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Sunset at Cape Hallett
Photo Credit: Ken Ryan
Sunset at Cape Hallett. The environmental management plan for Cape Hallett, along with five other areas of special interest, are being updated and tightened. The Antarctic Treaty nations will review the management plans this year at their annual meeting, to be held in June in Kiev, Ukraine.

Six ASPA sites for review

Six of the 13 Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs) that the U.S. Antarctic Program oversees will be reviewed by fellow Antarctic Treaty nations in 2008.

Any area, including any marine area, may be designated as an ASPA to protect outstanding environmental, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness values, any combination of those values, or ongoing or planned scientific research.

Currently, there are 67 ASPAs recognized under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. Those sponsored by the USAP and under review this year include the following sites. (See Map Link to Image File to locate the ASPA sites around Ross Island and the Dry Valleys.)

  • ASPA 106 Cape Hallett, Victoria Land: Designated on the grounds that Cape Hallett includes a small area of particularly rich and diverse vegetation that supports a variety of terrestrial fauna and birds.
  • ASPA 121 Cape Royds, Ross Island: Designated on the grounds that the area supports the most southerly Adélie penguin colony known, the viability of which is marginal. The population declined rapidly from 1956 to 1963 from human visitors until the United States and New Zealand agreed to restrict activities.
  • ASPA 123 Barwick and Balham Valleys, Victoria Land: Designated on the grounds that Barwick Valley is one of the least disturbed and contaminated of the dry valleys of Victoria Land, which are environmentally unique and possess extreme polar desert ecosystems.
  • ASPA 124 Cape Crozier, Ross Island: Designated on the grounds that the emperor and Adélie penguin colonies found at the site are the subject of long-term studies of population dynamics and social behavior, and the location is relatively accessible by air from nearby research stations.
  • ASPA 137 Northwest White Island, McMurdo Sound: Designated on the grounds that the site supports a small population of Weddell seals that is physically isolated from the rest of mainland Antarctica by an ice shelf. It is one of the very few areas where Weddell seals feed under an ice shelf. It is also one of the most southerly Weddell seal populations that scientists study year-round.
  • ASPA 138 Linnaeus Terrace, Asgard Range, Victoria Land: Designated on the grounds that Linnaeus Terrace is one of the richest localities for the unique cryptoendolithic communities that colonize the Beacon Sandstone.

Information and map from the Antarctic Protected Areas Information Archive, which the Committee for Environmental Protection maintains.