British antarctic territory
The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) comprises that sector of the Antarctic south of latitude 60°S and bounded by longitudes 20°W and 80°W. It is the UK’s largest Overseas Territory covering around 1,700,000 sq km, but it has no permanent population.
The UK has the longest established claim to territory in the Antarctic with letters patent having been issued in 1908. Territorial sovereignty in Antarctica is however held in abeyance by the Antarctic Treaty 1959, which provides an internationally agreed regime for the governance of the continent.
For just over 50 years now, the Antarctic Treaty has preserved Antarctica for peace and science and is arguably one of the world’s most successful international agreements.
The Government of the Territory takes pride in ensuring that the historic leadership shown by the UK in early Antarctic exploration and scientific endeavour is matched today by rigorous and effective governance and international engagement across the whole range of Antarctic issues.
In 1989 responsibility for administering the Territory was assumed by a Commissioner appointed by the Foreign Secretary. Previously it was a British Dependent Territory administered by the Falklands Islands (1962 – 1989) and a Dependency of the Falkland Islands (1908 – 1962).
The Commissioner appoints such officers as the Chief Justice and Senior Magistrate, as required. He has powers to make laws, subject to certain conditions, and the BAT has a suite of its own laws, together with both judicial and postal administrations.
Legislation enacted by the Territory is in line with, and implements, international regulations under the Antarctic Treaty System (i.e. the Antarctic Treaty and its Environmental Protocol, and the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), as well as other relevant international instruments.
Antarctic Treaty Parties have recently agreed a new Annex to the Treaty’s Protocol on Environmental Protection, which requires Antarctic operators to take all necessary remedial steps in the event of an environmental emergency.
The UK is keen to be among the first to ratify the Annex, and is preparing a new Antarctic Bill that will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows, both in recognition of the environmental importance of the Territory and as part of our continuing leading role in the Antarctic Treaty System.
The Territory is self-financing; generating revenue primarily from the sale of stamps and coins and income tax from overwintering British Antarctic Survey scientists and others. The majority of British Antarctic Territory revenue is reinvested in projects which support the BAT strategy – focusing on protecting the environment, conserving British heritage and education and outreach.
Environmental protection is an integral part of the Territory’s strategy and amongst its highest priorities: the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming, and therefore most rapidly changing, places on the planet. They are working to develop a better understanding of the Territory’s environment and to develop and implement the best Antarctic environmental practices.
In addition, they are enhancing their expertise on tourism management and minimising human impact, along with identifying and developing protection and conservation measures for flora and fauna across the Territory.
They are also proactively managing key Protected Areas in the Territory, identifying future environmental challenges (including climate change), and developing mitigation measures.
> Number of visitors - 26,000 (2010/11)
> Indigenous human population - 0
> Number of penguins - 20 million pairs (estimate)
> Administration centre London (largest British science base in the Territory is Rothera Research Station)
> Government Website - http://britishantarcticterritory.fco.gov.uk/en/