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Environmental Work

Permits for stays in Antarctica

Sweden has passed a law to protect and conserve the environment in Antarctica, and to ensure compliance with the international regulations. The Swedish law requires that any Swede who stays or engages in activity there must obtain a permit.

The permit process is intended to ensure that all planned activities are vetted, and that the necessary steps are taken to protect the environment. The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat is the agency that issues such permits to Swedish citizens, pursuant to the Swedish Antarctic Act (2006:924).

A special place

Antarctica is a large continent, with an area of 14 million km², although only 2% of its surface is ice-free. These ice-free areas are where most of the flora and fauna are found, and also where most of the research stations have been established.

Research constitutes the most widespread human activity in Antarctica, but people other than researchers are increasingly becoming interested in seeing and experiencing this special place. Some 40,000 tourists are estimated to visit Antarctica each season, many of them visiting the relatively accessible Antarctic Peninsula.

Travelling to Antarctica?

Be sure to apply for a permit to visit well in advance. Each application must include a description of the anticipated environmental impact of your stay. If you are travelling with a Swedish tour group or as part of a Swedish research project, it is up to the tour or project leader to prepare an environmental consequences report. Special rules apply if you are travelling alone or with a foreign tour operator, or as part of a foreign research project.

Information regarding permit applications is available from the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.

Permits are also required to arrange trips to Antarctica or engage in other activities there. The bigger the event or activity, the earlier the application and description of the environmental consequences must be submitted to the Secretariat. Contact the environmental coordinator at the Polar Research Secretariat well in advance to apply; applications should be submitted no later than the May prior to the upcoming southern summer.

Important rules for visitors

Visitors to Antarctica must behave in such a way that the flora and fauna are not destroyed or damaged, and in such a way that Antarctica’s distinctive character as an untouched continent is not threatened.

Examples of important rules for visitors:

Protection of flora and fauna

  • Collecting plants and animals is prohibited, as is destroying or harming plants and animals.
  • It is prohibited to feed, touch or handle birds and seals, or to approach them or photograph them in such a way that they alter their behaviour. Special precautions must be observed during breeding, nesting and moulting seasons.
  • Do not harm plants by, for instance, walking, driving or landing on moss beds or lichen-covered ground.
  • Living plants and animals cannot be brought into Antarctica.
  • Exemptions from these rules can be granted only by special permission in connection with, for instance, research in which the relevant studies cannot be carried out in any other way.

Preserve Antarctica’s distinctive character

  • Do not take souvenirs in the form of geological or biological material such as stones, bones, eggs, fossils or parts of buildings.
  • Do not litter the land or ocean. The burning of litter is prohibited.
  • Do not pollute the seas, lakes or watercourses.
  • Respect protected areas, and do not disturb scientific research.