70. Memorandum for the Record of a Meeting Between the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs (Irving) and Council on Environmental Quality Representatives1 2


  • Antarctic Policy Group (APG): October 20 Meeting Between Ambassador Irving and CEQ Representatives

Summary Report

Dr. Lee Talbot, Assistant to the Chairman for International and Scientific Affairs, Council on Environmental Quality, an ad hoc member of the APG, described history of interagency relations on Antarctic mineral resource issues, i.e., State, CEQ, EPA, NSF, DOD on the one hand, and Treasury, Commerce, Interior and FEA on the other, as a “mexican standoff”. The latter agencies have consistently tried to keep the option open for a unilateral approach to mineral exploration and exploitation in Antarctica while the former agencies have sought an international approach, such being the only means to preserve the Antarctic Treaty. Policy directives, such as NSDM 263, leave much room for maneuver. Talbot asserted that lack of leadership in State has contributed to the interagency difficulties and inability to formulate a concise policy, and has eroded our position among the Treaty parties, whose suspicions have been aroused that we are planning unilateral exploitation. Furthermore, the USG is losing its credibility with the U.S. public, which is becoming increasingly interested in Antarctic questions, particularly environmental issues.

With respect to Antarctic marine living resources, Talbot said the problem is more acute than the mineral problem because exploitation of krill is already underway. Dr. Bertrand spoke of the probable existence of vast quantities of krill, whose annual yield is conservatively estimated to be equal to the world wide annual catches of all fish, both salt and fresh water. Technology [Page 2] is quickly developing to catch and processing krill. For example, a Polish research expedition last year caught 32 tons in 8 minutes. FAO estimates that systematic exploitation is only 2–5 years away. The Antarctic Treaty is silent on resource matters. In this connection, Australia and New Zealand informally circulated at the June 1976 Special Preparatory Meeting a draft convention on marine living resource management. The ICSU Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is also focusing on marine living resource issues.

CEQ representatives made the following recommendations:

Although eventually mineral and marine living resource questions may be resolved in concert, at the moment the two issues should be dealt with separately.
State should set up a separate, high-level interagency group, similar to that handling mineral resource discussions, to deal with marine living resource questions.
A U.S. position on Antarctic marine living resources should be rapidly developed, both in general terms and in response to the Australian and New Zealand draft convention.
State should review composition of U.S. delegations to Antarctic meetings with respect to the formula for representation of various interests and in light of current concerns. Delegations should be formed earlier than heretofore, and leadership should be at a high enough level to reflect a broad policy overview.
The requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act should be borne in mind as we proceed with international discussions of Antarctic resources.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, L/OES Files: Lot 93 D 558, Antarctica USG 1976. Confidential. Drafted by Sellin. The attached list of attendees has not been published.
  2. CEQ representatives registered concern about the potential negative environmental impact of unregulated Antarctic marine living resource exploitation.