Saturday, April 18, 2009

New limits to Antarctic tourism

WASHINGTON - US PROPOSALS for binding restrictions on Antarctic tourism have been adopted by countries with ties to the region, in a bid to protect the continent's fragile ecosystem, officials said on Friday.

Signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, launched in Washington 50 years ago, capped 11 days of talks in Baltimore, Maryland by agreeing to impose mandatory limits on the size of cruise ships landing in Antarctica and how many passengers they can bring ashore.

Another resolution placed a mandatory shipping code on vessels in Antarctica, boosting shipping safety efforts underway at the International Maritime Organization, while a third enhanced environmental protection for the entire Antarctic ecosystem.

'We are happy with the results,' said Mr Evan Bloom, who led the US delegation at the summit, noting that the measures were largely in line with needs emphasised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Although the measures were adopted by consensus without opposition, they were all subject to negotiation and will become legally binding once ratified by each of the 28 countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty, he told reporters in a teleconference.

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