Checked content

French Southern and Antarctic Lands

Related subjects: Antarctica

Did you know...

SOS Children, an education charity, organised this selection. SOS Children is the world's largest charity giving orphaned and abandoned children the chance of family life.

Territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Territoire des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises  (TAAF)
Coat of arms of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Motto: " Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité"
Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge
Capital Port-aux-Français
Official languages French
 -  Prefect Éric Pilloton
Territoire d'outre-mer
 -  Date 1955 
 -  Total 439,781 km2 
169,800 sq mi 
 -  estimate 140 hab.
Internet TLD .tf
Flag of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands: see CIA World Factbook

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands (French: Terres australes et antarctiques françaises, abbreviated TAAF), full name Territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (French: Territoire des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises), consist of:

  1. a group of volcanic islands in the southern Indian Ocean, southeast of Africa, approximately equidistant between Africa, Antarctica and Australia;
  2. Adélie Land, the French claim on the Antarctica continent under the Antarctic Treaty System;
  3. the Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean.

The territory is also often called the French Southern Territories (French: Terres australes françaises), which excludes Adélie Land where French sovereignty is not recognized internationally. The lands are not connected to France Antarctique, a former French colony in Brazil.


Flag of the préfet and administrateur supérieur

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 Éric Pilloton, with headquarters in Saint-Pierre on Réunion Island.
The territory is divided into five districts:

District Capital Winter Population Summer Population Area
Îles Saint Paul et Amsterdam Martin-de-Viviès 25 45 61 502533
Archipel Crozet Alfred Faure 25 45 352 567475
Archipel des Kerguelen Port-aux-Français 70 110 7215 563869
Terre Adélie Dumont d'Urville Station 30 110 432000 -
Îles Éparses(1) - 56 56 38,6 593276
TAAF Saint-Pierre 150 310 439781 2274277

(1)According to new law 2007-224 of February 21, 2007 Scattered Islands constitute the 5th district of TAAF . The website of the TAAF do not mention their population. The data are not included in the totals.

Each district is headed by a district chief, which 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 or Bassas da India (in the Îles Éparses district) are not shown

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

The "Adélie Land" of about 432,000 km² and the islands, totalling 7781 km², have no indigenous inhabitants, though in 1997 there were about 100 researchers whose numbers varied from winter (July) to summer (January).

Île Amsterdam and Île Saint-Paul are extinct volcanoes; the highest point in the territory is Mont Ross on Îles Kerguelen at 1850 meters. There are no airstrips on the islands and the 1232 kilometres of coastline have no ports or harbours, only offshore anchorages.

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 Astrolabe sailing out of Hobart in Tasmania.

However, the territory has a merchant marine fleet totalling (in 1999) 2,892,911 GRT /5,165,713 metric tons 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).


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 used to sell licences to fish the Patagonian toothfish to foreign fisheries; because of overfishing, it is now restricted to a small number of fisheries from Réunion Island.

The territory takes in revenues of about $18 million a year.

Marion Dufresne can host a limited number of fee-paying tourists, who will be able to visit the islands as the ship calls.


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

Retrieved from ""