The French Southern and Antarctic Territories are formed by the Crozet archipelago, the Kerguelen Islands, the Saint Paul Islands and Amsterdam, the Adelie land and the Scattered Islands (since the law of 21 February 2007). The latter bring together the tropical islands of the Glorious Archipelago, Juan de Nova, Europa and Bassas da India in the Mozambique Channel, and Tromelin north of Reunion.

All these lands provide France with a Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) more than 2,200,000 km² rich in marine resources, which helps to give France the second maritime hold in the world after that of the United States.

Without permanent population or elected representatives, the French Southern and Antarctic Territories are placed under the authority of a High Commissioner, and have three main missions :

  • Protection of the environment through the management of two national nature reserves : these areas, far from the centres of human activity, are home to some of the highest concentrations and diversity of birds and marine mammals in the world;
  • Support for scientific research, highly developed in these "open-air laboratories", especially for the study of biodiversity and the effects of climate change;
  • sovereignty by maintaining a permanent French presence to support previous missions.

The multiplicity of these missions, the remoteness of the territories and the need to maintain scientific activities in extreme and isolated environments require the implementation of a complex logistical chain, provided mainly by the Marion Dufresne and the Astrolabe, an ice-breaking polar patrol vessel.

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