French Southern and Antarctic Lands

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Antarctica

Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF)
Official TAAF flag TAAF coat of arms
Official flag Coat of arms
Official language French
Prefect Michel Champon
Internet TLD .tf

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), are:

  1. volcanic islands in the southern Indian Ocean, south of Africa, approximately equidistant between Africa, Antarctica and Australia
  2. Adélie Land. French sovereignty exercises over this part of the Antarctica continent according to the Antarctic Treaty System.

These lands are not the same as France Antarctique, a former French colony in Brazil.


TAAF Administrator's flag
TAAF Administrator's flag

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 Michel Champon, with headquarters in Saint-Pierre on Réunion Island.

The territory is divided into four districts:

Nr. District Capital Population(1) Area
1 Îles Saint Paul et Amsterdam Martin-de-Viviès 29 61 502533
2 Archipel Crozet Alfred Faure 18 505 567475
3 Archipel des Kerguelen Port-aux-Français 90 7215 563869
4 Terre Adélie(2) Dumont d'Urville Station 33 432000 -
  TAAF Martin-de-Viviès 170 439781 1633877
5 Îles Éparses(3) Europa? 56 38,6 593276

(1)estimated staff of research stations during the Antarctic winter
(2)Most other countries do not recognize the French claim to Adélie Land.
(3)There have been plans since 2005 to include these islands as fifth district, but no decision has been reached. The prefect of the TAAF has already been put in charge of those islands. 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
Map of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands

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, totaling 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 kilometers of coastline have no ports or harbors, 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 totaling (in 1999) 2,892,911 GRT / 5,165,713 DWT, including seven bulk carriers, five cargo ships, ten chemical tankers, nine container ships, six liquified 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 ( RIF : Registre International Français).


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 licenses 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 territory's data code is FS and its ISO 3166-1 country code (top level Internet domain) is TF.

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