Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

French Polynesia


Located in the Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia is as big as Western Europe. This French territory is made up of five island groups: the Society islands, the Tuamotu archipelago, the Gambier islands, the Marquesas islands and the Tubuai islands.  The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and British gradually discovered the islands during the 18th century.  European traders and missionaries visited the islands throughout the 18th century, bringing diseases that killed a substantial number of the indigenous population.

France colonized the islands in the 19th century.  In 1946, the islands became an overseas territory.  In the 1970s, the islands witnessed pro-independence movements, gaining control of internal affairs ovetime.  The islands gained “overseas country” status in 2004.

Despite widespread international protests, France has been conducting atomic tests on the islands, which have allowed France to maintain its status as a nuclear power.  From 1966 onwards, France conducted 41 atmospheric tests on the Mururoa atoll and the neighboring Fangataufa.  Growing international pressure led France to move these tests underground in 1975.

After a three year moratorium, France resumed the tests in 1995.  Six more tests were conducted, but eventually, France agreed to a 10-year compensation package for the island residents.

Though the residents of French Polynesia maintain a high standard of living, wealth is unevenly distributed and unemployment is high.  Tourism is a big revenue earner:  The islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora are important tourist attractions.

Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.


    Full Name:  Overseas Lands of French Polynesia
    Form of Government:  French overseas territory
   Year of Independence:  n/a
   Population:  287,032
   Capital:  Papeete (on Tahiti)
   Largest City:  n/a
   Major Religion:  Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%, other 10%, no religion 6%
   Area:  4,167 sq km (1,609 sq miles)
   Major Languages:  French 61.1% (official), Polynesian 31.4% (official), Asian languages 1.2%, other 0.3%, unspecified 6% (2002 census)
   Life Expectancy:  74 years (men), 79 years (women) (2008 est.)
   Monetary Unit:  Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique franc (Pacific franc)
   Main Exports:  Cultured black pearls, mother-of-pearl, fish, coconut products, vanilla, shark meat
   GDP - Per Capita (PPP):  $18,000 (2004 est.)
   Internet Domain:  .pf
   International Dialing Code:  +689