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Research fellowship, science support, Antarctic Ambassadors program in IAATO's scope

(Photo: Lauren Farmer, G Adventures/IAATO)
'The unique qualities of Antarctica require stringent safeguards,' IAATO chairman Terry Shaller said
Developing an Antarctic research fellowship, strengthening support for science projects and a new Antarctic Ambassadors program were some key initiatives decided at the 27th annual meeting of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

Ponant's Terry Shaller re-elected

The IAATO meeting also re-elected Terry Shaller of Ponant as chair of the executive committee, welcomed Hurtigruten's Jørn Henriksen onto the committee for the first time and voted in new members.

This year’s gathering had a strong focus on managing for growth, resulting in members adopting procedures and practices to improve vessel scheduling in the Antarctic Peninsula, strengthen the IAATO membership application process and improve pre-departure information so travelers are more keenly aware of their individual responsibilities before embarking on their journeys.

Members voted in new and revised Antarctic Treaty System guidelines to continue best practice for safe and responsible travel, including enhanced engagement with regulatory bodies and strengthened environmental and safety standards.

Policy for raising concerns about sub-par practices

A new ‘Care and Concern’ policy was adopted that will allow field staff and visitors to raise concerns about any practices they feel fall short of IAATO standards.

Members voted to continue the ban on the recreational use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in the wildlife-rich coastal areas of Antarctica. The ban will be reviewed annually to allow for potential technological advances and further developments within the regulatory community.

Members agreed to develop an Antarctic fellowship for early-career researchers in collaboration with the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. The fellowship will support shared goals by COMNAP and IAATO to promote best practice and strengthen international capacity and cooperation in the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty.

IAATO plans to strengthen support of science projects, particularly citizen science which encourages participation by Antarctic travelers. Such projects contribute to Antarctic research and create ambassadors for Antarctica’s protection.

Dedicated website, reward and recognition for Antarctic Ambassadors

A five-year plan for Antarctic Ambassadors involves an education and outreach program encouraging visitors to be responsible travelers and promote conservation of the region when they return home. The plan includes a dedicated website, reward and recognition program and educational resources for operators.

The association welcomed new associate members Global Marine Networks, Columbia Cruise Services, EYOS Tenders, Tong Sheng International and Alibaba. Noble Caledonia moved from provisional operator to operator status.

More than 140 people attended the annual meeting, held in Newport, Rhode Island. They included representatives of member companies and invited stakeholders such as governments, environmental and scientific organizations and charitable trusts.

'The unique qualities of Antarctica require stringent safeguards. Building on the policies and processes that keep these safeguards in place formed much of IAATO 2018’s agenda,' Shaller said.

Self-regulation, collaboration for responsible visitor management

'Our proven success in responsible visitor management is the result of self-regulation and close collaboration,' he continued. 'IAATO’s industry pioneers set aside competition in the interests of delivering ethical travel with the protection of the white continent at its heart. Our mission goes hand-in-hand with providing an extraordinary educational and wilderness experience for guests.'

IAATO executive director Damon Stanwell-Smith said there was much to cover in the three-day meeting but a 'commitment to providing safe and responsible private-sector Antarctic and sub-Antarctic travel while delivering an enriching experience for visitors shone out, and we are well prepared to tackle the challenges that may lie ahead.'

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