction, equipment, operations, marine environmental protection, navigation and crew competence.

One of the most important parts of the Polar Code is the Polar Certificate requirement for ships. This certificate will state the vessel’s limitations and list the conditions it is built for, including those related to ice. An operations manual containing detailed information and procedures is also to be produced. By and large, fishing vessels are not subject to the code’s safety requirements, but they must satisfy the environmental requirements of the code. Any expansion of the code’s safety provisions to include additional vessel categories, such as fishing and pleasure craft, will not begin until a Phase II. There is consensus in the IMO that a Phase II can begin at the earliest in the next two-year period (2016–18). The Polar Code enters into force on 1 January 2017.

The MARPOL convention established a number of particularly stringent requirements for shipping in the Antarctic. To prevent oil pollution there is a prohibition on carrying heavy oil, whether as fuel or cargo. There is also a total ban in the Antarctic on discharging oil, chemicals and garbage waste (except for ground-up food waste when the ship is at least 12 nautical miles from shore or fast ice).

8.7.3 Challenges

Safe maritime navigation in the Antarctic requires high-quality navigational charts and ice data. Ocean mapping in the Antarctic has been inadequate, but cruise ship operators have been charting the waters for several decades for their own use. The IAATO, in cooperation with Lindblad Expeditions and its Arctic partner, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), has found a method whereby cruise operators can share historical marine charting data from the Arctic and Antarctic. This initiative by participants from the industry represents a major step forward on safety. It increases safety for ships, crews and the passengers by reducing the risk of accidents. Accident prevention in turn reduces the risk of damage to the environment.

The Government will:

  • Help ensure that the IMO pays close attention to the Antarctic region’s special environment in future regulatory work related to Antarctic shipping.

8.8 Bioprospecting: Collection and use of genetic resources from the Antarctic

Many organisms in the Antarctic have special adaptations for the region’s extreme environment – its low temperature and dry climate, for example, and in some cases high saline levels. That makes Antarctic genetic resources potentially valuable in bioprospecting and in subsequent uses of the genetic material. Genetic material being collected in the Antarctic may have the potential for commercial exploitation today, and such activity is expected to increase in the coming years.

The line between research and bioprospecting is difficult to discern, and remains unresolved. The question of when research becomes a bioprospecting activity, and how that term should be defined, is highly topical in several international forums and processes. Within the Antarctic Treaty System there is no fixed definition of bioprospecting. At the national level, work is underway on regulations under the Nature Diversity Act and the Marine Resources Act to govern extraction and utilisation of genetic material.

Problems related to bioprospecting in the Antarctic have been discussed at several ATCM meetings. The parties are in agreement that issues involving the collection and use of genetic resources within the Antarctic Treaty area shall be handled within the Antarctic Treaty System.6 It is therefore Norway’s view, and that of the other parties to the Antarctic Treaty, that regulation of the Antarctic genetic resources shall not be dealt with in other international processes where international rules for the use of genetic resources are discussed.7

To help build consensus for improved assessment criteria with regard to bioprospecting activities in the Antarctic, the parties to the Antarctic Treaty agreed in 2013 to provide a report about bioprospecting to the ATCM. The parties also agreed there is a need to prepare proposals for mechanisms to improve the exchange of information about bioprospecting activities in the Antarctic, and to consider whether the organisation’s Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) can be expanded to meet this need.8

The provisions of the Antarctic Treaty system on such matters as research freedom, sharing of research results, regulations on the harvesting of living resources and environmental protection bear importantly on bioprospecting in the Antarctic. Access to biological material is regulated, for example, by the Antarctic Treaty’s Environment Protocol, which contains provisions that protect flora and fauna and require environmental impact assessments for all planned activities in the Antarctic. The CAMLR Convention, too, regulates access to biological material through its measures protecting marine living resources.

International forums such as the UN General Assembly and forums associated with the Convention on Biological Diversity (Nagoya Protocol) discuss issues related to fair access to and benefit sharing from commercial exploitation of genetic material. Consideration has been given to whether benefits from the commercial exploitation of genetic resources in areas under national jurisdiction should be subject to some form of financial compensation obligation. In areas beyond national jurisdiction, the problem is whether and how to introduce a benefit-sharing mechanism by which developing countries receive a portion of the benefits from commercial exploitation of genetic resources.

Increasing commercial interest in Antarctic research raises several issues involving resource ownership and use, and about fair distribution of the benefits from exploiting genetic resources. With regard to non-commercial research a balance exists, consistent with the Antarctic Treaty, between research freedom and the exchange of research results. But in commercial research, it may be necessary to keep research results secret and protect patents related to discoveries and methods. This issue must be considered in relation to Article III (1) (c) of the Antarctic Treaty, where it is stated that, to the extent feasible and practical,9 scientific observations and findings from the Antarctic shall be exchanged and made freely available.

Under international law the right to regulate the extraction of genetic resources and set conditions for such extraction in areas under national jurisdiction, including possible benefit-sharing mechanisms, is a matter of national sovereignty and sovereign rights. The Government believes that bioprospecting regulations should be developed for the Antarctic under the auspices of the Antarctic Treaty System.

For Norway it is important that regulations on bioprospecting in the Antarctic respect the Antarctic Treaty system and encourage research collaboration and appropriate forms of knowledge-sharing; they should also safeguard the environment and ensure that governments possess the necessary degree of control. At the same time, rules must be considered for benefit sharing from the commercial use of genetic resources. This matter must be considered in conjunction with the need to promote research and facilitate commercial exploitation of the resources. Norway has opposed proposals to adopt a, principle of free access to Antarctic genetic resources without any provisions on benefit-sharing. In the Norwegian view, access to the benefits and benefit sharing are two sides of the same coin, and must therefore be regulated at the same time.

Resistance from certain countries will make it challenging to develop a regulatory framework for bioprospecting in Antarctica. At this stage, emphasis should be placed on implementing the 2013 resolution on reporting and exchanging information in order to gain an overview of the extent of this type of activity. Emphasis should also be placed on implementing the special obligations set out in the Antarctic Treaty.

The Norwegian authorities would like to know more about the extent of Norwegian research on genetic resources in the Antarctic. Until now, no specific national reporting procedures have been instituted for Norwegian bioprospecting in the region. Relevant activities are subject to reporting obligations under Norway’s Antarctic regulations, as detailed in chapter 5.3 of this white paper. These reporting obligations do not necessarily cover what the collected biological material is to be used for, but the purpose of the collection must be given. If bioprospecting is not the most important or only purpose for the gathering of material, or if bioprospecting does not become relevant until afterwards, the initial reporting or notification will not indicate that the gathered material is to be used for such a purpose. It is possible, nevertheless, to request such information when processing activity notifications and applications for the collection or harvesting, and later, upon receipt of the final report. The final report is to be submitted immediately after the activity or collection of material is completed. Bioprospecting may often occur after the conclusion of a research project whose original purpose was different – that is to say, a research project whose main purpose was not bioprospecting. Several years may pass from the time biological samples are gathered for specific research objectives until other studies are made, using residual material, that could be described as bioprospecting. Such studies or findings, moreover, may be the work of actors completely different from those who originally gathered the biological samples. Accordingly, the regulations relating to environmental protection and safety in the Antarctic are not formulated so as to obtain information on all bioprospecting of material from the Antarctic. The need for special bioprospecting rules is assessed regularly in light of developments.

The Government will:

  • Work for the development, under the Antarctic Treaty System, of regulations on the collection and use of genetic resources with a view to facilitating extraction and utilisation of genetic material within an environmentally defensible framework.

  • Work to ensure that an effective reporting system is established for increased information exchange on this type of Antarctic activity within ATCM and CCAMLR.

  • Encourage Norwegian actors to report on this type of activity in the Antarctic so that Norway will be able to contribute knowledge and exchange information in the ATCM and CCAMLR.



CBD (2010) Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Convention on Biological Diversity: Accessed 23 February 2015.


Source: IAATO Antarctica Tourism Fact Sheet 2014–2015.


Source: IAATO Antarctica Tourism statistics: Tourist landings in Antarctica – Trends 1992–2009,


According to the IAATO, about 300-400 tourists make such trips each year. Source: IAATO Antarctica Tourism Fact Sheet 2014–2015.


Source: IAATO Antarctica Tourism Fact Sheet 2014–2015,


See Resolution 7 (2005), Resolution 9 (2009) and Resolution 6 (2013).


Work on international rules for the use of genetic resources takes place in connection with the FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, the Convention on Biological Diversity (Nagoya Protocol) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.


See Resolution 6 (2013).


See Norwegian translation of Article III.

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