Perimeter and protection statuses

Location of the nature reserve in the Indian Ocean

The French Southern Lands are made up of the districts of Crozet (46° 25′ S, 51° 45′ E), Kerguelen (49° S, 70° E), and Saint-Paul and Amsterdam (37° 50′ S, 77° 30′ E). The islands and their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are the southern subdivision of the TAAF in which the national nature reserve of the French Southern Lands is located.

The French Southern Lands are located in the southern Indian Ocean, between the 37th and 54th parallels south. They spread out from the subtropical area (Saint-Paul and Amsterdam islands) to the subantarctic area (Crozet archipelago and Kerguelen Islands), which is, in France, the largest latitudinal gradient belonging to the same territory.

The French Southern Lands are oceanic islands of volcanic origin, which means they have never been in contact with any continent. They are among the most isolated islands in the world. Reunion island, which is located more than 12,000 km away from metropolitan France, is the closest French territory to the French Southern Lands: Crozet is 2,860 km away, Kerguelen is 3,490 km away, and Saint Paul and Amsterdam are 2,880 km away. This extreme isolation explains the islands’ late discovery, and has largely contributed to their ecological preservation.

Protection statuses

In order to better take into account the different conservation stakes within the nature reserve and to clearly distinguish the areas where certain human activities are authorized and those where they are not, four levels of protection have been set up by amended decree n. 2006-1211 of October 3, 2006 concerning the creation, extension and amendment of the regulations of the national nature reserve of the French Southern Lands:

  • Terrestrial and marine general protection zone: covers all terrestrial and marine classified sites that are not subject to stricter provisions.
  • Scientific and technical research zone: these areas were defined by the territorial decree n. 14 of July 30, 1985 and included in the amendment of decree n. 2006-1211. Both decrees set general prescriptions and a series of prohibited activities, which are defined in time and space, relating to areas of the terrestrial part of the nature reserve that are reserved for research and management programs. Access to this type of site is subject to the authorization of the Prefect and high commissioner of the TAAF, whose decision is based on a request file presenting the reasons for the request, the operations that will be led on the site, and the duration and frequency of intrusions.
  • Strict terrestrial protection zone: all human access and activities are forbidden except for cases of force majeure or to exercise sovereignty. Nevertheless, article 21 of Chapter IV of amended decree n. 2006-1211 provides that derogations may be granted by the State representative, based on a request file specifying the reasons for the request for access and the intended activities.
  • Strict marine protection zone: all discharges of pollutants are forbidden, including organic and fish waste (article 36, chapter VI of amended decree n. 2006-1211), as well as all industrial and commercial activities, with the exception of 1) activities directly related to the management, discovery and animation of the nature reserve and 2) activities carried out for security purposes that may be authorized by the Prefect by derogation, after advice from the scientific council of the nature reserve (article 35, Chapter VI of amended decree n. 2006-1211).

A buffer zone around the French Southern Lands NNR completes these different levels of protection. This buffer zone was adopted by a prefectural decree of the TAAF on March 31, 2017 following the request of the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Royal. It covers all the EEZs of Crozet, Kerguelen and Saint-Paul and Amsterdam. The total protected area, i.e. ​​the nature reserve and the buffer zone, covers ​​1,662,766 km2, which is nearly 15% of the French maritime area. Since then, the provisions of chapter II of amended decree n. 2006-1211 apply to all the EEZs of the French Southern Lands, as well as articles 23, 24, 26, 27 and 31 of chapter V and article 38 of chapter VII. The establishment of this buffer zone contributes to support the development and implementation of a concerted strategy for the creation of a network of marine protected areas in the CCAMLR area.


Total surface of the nature reserve: 672,969 km² of which 7,668 km² on land and 665,301 km² at sea.

Perimeter and protection statuses of RNN