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French Southern and Antarctic Lands (Overseas Territory, France)

Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF)

Last modified: 2012-06-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: antarctica | france | terres australes et antarctiques francaises | kerguelen | taaf | stars: 5 (white) | stars: 3 (white) | anchor (white) | fishery inspection | letters: taaf (white) |
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[Flag of France] [Flag of TAAF]
Flag of France - Image by Željko Heimer, 22 September 2001 Flag of TAAF - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 25 November 2007

See also:

Presentation of TAAF

Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF) are a French oversea territory with administrative and financial autonomy, as prescribed by the Law of 6 August 1955.
The territory is composed of five districts:
- Kerguelen Islands (7,215 sq. km), with a permanent base (Port-aux-Français, 68 inhabitants)
- Crozet Archipelago (115 sq. km), with a permanent base (Alfred Faure on Ile de la Possession, 29 inhabitants)
- Amsterdam Island (or New Amsterdam, 54 sq. km), with a permanent base (Martin-de-Viviès, 29 inhabitants) and Saint-Paul Island (uninhabited, 7 sq. km)
- Adelie Land (Terre Adélie, 432,000 sq. km) in Antarctica, which is supposed to have 32 inhabitants in 1994 (most probably to maintain claims on Antarctica despite the Treaty on Antarctica, signed by France, which does not recognize any territorial claim beneath the Southern Polar Circle.)
- Outlying Islands of the Indian Ocean (Îles Éparses de l'océan Indien.

The first four districts (Kerguelen, Crozet, Amsterdam and Adelie) were prescribed by the Territorial Decree of 20 October 1956.
The fifth district (&Icir;les Éparses de l'océan Indien) was prescribed by Decree 2007-18 bis of 23 February 2007, published in the TAAF official gazette #33 on 15 March 2007, "creating the district of Outlying Islands of the Indian Ocean. Beforehand, these islands have been placed under the direct authority of the Ministery of the Overseas (Ministère de l'Outremer) since 1 April 1960. Since the Decree of 19 September 1960, the Outlying Islands were administrated by the Prefet of Reunion. A Decree signed on 3 January 2005 transferred the administration of the Outlying Islands to the Prefet, Senior Administrator of TAAF.
The Outlying Islands are made of four islands located in the Mozambique Channel (Bassas da India, Europa, Juan de Nova, Glorieuses), and Tromelin, isolated in the north of Reunion.
Bassas da India is an emerging, circular madreporic atoll, with an area lower than 1 sq. km. At high tide, Bassas de India is nearly completely submerged.
Europa is the biggest of the Outlying Islands (30 sq. km). From 1905 to 1910, two families from Reunion settled there and attempte to grow sisal and collect turtle shells. However, agriculture proved to be impossible on the island because of the huge number of rodents. A meteorological station was set up on Europa in 1949.
On Juan de Nova (5 sq. km), guano is harvested there since the XIXth century. The guano workers maintain a meteorological station.
Glorieuses Archipelago (7 sq. km) is made of Grande Glorieuse and Ile du Lys, as well as of the islets of Roches Vertes and Ile aux Crabes. A coconut plantation was grown on Grande Glorieuse from 1912 to 1958. A meteorological station was set up on Grande Glorieuse in 1960; the aims of the station are the prediction of cyclones hitting the north of Madagascar and the Comoros and assistance to maritime and aerial navigation.
Tromelin (1 sq. km) is completely isolated and scoured by the trade winds; landing is extremely difficult and agriculture is impossible because of the wind and the lack of water. A meteorological station was set up on Tromelin in 1954 upon request of the World Meteorological Organization; most cyclones threatening Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius scour Tromelin.

The Outlying Islands are nature reserves and their access is strictly restricted. Since 1973, detachments from the French Armed Forces in the South Zone of Indian Ocean are stationed on Grande Glorieuse, Juan de Nova and Europa. All the islands but Bassas da India are inhabited by meteorologists, a gendarme (except Tromelin) and scientists doing short-time missions.
Tromelin was recently claimed by Mauritius. Following the Convention on Maritime Rights adopted in 1982, with effect in 1994, the Mauritian Parliament recently extended Mauritius' territorial waters to 350 nautic miles, encompassing Diego Garcia (Britain), Coetivy (Seychelles), Saya Malha (Maldives) and Tromelin (France). In late February 2005, Brigitte Girardin, the French Minister of Overseas, "visited" Tromelin, Europa and Juan de Nova; her visit was of course more political than touristic. Madagascar and the Comoros also claim the Outlying Islands of the Mozambique Channel.

Ivan Sache, 2 May 2008

Flag of TAAF

The flag of TAAF was officially adopted on 23 February 2007 by Decree 2007-18, published in the TAAF official gazette #33 on 15 March 2007, "relative to the officialization of the emblem of TAAF".

Art. 1er :
Les Terres australes et antarctiques françaises se dotent d'un emblème dont la description figure ci-après
Art. 2. :
En forme de pavillon de navire, cet emblème est "d'azur aux quatre lettres T, A, A, F, entremêlées, accompagnées en pointe de cinq étoiles, le tout d'argent, et au franc-canton en pal azur argent gueules".

The flag (without any prescribed proportions, therefore, by default 2:3) is blue with the interlaced letters "T", "A", "A" and "F" and five stars under, all white, and the national flag in canton.
The original text is quite odd, saying "emblem" and neither "flag" or "ensign", while TAAF has already an emblem, the coat of arms. The use of "emblem" might be linked to the wording of the French Constitution, saying about the flag, "the national emblem", that is the only official emblem of the French Republic.
The description of the flag is also odd: "the emblem has the shape of a ship ensign" is meaningless. Why don't say "the emblem is a flag / an ensign"?. The heraldical terms "azure" and "argent" are used instead of "blue" and "white", respectively; the canton is wrongly described as au franc-canton en pal azur argent gueules, while it should be au franc-canton tiercé en pal d'azur, d'argent et de gueules.

Decree No. 2008-919, 11 September 2008, specifying how the statutes of the TAAF should be enforced, published in the French official gazette No. 0214 on 13 September 2008, says:

Title VI. Diverse and final provisions
Article 33.
The territory can have a distinctive emblem, beside the emblem of the Republic. This emblem shall be prescribed by a Decree of the Minister in charge of the Overseas, after recommendation of the Advisory Council.

According to the status, the Ministry of the Overseas should officially approve the flag already adopted in 2007, unless it is decided, as a retroactive measure, that the Prefet who signed the Decree had a delegation from the Minister.

The flag is used in front of the office of the Préfet, administrateur supérieur des Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises in Saint-Pierre (Reunion). The flag can also be used in the districts of the TAAF if the "inhabitants" wish to display it and if weather permits it. There are no rules of use of the flag, so that everybody can use it. For instance, the flag with three stars was displayed during the Telross expedition at the end of 2006.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 12 February 2009

It seems logical that the five stars on the new flag should stand for the five districts of the TAAF.

Željko Heimer, 27 November 2007

Former flag of the Senior Administrator of TAAF and unofficial flag of TAAF

[Flag of the Senior Administrator]

Flag of the Senior Administrator of TAAF - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 27 November 2007

Until recently, the only flag specific to the territory is the flag of the Senior Administrator, which seems to have been used for a couple of years as the flag of TAAF. The flag of teh Senior Administrator was never officialized.
Shortly after he took office, the first Senior Administrator, Mr Richert, who was Administrator of Overseas France, and bore three stars on his uniform, like a Vice-Admiral), adopted a personal flag. It was similar to the flags used by the former Colonial Governors and High Commissioners of Overseas Territories, that is, a blue flag with a Tricolour flag in canton. The white letters "T", "A", "A", "F", arranged in the shape of an anchor, surmounting three white stars, are placed in lower fly. This flag was retained by the Senior Administrators who succeeded Richert.

The flag can be partially seen in a photo shown by Paris-Match (# 787, 9 May 1964), taken during the visit of Mr Louis Jacquinot to the Kerguelen Islands. It was hoisted on any building or vessel when the Senior Administrator was on board. The flag used in the TAAF headquarters is 70 x 84 cm, the emblem is 22 cm in height, and the width of the "T" is 18 cm. The Secretary General, assistant to the Senior Administrator, does not has any special emblem.

Mario Fabretto, 25 September 1998

Coat of arms of TAAF

[Coat of arms]

Coat of arms of TAAF - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 25 November 2007

The arms of TAAF are:
Écartelé, au premier d'azur au chou de Kerguelen d'argent; au deuxième d'or à la langouste de sable posée en pal; au troisième d'or à la tête et au col de manchot royal de sable; au quatrième d'azur à l'iceberg d'argent.

Pascal Vagnat, 17 December 2006

According to a letter dated 28 October 1981 from Miss Suzanne Gauthier to Lucien Philippe, published in Flagmaster [flm] #38 (November 1982), the arms of TAAF were created by Miss Gauthier, who registered the original drawing with SPADEM (Société pour la propriété artistique des dessins et modèles) on 4 September 1958.
In the letter Miss Gauthier wrote that Mr Richert had asked for a draft of the arms of TAFF, setting out the elements which ought to be included, particularly the three white stars that appear on his personal flag.

Mario Fabretto, 25 September 1998

According to Roman Klimeš [klm87], the shield is quartered azure and or. The four quarters of the coat of arms stand for the four "historical" districts of TAAF:
- a Kerguelen cabbage argent, representing Kerguelen. The Kerguelen cabbage (Pringlea antiscorbutica) is endemic to these islands, that is it does not grow in the wild anywhere else in the world;
- a lobster sable, representing New Amsterdam and St. Paul;
- the head and neck of a royal penguin sable and argent crowned or, representing Crozet Island;
- an iceberg argent, representing Adelie Land.
The coronet above the shield is inscribed with the name of the territory sable, bears three stars or and two anchors argent.
The shield is supported by twi sea elephants argent.

The coat of arms is shown on TAAF postage stamps; there is no writing in the 1959-63 and 1970 versions, but writing is present on the 1992 and later versions.

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2001

Fishery police in TAAF

[Fishery police pennant]

Pennant of the Fishery Police in TAAF - Image by Željko Heimer, 18 December 2003

Fishery is one of the most strategical resources of TAAF. The Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides, in French, légine), highly estimated and overpriced in the USA as Chilean Sea Bass, and mostly in Japan as mero, is found mostly in the TAAF waters. The fish is submitted to intense poaching, which endangers the species.
The vessels of the TAAF fishery police are stationed in the Kerguelen islands.

According to Album des Pavillons [pay00], the pennant of the fishery police in TAAF is quartered blue-yellow, following the model of the International Fisheries Inspection Pennant, in apparent proportion 7:6, with the white letters TAAF in upper host.

Ivan Sache & Željko Heimer, 18 December 2003

Ships registered in the Kerguelen Islands

The registration of ships in the Kerguelen Islands allows the ship owner to employ some foreign workers. It was created to fight against the so-called flags of convenience which escape the sea labour rules.
There is no other flag for ships registered in the Kerguelen Islands but the French tricolour flag.

Pascal Vagnat, Željko Heimer & Armand du Payrat, 22 January 2003