Nature conservation and Antarctic diplomacy, 1959–1964

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The Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (AMCAFF), passed in 1964, was an early major achievement of the Antarctic Treaty parties. These measures, the first within the Treaty regime to control human actions, were intended to conserve Antarctic fauna and flora by protecting certain species and areas and proscribing certain human activities and actions. This article is about the scientific impetus for nature conservation in the Antarctic and the diplomatic negotiations carried out in response. It argues that the Agreed Measures came about because the conservation challenge posed by scientists to the new Treaty parties allowed for an opportunistic and advantageous embellishment and expansion of the young Treaty regime. This article considers the challenge set down by biological scientists working within the newly created Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, led especially by the Australian scientist Robert Carrick. It goes on to unpack the minimally drawn and conceived conservation and environmental aspects of the Treaty, to appreciate the diplomatic challenge of negotiating conservation measures. It then gives an account of AMCAFF’s negotiation. This article contributes to the developing historiography of the Treaty era by drawing attention to the ways in which the Treaty was enacted, argued and talked about after 1959.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-353
Number of pages19
JournalThe Polar Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Antarctica
  • Antarctic Treaty
  • Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (AMCAFF)
  • conservation
  • Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
  • biological sciences


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