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Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Photos of Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Introduction

Background

These uninhabited islands came under Australian authority in 1931; formal administration began two years later. Ashmore Reef supports a rich and diverse avian and marine habitat; in 1983, it became a National Nature Reserve. Cartier Island, a former bombing range, became a marine reserve in 2000.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Southeastern Asia, islands in the Indian Ocean, midway between northwestern Australia and Timor island

Geographic coordinates

12 14 S, 123 05 E

Map references

Southeast Asia

Area

total: 5 sq km

land: 5 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes Ashmore Reef (West, Middle, and East Islets) and Cartier Island

country comparison to the world: 249

Area - comparative

about eight times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

74.1 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 12 nm

continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical

Terrain

low with sand and coral

Elevation

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

highest point: Cartier Island 5 m

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2014 est.)

Natural hazards

surrounded by shoals and reefs that can pose maritime hazards

Environment - current issues

illegal killing of protected wildlife by traditional Indonesian fisherman, as well as fishing by non-traditional Indonesian vessels, are ongoing problems; sea level rise, changes in sea temperature, and ocean acidification are concerns; marine debris

Geography - note

Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve established in August 1983; Cartier Island Marine Reserve established in 2000

People and Society

Population

no indigenous inhabitants

note: Indonesian fishermen are allowed access to the lagoon and fresh water at Ashmore Reef's West Island; access to East and Middle Islands is by permit only

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands

conventional short form: Ashmore and Cartier Islands

etymology: named after British Captain Samuel ASHMORE, who first sighted his namesake island in 1811, and after the ship Cartier, from which the second island was discovered in 1800

Dependency status

territory of Australia; administered from Canberra by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport

Legal system

the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia and the laws of the Northern Territory of Australia, where applicable, apply

Citizenship

see Australia

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of Australia)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of Australia)

Flag description

the flag of Australia is used

Economy

Economic overview

no economic activity

Transportation

Ports and terminals

none; offshore anchorage only

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of Australia; periodic visits by the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Australia has closed parts of the Ashmore and Cartier reserve to Indonesian traditional fishing; Indonesian groups challenge Australia's claim to Ashmore Reef