The Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) is a part of East Antarctica administered by the Australian Antarctic Division, an agency of the federal Department of the Environment and Energy. The territory's history dates to a claim on Enderby Land made by the United Kingdom in 1841, which was subsequently expanded and eventually transferred to Australia in 1933. It is the largest territory of Antarctica claimed by any nation by area. In 1961, the Antarctic Treaty came into force. Article 4 deals with territorial claims, and although it does not renounce or diminish any preexisting claims to sovereignty, it also does not prejudice the position of Contracting Parties in their recognition or non-recognition of territorial sovereignty. As a result, only four other countries—New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, and Norway—recognise Australia's claim to sovereignty in Antarctica.
AAT consists of all the islands and territory south of 60°S and between 45°E and 160°E, except for Adélie Land (136°E to 142°E), which divides the territory into Western AAT (the larger portion) and Eastern AAT. It is bounded by Queen Maud Land in the West and by Ross Dependency in the East. The area is estimated at 5,896,500 km2, which is more than half the size of Australia itself.
The territory is mostly inhabited by the staff of research stations. The Australian Antarctic Division administers the area primarily by maintaining three year-round stations—Mawson, Davis, and Casey—which support various research projects.
Exclusive economic zone
Australia claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from the Australian Antarctic Territory. However, the Australian proclamation of an Antarctic EEZ is contested. The effect of Article IV of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty (which prohibits new territorial claims or the extension of existing claims in the Antarctic) would seem to be that an EEZ cannot be claimed in relation to territory to which that Treaty applies (south of 60° South). The provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) define the exclusive economic zone of a coastal state as up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured.
Whaling in Australian Antarctic territorial waters is controversial and has received international attention. Anti-whaling protest groups, in particular Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, have been active within the Australian Antarctic territorial waters. Sea Shepherd small boat crews have had multiple encounters with Japanese ships that claim to be on research expeditions while opponents argue this is only a "cover" for banned commercial whaling. The Australian Whale Sanctuary, in Australian Antarctic territory, is not recognised by the government of Japan. Anti-whaling legislation passed by the Australian Government applies to Australian territorial waters. However, Australia's claims of sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory—and thus sovereignty over Australian Antarctic territorial waters—are recognised by only the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France and Norway.
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