April 18, 2009

Limits set on Antarctic tourism

Nations with ties to Antarctica have agreed to limit tourism, say scientists and diplomats working together to protect the fragile ecosystem.

The restrictions would require member countries of the Antarctic Treaty to prevent ships with more than 500 passengers from landing in Antarctica and to allow a maximum of 100 passengers on shore at any given time, the BBC reported Saturday.

The agreement was reached Friday at the 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Baltimore, where nearly 400 people are to meet during the next two weeks to discuss environmental protection and scientific research on the continent, The Sun newspaper in Baltimore reported.

The agreed tourism limit won't become binding until ratified by each of the 28 nations that signed the initial Antarctic Treaty 50 years ago.

Visits to Antarctica, primarily from cruise ships, rose from 6,700 in 1992-93 to more than 45,000 last year, the BBC reported.