Law enforcement in Antarctica is complicated by uncertainties regarding sovereignty and jurisdiction. In line with the usual practice of the Antarctic Treaty parties, Australia has generally refrained from enforcing its legislation for the Australian Antarctic Territory against foreigners. Recent litigation that attempts to enforce Australian whale protection laws against Japanese whalers in Antarctica represents a challenge to this traditional approach. The HSI Litigation highlights the ongoing difficulties faced by Australia in trying to effectively manage the Australian Antarctic Territory within the constraints of the Antarctic Treaty System. Using fisheries regulation and continental shelf delimitation as comparative examples, this commentary highlights the challenges of law enforcement facing the Antarctic legal regime, and the implications for Australian Antarctic law and policy. The traditionally restrained approach to law enforcement in Antarctica has allowed the Antarctic Treaty System to flourish and develop into a dynamic. and arguably quite effective, regime for the environmental protection of Antarctica. This is despite the fundamental disagreements between states over questions of territorial sovereignty. It seems likely that continuation of the HSI Litigation will provoke an international response from Japan, and potentially have further repercussions for the Antarctic Treaty System.
ANZSRC / FoR Code