2019 IAATO Antarctic Fellows Announced

The recipients of this year's IAATO Antarctic Fellowships
The recipients of this year's IAATO Antarctic Fellowships

By The Maritime Executive 08-01-2019 10:20:03

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, have announced the recipients of this year's IAATO Antarctic Fellowships, funded by IAATO.

The fellowships are an investment in the professional development of talented early career researchers and aim to further the understanding of human presence in Antarctica. The two fellows chosen were Martina Mascioni from the University of La Plata, Argentina, and Daniela Cajiao Vargas from the Autonomous University of Madrid. The fellowships will enable both recipients, who are working towards their PhDs, to join a project team at a research institute in another Antarctic Treaty country. 

Mascioni will analyze phytoplankton samples collected from IAATO vessels since 2017 by a citizen science project called FjordPhyto. Cajiao’s research explores how visiting Antarctica affects one’s experience and understanding of the region. Her answers will inform responsible tourism management, strengthen educational experiences and contribute to policy discussions. 

Both researchers demonstrated a deep understanding of IAATO’s work and how their research will further its mission to practice safe, environmentally responsible private-sector Antarctic travel. 

In June, the IAATO welcomed new members and associate members: Cookson Adventures, Princess Cruises, Albatros Expeditions, Caissa Tourism Group, Damen Shipyards, Lamei Tours China, Mystic Cruises, Pelorus and Pro Fuels. These newest affiliates bring IAATO’s membership to 116; comprising 48 operators, five provisional operators and 63 associate members. 

All new provisional operators are required to carry an IAATO observer during their first season of operations in the Antarctic to witness their operations in practice and offer feedback to ensure they meet IAATO’s operational guidelines. At this year’s annual meeting, members also approved a mandatory observation scheme for all IAATO operators.

IAATO has long taken a proactive role in managing pressure on the Antarctic environment so that visitors have no more than a minor or transitory impact. Part of this work involves the annual launch of the IAATO Ship Scheduler, a database which has used IAATO and Antarctic Treaty System requirements to set limits on time, number of passengers allowed, and number of daily visits to visitor sites around the Antarctic coast for almost two decades.

The redevelopment of the scheduler joins a host of responsible tourism measures introduced by IAATO during its annual meeting, including a unanimous vote to impose mandatory measures to prevent whale strikes in cetacean-rich Antarctic waters, more stringent restrictions on the commercial use of remotely piloted aircraft systems, robust adjustments to visitor guidelines for activities on the Antarctic peninsula; a new code of conduct for vessel operators; implementing a mandatory observer scheme; support for the development of Marine Protected Areas; and approval to expand research into the health of penguin populations at visitor sites. 

IAATO and its counterpart in the northern hemisphere, the Association for Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, introduced guidelines that will arm visitors to the polar regions with responsible solutions for reducing their waste and plastic footprint.