The Restricted Zone comprises those areas with environmental values that are highly sensitive to the potential impacts of human activities for which it is particularly desirable to conserve existing minimal levels of human disturbance, or where other concerns such as visitor safety are paramount. Entry and access to such areas will therefore be restricted and tightly controlled.
Azorella Peninsula, to the north of the Atlas Cove Main Use Zone and Visitor Access Zone, is a particularly sensitive area containing lava tubes and sinkholes, the entrance to some of which are highly unstable and erodible. The roofs of some of the very shallow tubes are also thin and susceptible to collapse.
As well as the safety and conservation issues relating to these volcanic features, the cushion plants and other vegetation on the Peninsula are vulnerable to human impact, and significant numbers of both South Georgian diving petrels and Antarctic prions also nest in the vegetated and non-vegetated parts of the Peninsula respectively.
While significant stands of cushion plants, some lava tubes and burrowing bird colonies are found elsewhere on Heard Island, the close proximity of Azorella Peninsula to Atlas Cove, the main area of historic and continuing human activity on the Island, and the difficulty of avoiding significant impacts from a low level of visitation necessitate the imposition of strict restrictions on access to the Peninsula.
The McDonald Island group and other small offshore rocks and shoals have been infrequently, if ever, visited and warrant the highest level of protection to maintain their undisturbed state.
The Restricted Zone comprises the whole of Sail Rock, Shag Rock and Drury Rock, all of the McDonald Islands and the area north of the southernmost extent of the vegetation or the lava flow on Azorella Peninsula (the northern boundaries of the Atlas Cove MUZ and the Atlas Cove VAZ) (view map).