The introduction of non-native species to Antarctica in association with human activities is a major threat to indigenous biodiversity and the region’s unique ecosystems, as has been well-demonstrated in other ecosystems globally. Existing legislation contained in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty does not specifically make the eradication of non-native species mandatory, although it is implicit that human-assisted introductions should not take place. Furthermore, to date, eradications of non-native species in the Treaty area have been infrequent and slow to progress. In 2005 an additional Annex (VI) to the Protocol was agreed concerning “Liability arising from environmental emergencies.” This annex focusses on prevention of environmental emergencies, contingency planning and reclaiming costs incurred when responding to an environmental emergency caused by another operator within the Antarctic Treaty area. However, the types of environmental emergencies covered by the annex are not defined. In this paper we highlight potential difficulties with the application of Annex VI in the context of non-native species control and eradication, including, for example, whether a non-native species introduction would be classified as an “environmental emergency” and therefore be considered under the terms of the annex. Even if this were the case, we conclude that the slow pace of approval of the annex by Antarctic Treaty Parties may prevent it coming into force for many years and, once in force, in its current form it is unlikely to be useful for reclaiming costs associated with the eradication or management of a non-native species.

Keywords: Liability Annex; non-native species; Environmental Protocol; Antarctic Treaty area; eradication; environmental emergency

(Published: 12 May 2014)

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Citation: Polar Research 2014, 33, 22103, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v33.22103

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