The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) held its 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) as a virtual, online meeting through a series of sessions that concluded with the Business (plenary) Session on UTC 27 July 12:30.
Two hundred and sixty-six representatives from thirty-six COMNAP Member and Observer organisations, and four invited stakeholder organisations, registered for the various sessions of the online AGM. The AGM Business (plenary) Session considered Canada’s application for COMNAP Membership. After discussion, the national Antarctic program of Canada, as represented by lead agency Polar Knowledge Canada, was accepted by consensus as a COMNAP Member. The AGM recognised the excellent internationally collaborative, long- running, Arctic & Antarctic research programme being facilitated through Polar Knowledge Canada, including through their world-class Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus. Many COMNAP Members noted the collaborations already in place with Canadian researchers and the possibilities of leveraging those collaborations through COMNAP. We are delighted to welcome Polar Knowledge Canada as the thirty-second COMNAP Member program.
During Regional Breakout Group Sessions, national Antarctic programs exchanged pre-season information for Antarctic research season 2022/2023 with most confirming intentions to return to pre-pandemic levels of science and science support activity. Large-scale projects related to modernisation of infrastructure that will improve environmental performance of aging facilities will continue. Route-proved land traverse operations in support of deep field science programmes, including those related to recovery of ancient ice cores, are planned. Several programs highlighted advanced capabilities related to new icebreaker class research vessels that dramatically increase marine research possibilities. The AGM acknowledged the outstanding work and commitment of all persons who contribute to the implementation of their countries’ Antarctic strategies, especially those who deploy to Antarctica, recognising that each persons’ contribution matters and is fundamental to our collective success.
For the 2022/2023 Antarctic season, it was noted that the extraordinary challenges are still many. The continuing global COVID-19 pandemic requires programs to be prepared and to be agile to implement protocols to keep expeditioners safe and healthy. Those protocols are informed by members of the Joint Expert Group on Human Biology & Medicine and through the COMNAP COVID-19 ad hoc Subcommittee. Global supply chains continue to be impacted and the rising cost of fuel equates to a rising cost of Antarctic research. The six Regional Breakout Group Sessions: Peninsula, Ross Sea, East Antarctica, Larsemann Hills Management Group, Dronning Maud Land, and the High Plateau, discussed these issues and looked at ways of addressing these challenges collaboratively. Through collaboration in Antarctica, national Antarctic programs are actively supporting and coordinating international efforts to provide globally important data from all Antarctic regions from terrestrial, marine and atmospheric environments.
COMNAP Member programs freely exchanged and further developed their expertise during seven topical Expert Group Forums. The topics of safety, air operations, marine platforms, environmental protection, critical technologies, education & outreach, science facilitation, training, diversity & inclusivity, and human biology & medicine, are but a few of the areas of expertise of the national Antarctic programs. Air safety advice was provided to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) XLIV by way of a COMNAP Working Paper based on outcomes from the COMNAP Antarctic Aviation Workshop 2022, with the ATCM welcoming that advice and incorporating it into ATCM Resolution 3 (2022) Air Safety in Antarctica. COMNAP Members endorsed a draft policy entitled “Welcoming the Power of Diversity within our Membership” with a commitment to contribute to positive change and ensure everyone who works in Antarctica feels safe, respected and welcomed. Advancements were made on the Efficiency Task Force Project and on the Earthquake, Tsunami and Volcanic Events Awareness Project.
COMNAP Chair, Antonio Quesada, Executive Director of the Spanish Polar Committee, advanced the business of the AGM and continues in his term of office. The five COMNAP Vice Chairs, Charlton Clark (Australian Antarctic Division), Gen Hashida (Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research), Pavel Kapler (Czech Antarctic Research Programme), Dragomir Mateev (Bulgarian Antarctic Institute), and Patricia Ortúzar (National Antarctic Directorate Argentina) all continue in their terms. Michelle Rogan-Finnemore (Executive Secretary) continues in her appointed role. Together, they compose a strong COMNAP Executive Committee with depth and breadth of Antarctic knowledge.
COMNAP signalled it would convene the 5th Antarctic Search & Rescue (SAR) Workshop in 2023 alongside the COMNAP AGM 2023. Both events will be hosted by the Australian Antarctic Division and will be held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, with dates to be confirmed.