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Ashmore and Cartier Islands
The Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands are two groups of small low-lying uninhabited tropical islands in the Indian Ocean situated on the edge of the continental shelf north-west of Australia and south of the Indonesian island of Roti at .
The territory includes Ashmore Reef (West, Middle, and East Islets) and Cartier Island (70 km east) with, a total area of 199.45 km2 within the reefs and including the lagoons, and 11.44 ha (0.1144 km2) of dry land. While they have a total of 74.1 km of shoreline, measured along the outer edge of the reef, there are no ports or harbors, only offshore anchorage. Nearby Hibernia Reef, 42 km Northeast of Ashmore Reef, is not part of the territory. It has no permanently dry land area, although large parts of the reef become exposed during low tide.
- Ashmore Reef (155.40 km2 area within reef (including lagoon)
- West Islet, 5.12 ha land area;
- Middle Islet, 2.12 ha land area;
- East Islet, 2.50 ha land area;
- Cartier Reef (44.03 km2 area within reef (including lagoon)
- Cartier Island, 1.70 ha land area;
There is an automatic weather station on West Islet.
The territory is part of the Australian Northern Territory, and is administered from Canberra by the Australian Department of the Environment, Sport, and Territories. The data code is AT. Defence is the responsibility of Australia, with periodic visits by the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. The islands are visited by seasonal caretakers.
The Ashmore Reef Marine National Nature Reserve was established in August 1983. It is of significant biodiversity value as it is in the flow of the Indonesian throughflow current from the Pacific Ocean through the Indonesian Archipelago to the Indian Ocean. It is also in a surface current west from the Arafura Sea and Timor Sea. There are 14 distinct species of sea snake in the area, more than in any other area. There is also an unusually high level of species diversity of coral, molluscs, and fish. A memorandum of understanding between the Australian and Indonesian governments allows Indonesian fishermen access to their traditional fishing grounds withing the region, subject to limits.
Cartier Island Marine Reserve includes the entire sand cay of Cartier Island, the reef surrounding it, the ocean for a 7.2km radius around the island, and 1000 m below the seafloor. It was proclaimed in 2000.
There is no economic activity in the Territory.
As Ashmore Reef is the closest point of Australian territory to Indonesia, it has been a popular target for people smugglers to take asylum seekers to Australia. They were transported at great personal risk and expense in leaky fishing boats and dumped on the island, expecting to be rescued by Australia and granted refugee status there. As Australia was not the country of first asylum for these "boat people", Australia did not consider it had a responsibility to accept them. A number of things were done to discourage the practice such as attempting to have the people smugglers arrested in Indonesia; mandatory detention of all arrivals until their status could be determined; the so-called Pacific Solution of processing them in third countries; and finally excising these and many other small islands from the Australian migration zone.
- Cartier Island Marine Reserve
- CIA - The World Factbook—Ashmore and Cartier Islands - CIA's Factbook on Ashmore and Cartier Islands
- Geoscience Australia—Ashmore and Cartier Islands
- Department of the Environment and Heritage—Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve
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