French Southern and Antarctic Lands

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands[6] (French: Terres australes et antarctiques françaises, TAAF) is an Overseas Territory (French: Territoire d'outre-mer or TOM) of France. It consists of:

  1. Adélie Land (Terre Adélie), the French claim on the continent of Antarctica.
  2. Crozet Islands (Îles Crozet), a group in the southern Indian Ocean, south of Madagascar.
  3. Kerguelen Islands (Archipel des Kerguelen), a group of volcanic islands in the southern Indian Ocean, southeast of Africa.
  4. Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands (Îles Saint Paul et Amsterdam), a group to the north of the Kerguelen Islands.
  5. The Scattered Islands (Îles Éparses), a dispersed group of islands around the coast of Madagascar.
French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (French)


Coat of arms
"Liberté, égalité, fraternité" (French) (English: "Liberty, equality, fraternity")
Anthem: La Marseillaise
("The Marseillaise")
Location of French Southern and Antarctic Lands (circled in red)

in the Indian Ocean (light blue)

Sovereign state France
Territorial status6 August 1955[1]
CapitalSaint Pierre, Réunion
(headquarters, not geographically assigned)
43°00′S 67°00′E[2]
Largest settlementPort-aux-Français
Official languagesFrench
Emmanuel Macron
 Prefect, Administrator Superior
Florence Jeanblanc-Risler
 Secretary General
Thierry Dousset[3]
LegislatureAdvisory Council of the TAAF
439,666.4 km2 (169,756.1 sq mi)
Officially 200~400 permanent scientists and military personnel[4]
No permanent population[5]
CurrencyEuro (€) (EUR)
Time zone
Driving sideright
ISO 3166 code

The territory is sometimes referred to as the French Southern Lands (French: Terres australes françaises) or the French Southern Territories,[7] usually to emphasize non-recognition of French sovereignty over Adélie Land as part of the Antarctic Treaty System.[5]

The entire territory has no permanently settled inhabitants. Approximately 150 (in the winter) to 310 (in the summer) people are usually present in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands at any time, but they are mainly made up of military personnel, officials, scientific researchers and support staff.[8]

On July 5, 2019, the Crozet, Kerguelen, and Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the "French Austral Lands and Seas" because of their pristine wilderness, biodiversity, and enormous bird colonies.[9]


Several of the islands within this territory were originally discovered as part of the sea route to India. The Portuguese discovered Île Saint-Paul in the sixteenth century; in the seventeenth century, the Dutch became the first to land on (and name) Île Amsterdam. The French discovered the Crozet Islands some time later, in the eighteenth century; the other islands were also first explored by Europeans in this time frame.


The French Southern and Antarctic Lands have formed a territoire d'outre-mer (an overseas territory) of France since 1955. Formerly, they were administered from Paris by an administrateur supérieur assisted by a secretary-general; since December 2004, however, their administrator has been a préfet, currently Charles Giusti,[10] with headquarters in Saint Pierre on Réunion Island.

The TAAF administration, the French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor (IPEV) and the French Navy jointly operate the icebreaker Astrolabe which is based out of Reunion. The vessel is used both to bring personnel and supplies to the Dumont d'Urville Station and for research and patrol duties. [11]

The territory is divided into five districts:

District Administrative centre Population AreaEEZ
WinterSummer (km2)
Adélie Land Dumont d'Urville Station 30110432,000
Crozet Islands Alfred Faure 2545352567,475
Kerguelen Islands Port-aux-Français 701107,215563,869
Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands Martin-de-Viviès 254561502,533
Scattered Islandsa Saint Pierreb, Réunion 565638.4640,400
TAAF Saint Pierrec, Réunion 206366439,666.42,274,277

a According to new law 2007-224 of February 21, 2007, the Scattered Islands constitute the TAAF's fifth district.[12] The TAAF website does not mention their population. The data are not included in the totals.
b The Îles Éparses principal station is on Tromelin Island. The headquarters of the district chief lies beyond the TAAF, in Saint Pierre on Réunion Island.
c The Territory's principal station is Martin-de-Viviès on Amsterdam Island. The capital and headquarters of the territorial administrator lies beyond the TAAF, in Saint Pierre on Réunion Island.

Each district is headed by a district chief, who has powers similar to those of a French mayor (including recording births and deaths and being an officer of judicial police).

Because there is no permanent population, there is no elected assembly, nor does the territory send representatives to the national parliament.


Map of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
Adélie Land (in Antarctica) and Banc du Geyser and Bassas da India (in the Îles Éparses district) are not shown.
Kerguelen cabbages on Île Mayès, Kerguelen

The territory includes Amsterdam Island, Saint Paul Island, the Crozet Islands, and the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean near 43°S, 67°E, along with Adélie Land, the sector of Antarctica claimed by France, named by the French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville after his wife.

Adélie Land (about 432,000 km2 or 167,000 sq mi) and the islands, totaling 7,781 km2 (3,004 sq mi), have no indigenous inhabitants, though in 1997 there were about 100 researchers whose numbers varied from winter (July) to summer (January).

Amsterdam Island and Saint Paul Island are extinct volcanoes and have been delineated as the Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands ecoregion. The highest point in the territory is Mont Ross on Kerguelen Island at 1,850 m (6,070 ft). There are very few airstrips on the islands, only existing on islands with weather stations, and the 1,232 km (766 mi) of coastline have no ports or harbors, only offshore anchorages.

Volcan du Diable on Grande Terre, Kerguelen

The islands in the Indian Ocean are supplied by the special ship Marion Dufresne sailing out of Le Port in Réunion Island. Terre Adélie is supplied by L'Astrolabe sailing out of Hobart in Tasmania.

However, the territory has a merchant marine fleet totaling (in 1999) 2,892,911 GRT/5,165,713 tonnes deadweight (DWT), including seven bulk carriers, five cargo ships, ten chemical tankers, nine container ships, six liquefied gas carriers, 24 petroleum tankers, one refrigerated cargo ship, and ten roll-on-roll-off (RORO) carriers. This fleet is maintained as a subset of the French register that allows French-owned ships to operate under more liberal taxation and manning regulations than permissible under the main French register. This register, however, is to vanish, replaced by the International French Register (Registre International Français, RIF).

Flora and fauna

Official nameFrench Austral Lands and Seas
CriteriaNatural: (vii), (ix), (x)
Designated2019 (43rd session)
Reference no.1603
RegionWestern Europe
Official nameRéserve Naturelle Nationale des Terres Australes Francaises
Designated15 September 2008
Reference no.1837[13]

Due to their isolation, the French islands in the southern Indian Ocean comprise one of the last remaining large wilderness areas on Earth.[14] Furthermore, the islands are positioned along the Antarctic Convergence, where upwelling creates nutrient-rich waters.[15] As a result, birds and marine mammals gather on the islands in great abundance. More than 50 million birds of 47 species breed on the islands, including more than half the breeding population of 16 different species.[14] The largest populations of king penguins and the endangered Indian yellow-nosed albatross on Earth are found on the Crozet Islands and Amsterdam Island, respectively.[15] Other threatened bird species with important populations on the islands include Eaton's pintail, MacGillivray's prion, and the Amsterdam albatross, which is one of four bird species endemic to the island group.[15] The French Southern Lands also hold the second largest population of southern elephant seals on Earth, numbering roughly 200,000, and the third largest population of the Antarctic fur seal.

Because of their isolation and subpolar location, the French Southern Lands are relatively depauperate of vegetation, which both Saint-Paul and Crozet having no native tree or shrub species.[16] However, eight of the 36 higher plant species are endemic.[17] Some species of endemic invertebrates have also been recorded on the islands, including moths and flies which have lost their wings in the absence of predators.[15]


A proportional representation of French Southern and Antarctic Lands exports, 2019

The territory's natural resources are limited to fish and crustaceans. Economic activity is limited to servicing meteorological and geophysical research stations and French and other fishing fleets.

The main fish resources are Patagonian toothfish and spiny lobster. Both are poached by foreign fleets; because of this, the French Navy, and occasionally other services, patrol the zone and arrest poaching vessels. Such arrests can result in heavy fines and/or the seizure of the ship.

France previously sold licenses to foreign fisheries to fish the Patagonian toothfish; because of overfishing, it is now restricted to a small number of fisheries from Réunion Island.

The territory takes in revenues of about 16 million a year.


The French Southern Territories (i.e. the TAAF excluding Adélie Land) have been given the following country codes: FS (FIPS) and TF (ISO 3166-1 alpha-2).

See also


  1. Government of the French Republic (6 August 1955). "Loi n° 55-1052 du 6 août 1955 conférant l'autonomie administrative et financière aux Terres australes et antarctiques françaises". (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  2. French Southern and Antarctic Lands in (cc-by)
  3. Government of the French Republic (6 March 2020). "Arrêté du 6 mars 2020 portant nomination du secrétaire général des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises". (in French). Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  4. TAAF Collectivity. "Présentation des territoires". (in French). Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  5. "Antarctica :: French Southern and Antarctic Lands". CIA. 20 May 2020. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  6. "List of countries, territories and currencies". Interinstitutional style guide. Publications Office. 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
  7. "French Southern Territories". ISO. 26 November 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  8. "The TAAF do not have any permanent population." "The French Southern and Antarctic Lands". French Southern and Antarctic Lands administration. Archived from the original on 26 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  9. "Five sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List". UNESCO. 5 July 2019.
  10. Government of the French Republic (16 September 2020). "Décret du 16 septembre 2020 portant nomination du préfet, administrateur supérieur des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises - M. GIUSTI (Charles)". (in French). Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  11. French Navy receives icebreaker and patrol vessel L'Astrolabe. Naval Today, 13 July 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  12. "Les îles Éparses". Archived from the original on May 2, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. "Réserve Naturelle Nationale des Terres Australes Francaises". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  14. "French Austral Lands and Seas". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 22 Jan 2022.
  15. French Austral Lands and Seas (Report). IUCN. April 2019. Retrieved 22 Jan 2022.
  16. Larrue, Sébastien; Chadeyron, Julien; Faucon, Frédéric (19 January 2018). "Quelles origines à l'asylvatisme des îles volcaniques australes Crozet et Saint-Paul (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises, océan Indien) ?". Cybergeo. doi:10.4000/cybergeo.28917.
  17. Timaná, Martín E.; Lebouvier, Marc; Rouhan, Germinal (11 February 2019). "Sagina hookeri Timaná, sp. nov. (Caryophyllaceae), a new endemic species for the flora of Île Amsterdam (French Southern and Antarctic Lands)". Adansonia. 41 (1): 17. doi:10.5252/adansonia2019v41a2. S2CID 91871485.
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