The extension of the marine part of the nature reserve to the exclusive economic zones was made possible thanks to the ecoregionalization work carried out by scientists under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) since 2010, and the French law of August 8, 2016 for the recovery of biodiversity, nature and landscapes that allows the creation of nature reserves beyond territorial waters and within the limit of 200 nautical miles. This extension, aimed at covering all the functional areas essential to maintaining high concentrations and a large diversity of species in the French Southern Lands, had been made public in advance outside the 21st Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) by Mrs. Royal, then Minister in charge of Ecology, end of 2015.
France has shown its commitment to preserving biological diversity by signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992. This signature proves France’s ambition to take all the necessary measures, on a national scale, to contribute to the safeguarding of its biological heritage.
On September 21, 1994, following on from the CBD, Michel Barnier, then Minister of the Environment, affirmed at the end of the Council of Ministers that the protection of the environment in the French Overseas Departments and Territories was the government’s priority. He declared that the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF) were a true “showcase of France in the southern hemisphere” and added that France “must carry out an exemplary environmental policy”.
In December 1996, the French inter-ministerial Committee for the Polar Environment (CEP) recommended a nature reserve should be created in the French Southern Lands.
The national nature reserve (NNR) of the French Southern Lands was finally established by decree n. 2006-1211 of October 3, 2006 . As its name suggests, the nature reserve encompasses all the terrestrial parts of the French sub-antarctic islands (the archipelago of Crozet, the Kerguelen islands, and the islands of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam), which cover approximately 7,700 km², as well as 15,700 km² of maritime domain, which makes it the largest French nature reserve.
Thanks to the inter-ministerial decree n. 2016-1700 of December 12, 2016 that extends and modifies the regulations of the French Southern Lands NNR, the surface of the nature reserve is now of 672,969 km². The French Southern Lands NNR has thus become one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.
In addition, in 2017, the TAAF adopted a decree establishing a buffer zone around the nature reserve (prefectural decree (2017-28 ), which extends the governance and environmental regulations of the NNR to all the exclusive economic zones of the French Southern Lands, i.e. to over 1.66 million km².
The French Southern Lands are also classified under the Ramsar Convention since 2008, which shows the international importance of their wetlands.
Creation of the nature reserve: October 3, 2006 (decree n°2006-1211)
Extension of the nature reserve: December 12, 2016 (decree n°2016-1700)
Legal framework: decree n°2006-1211 amended by decree n°2016-1700
Geographic position: Southern Ocean
Total surface of the nature reserve: 672,969 km², including 7,700 km² on land
Protected surface: 1,662,766 km² (decree n°2017-28 establishing a buffer zone around the nature reserve)
Population: no permanent inhabitants, but approximately 150 people per year on the bases (e.g. technical, scientific, military and nature reserve staff)