Weeding out vectors of non-native species: Biosecurity in the Antarctic
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Laws
Globally, invasive non-native species introduced by human vectors are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss and the damage to the functioning of global ecosystems is arguably irreversible. Antarctica is the only continent to remain relatively unaffected but the warming climate and changing patterns of human use are eroding the natural biogeographical and climactic barriers that have isolated Antarctic species and ecosystems in their natural evolution. Biosecurity is the exclusion, eradication or effective management of risks posed by NNS to the environment and broad obligations exist at the global level to engage in biosecurity measures to protect biological diversity. Although the issue has been significant attention in the context of the Antarctic Treaty System, including a permit based regulatory system for the intentional introduction of non-native species, there is no clear strategic focus on mitigating against unintentional introductions. Moreover, as only half of the tourist and fisheries operators are flagged to States outside the ATS, significant risks remain outside the ambit of the regional management organisation. The thesis evaluates the extent regional and international legal regulations address non-native species issues in the Antarctic through a vector based approach that focuses on the three main pathways of potential introduction; National Antarctic programs, tourist operators and fishing vessels. The research shows there are gaps and inconsistencies in all the levels of response and a lack of strategic planning mechanisms and compliance processes that limit the individual efforts of States to address the issue. The obligations found in the Antarctic Treaty System create specific obligations to take into account the indirect environmental effects of Antarctic activity and addressing non-native species has been prioritised within some of the relevant institutions but there remain systematic issues that cannot be resolved without fundamentally altering the environmental management of the area. The thesis proposes the development of a strategic biosecurity response within the Antarctic Treaty System that integrates the lessons learned at the domestic and global level. Although developing a unitary framework should be a priority, States should work incrementally to develop mechanisms based on risk assessment and analysis with an end goal of binding measures under the Antarctic Treaty System. An institution that binds the disparate approaches of States operating in the area with a mandate to strategically integrate comprehensive preventative, surveillance and response measures into Antarctic and relevant international management processes is essential. More fundamentally the thesis argues that strategic area based planning, reporting and inspection processes are necessary to address the cumulative impacts of Antarctic actor’s activities and ensure all actors within the Antarctic area comply with biosecurity objectives.