Countries » Australia & Oceania » Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Ashmore and Cartier Islands



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.


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

Geographic coordinates:
12 14 S, 123 05 E

Map references:

total: 5 sq km
country comparison to the world: 247
land: 5 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes Ashmore Reef (West, Middle, and East Islets) and Cartier Island

Area – comparative:
about eight times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries:
0 km

74.1 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation


low with sand and coral

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 3 m

Natural resources:

Land use:
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (all grass and sand) (2011)

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

Geography – note:
Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve established in August 1983; Cartier Island Marine Reserve established in 2000

People and Society

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


Country name:
conventional long form: Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands
conventional short form: Ashmore and Cartier Islands

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

Diplomatic representation in the US:
none (territory of Australia)

Diplomatic representation from the US:
none (territory of Australia)

Flag description:
the flag of Australia is used


Economy – overview:
no economic activity


Ports and terminals:
none; offshore anchorage only


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

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