The French Southern and Antarctic Lands is an overseas territory of France. It consists of:
Kerguelen Islands (Archipel des Kerguelen), a group of volcanic islands in the southern Indian Ocean, southeast of Africa, approximately equidistant between Africa, Antarctica and Australia;
St. Paul and Amsterdam islands (Îles Saint Paul et Amsterdam), a group to the north of Kerguelen;
Crozet Islands (Îles Crozet), a group in the southern Indian Ocean, south of Madagascar;
Adélie Land (Terre Adélie), the French claim on the continent of Antarctica;
Scattered Islands (Îles Éparses), a dispersed group of islands around the coast of Madagascar.
The territory is sometimes referred to as the French Southern Lands (French: Terres australes françaises) or French Southern Territories, usually to emphasize non-recognition of French sovereignty over Adélie Land as part of the Antarctic Treaty system.
Approximately 150 (in the winter) to 310 (in the summer) persons live in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands but they are only military personnel, officials, scientific researchers and support staff. The territory has legally no permanent civilian population.
On July 5, 2019, the French Austral Lands and Seas were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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 Cécile Pozzo di Borgo, with headquarters in Saint-Pierre on Réunion Island.
The territory is divided into five districts.
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.
The territory includes Amsterdam Island, Saint-Paul Island, 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.
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.