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Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46) UPSC NOTE


  • The 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46), that was held in Kochi, last month, highlighted the ongoing debate on Antarctic tourism.

  • Since the early 1990s, Antarctic tourism has witnessed a dramatic surge in tourist numbers, which have exploded from a few thousand to 1,18,089 tourists in 2023-2024. 

  • The United States and China account for more than 40% of tourists to the Antarctic

  • This growth is attributed to increased global interest in adventure travel and a desire to experience Antarctica’s unique landscapes and wildlife

  • Tourists typically embark on multi-day expeditions on small to medium-sized ships, with some opting for larger cruises or fly-sail operations. 

  • Activities range from wildlife observation and photography to mountain climbing and skiing.


  • Antarctic tourism offers educational and economic benefits but also raises significant environmental concerns. 

  • Increased human presence disrupts wildlife, damages fragile ecosystems, and risks introducing invasive species

  • Ship traffic pollutes pristine waters, and tourism adds to the global carbon footprint

  • Climate change exacerbates these issues by opening new areas for tourism while increasing ecosystem vulnerability

Challenges of regulating tourism

  • The current governance framework for Antarctic tourism is fragmented and lacks clear regulations

  • The Antarctic Treaty, that came into force in 1961, prioritises peaceful use and scientific research. 

  • While the Madrid Protocol offers broad environmental guidelines, it lacks specific tourism regulations

  • The responsibility for day-to-day management falls largely on the  International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a self-regulatory industry body 

  • Many believe IAATO’s guidelines are inadequate to address the growing environmental pressures.

  • Despite recognising the need for a comprehensive tourism regulatory framework, the ATCM-46 failed to reach a consensus

  • Unanimous agreement from all consultative parties is required for decisions, often slowing action and allowing national interests to impede progress. 

  • While some countries push for strong regulations, others prioritise economic benefits or interpret Antarctic principles differently

  • The current geopolitical climate further complicates international cooperation on Antarctic governance.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46) UPSC NOTE
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM-46) UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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