Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Travel Guide Overseas Territories Overseas Territories Ashmore and Cartier Islands



The Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands is an uninhabited external territory of Australia consisting of four low-lying tropical islands in two separate reefs, and the 12 nautical mile territorial sea generated by the islands. The territory is located in the Indian Ocean situated on the edge of the continental shelf, about 320 kilometres off the northwest coast of Australia and 144 kilometres south of the Indonesian island of Rote.




The territory includes 155.4 km2 Ashmore Reef (including West, Middle, and East Islands, and two lagoons within the reef) and 44.0 km2 Cartier Reef (including Cartier Island). They have a total of 74.1 km of shoreline, measured along the outer edge of the reef. There are no ports or harbours, only offshore anchorage.

West, Middle, and East Islands have a combined land area variously reported as 54 ha, 93 ha, and 112 ha. Cartier Island is an unvegetated sand island, with a reported land area of 0.4 ha.



Sights and Activities

Ashmore Reef Commonwealth Marine Reserve

The Ashmore Reef Commonwealth Marine Reserve, established in August 1983, comprises an area of approximately 583 km2. It is of significant biodiversity value as it is in the flow of the Indonesian Throughflow ocean current from the Pacific Ocean through Maritime Southeast Asia to the Indian Ocean. It is also in a surface current west from the Arafura Sea and Timor Sea.

The Reserve comprises several marine habitats, including seagrass meadows, intertidal sand flats, coral reef flats, and lagoons, and supports an important and diverse range of species, including 14 species of sea snakes, a population of dugong that may be genetically distinct, a diverse marine invertebrate fauna, and many endemic species, especially of sea snakes and molluscs. There are feeding and nesting sites for loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles. It is classified as an Important Bird Area and has 50,000 breeding pairs of various kinds of seabirds. A high abundance and diversity of sea cucumbers, over-exploited on other reefs in the region, is present, with 45 species recorded.

In 2003 the nature reserve was recognised as a wetland of international importance due to the importance of its islands providing a resting place for migratory shorebirds and supporting large seabird breeding colonies. It was designated Ramsar Site 1220 under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve

The Cartier Island Commonwealth Marine Reserve was established in June 2000, and comprises an area of approximately 172 km2, within a 4 nautical mile radius from the center of Cartier Island, and extends to a depth of 1 kilometres below the sea floor. It includes the reef around Cartier island, a small submerged pinnacle called Wave Governor Bank, and two shallow pools to the island's northeast. The Reserve is part of the North-west Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network.



Getting There and Around

It is a protected area. A permit from the Australian government is needed for civilians to set foot on the islands. Access to Cartier Island is prohibited because of the risk of unexploded ordnances. There are no ports or harbours, only offshore anchorage. The customs vessel ACV Ashmore Guardian is stationed off the reef for up to 330 days per year.[18] The islands are also visited by seasonal caretakers and occasional scientific researchers.


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This is version 3. Last edited at 13:26 on Jul 21, 17 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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