|Protectorate proclaimed||9 September 1842|
|Territorial status||27 October 1946|
|Collectivity status||28 March 2003|
|Country status (nominal title)||27 February 2004|
President of the French Republic
|Legislature||Assembly of French Polynesia|
|2 senators (of 348)|
|3 seats (of 577)|
|4,167 km2 (1,609 sq mi)|
|3,521.2 km2 (1,359.5 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
• Aug. 2022 census
|79/km2 (204.6/sq mi) (130th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|Currency||CFP franc (₣) (XPF)|
|ISO 3166 code|
French Polynesia (/ˈfrɛntʃ pɒlɪˈniːʒə/ (listen); French: Polynésie française [pɔlinezi fʁɑ̃sɛz]; Tahitian: Pōrīnetia Farāni) is an overseas collectivity of France and its sole overseas country. It comprises 121 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) in the South Pacific Ocean. The total land area of French Polynesia is 3,521 square kilometres (1,359 sq mi), with a population of 278,786 (Aug. 2022 census).
French Polynesia is divided into five groups of islands:
- the Society Islands archipelago, comprising the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands
- the Tuamotu Archipelago
- the Gambier Islands
- the Marquesas Islands
- the Austral Islands.
Among its 121 islands and atolls, 75 were inhabited at the 2017 census. Tahiti, which is in the Society Islands group, is the most populous island, being home to nearly 69% of the population of French Polynesia as of 2017[update]. Papeete, located on Tahiti, is the capital of French Polynesia. Although not an integral part of its territory, Clipperton Island was administered from French Polynesia until 2007.
Hundreds of years after the Great Polynesian Migration, European explorers began traveling through the region, visiting the islands of French Polynesia on several occasions. Traders and whaling ships also visited. In 1842, the French took over the islands and established a French protectorate that they called Établissements français d'Océanie (EFO) (French Establishments/Settlements of Oceania).
In 1946, the EFO became an overseas territory under the constitution of the French Fourth Republic, and Polynesians were granted the right to vote through citizenship. In 1957, the EFO were renamed French Polynesia. In 1983 French Polynesia became a member of the Pacific Community, a regional development organization. Since 28 March 2003, French Polynesia has been an overseas collectivity of the French Republic under the constitutional revision of article 74, and later gained, with law 2004-192 of 27 February 2004, an administrative autonomy, two symbolic manifestations of which are the title of the President of French Polynesia and its additional designation as an overseas country.
Anthropologists and historians believe the Great Polynesian Migration commenced around 1500 BC as Austronesian peoples went on a journey using celestial navigation to find islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The first islands of French Polynesia to be settled were the Marquesas Islands in about 200 BC. The Polynesians later ventured southwest and discovered the Society Islands around AD 300.
European encounters began in 1521 when Portuguese explorer
British explorer Samuel Wallis became the first European navigator to visit Tahiti in 1767. French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville also visited Tahiti in 1768, while British explorer James Cook arrived in 1769, and observed the transit of Venus. He would stop in Tahiti again in 1773 during his second voyage to the Pacific, and once more in 1777 during his third and last voyage before being killed in Hawaii.
In 1772, the Spanish
After France declared a protectorate over Tahiti in 1842 and
In the 1880s, France claimed the
In 1940, the administration of French Polynesia recognised the
In 1946, Polynesians were granted French citizenship and the islands' status was changed to an overseas territory; the islands' name was changed in 1957 to Polynésie Française (French Polynesia). In 1962, France's early nuclear testing ground in Algeria was no longer usable when Algeria became independent and the Moruroa atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago was selected as the new testing site; tests were conducted underground after 1974. In 1977, French Polynesia was granted partial internal autonomy; in 1984, the autonomy was extended. French Polynesia became a full overseas collectivity of France in 2003.
In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing at
French Polynesia was relisted in the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories in 2013, making it eligible for a UN-backed independence referendum. The relisting was made after the indigenous opposition was voiced and supported by the Polynesian Leaders Group, Pacific Conference of Churches, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Non-Aligned Movement, World Council of Churches, and Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Under the terms of Article 74 of the
Political life in French Polynesia was marked by great instability from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. The anti-independence right-wing president of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, who had been in power since 1991, had supported the resumption of the French nuclear weapons tests in 1995, and had obtained from his longtime friend and political ally Jacques Chirac, then president of France, a status of expanded autonomy for French Polynesia in 2004, failed to secure an absolute majority in the 2004 French Polynesian legislative election, resulting in deadlock at the Assembly of French Polynesia. Flosse's longtime opponent, the pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru, whose pro-independence coalition had won one less seat than Flosse's party in the Assembly, was nonetheless elected president of French Polynesia by the Assembly in June 2004 thanks to the votes of two non-aligned Assembly members. This resulted in several years of political instability, as neither the pro- nor the anti-independence camps were assured of a majority, depending on the votes of smaller non-aligned parties representing the interests of the distant islands of French Polynesia (as opposed to Tahiti). Temaru was toppled from the presidency of French Polynesia in October 2004, succeeded by Flosse who was toppled in March 2005, succeeded by Temaru again who was toppled in December 2006, succeeded by Gaston Tong Sang, a close ally of Flosse.
On 14 September 2007, the pro-independence leader
The party of Gaston Tong Sang won the territorial elections, but that did not solve the political crisis: the two minority parties of Oscar Temaru and Gaston Flosse, who together had one more member in the territorial assembly than the political party of Gaston Tong Sang, allied to prevent Gaston Tong Sang from becoming president of French Polynesia. Gaston Flosse was then elected president of French Polynesia by the territorial assembly on 23 February 2008 with the support of the pro-independence party led by Oscar Temaru, while Oscar Temaru was elected speaker of the territorial assembly with the support of the anti-independence party led by Gaston Flosse. Both formed a coalition cabinet. Many observers doubted that the alliance between the anti-independence Gaston Flosse and the pro-independence Oscar Temaru, designed to prevent Gaston Tong Sang from becoming president of French Polynesia, could last very long.
At the French municipal elections held in March 2008, several prominent mayors who were member of the Flosse-Temaru coalition lost their offices in key municipalities of French Polynesia, which was interpreted as a disapproval of the way Gaston Tong Sang, whose party French Polynesian voters had placed first in the territorial elections the month before, had been prevented from becoming president of French Polynesia by the last minute alliance between Flosse and Temaru's parties. Eventually, on 15 April 2008 the government of Gaston Flosse was toppled by a constructive vote of no confidence in the territorial assembly when two members of the Flosse-Temaru coalition left the coalition and sided with Tong Sang's party. Tong Sang's majority in the territorial assembly was very narrow, and he was toppled in February 2009, succeeded by Temaru (supported again by Flosse).
Oscar Temaru's return to power was brief as he fell out with Gaston Flosse and was toppled in November 2009, succeeded by Gaston Tong Sang. Tong Sang remained in power for a year and a half before being toppled in a vote of no confidence in April 2011, and succeeded by Temaru. Oscar Temaru's fifth stint as president of French Polynesia lasted two years, during which he campaigned for the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories. Temaru lost the 2013 French Polynesian legislative election by a wide margin, only two weeks before the United Nations re-registered French Polynesia on its list of non-self governing territories. This was interpreted by political analysts as a rejection by French Polynesian voters of Temaru's push for independence as well as the consequence of the socioeconomic crisis affecting French Polynesia after years of political instability and corruption scandals.
Gaston Flosse, whose anti-independence party was the big winner of the 2013 election, succeeded Oscar Temaru as president of French Polynesia in May 2013, but he was removed from office in September 2014 due to a corruption conviction by France's highest court. Flosse was replaced as president of French Polynesia by his second-in-command in the anti-independence camp,
Political stability has returned in French Polynesia since the split of the anti-independence camp in 2015–2016. Tapura Huiraatira won 70% of the seats in the Assembly of French Polynesia at the 2018 French Polynesian legislative election, defeating both Oscar Temaru's pro-independence party and Gaston Flosse's anti-independence party, and Édouard Fritch was re-elected president of French Polynesia by the Assembly in May 2018. By 2022, Édouard Fritch was the longest-serving president of French Polynesia since Gaston Flosse in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Between 1946 and 2003, French Polynesia had the status of an overseas territory (
Relations with mainland France
Despite a local assembly and government, French Polynesia is not in a
French Polynesia also sends three
The defence of the collectivity is the responsibility of the French Armed Forces. Some 900 military personnel are deployed in the territory – incorporating the Pacific-Polynesian Marine Infantry Regiment (RIMaP-P) – along with modest air transport and surveillance assets. The latter include three Falcon 200 Gardian maritime surveillance aircraft from French Naval Aviation, which are to be replaced by the more modern Falcon 2000 Albatros starting in 2025.  The former is composed of two CN-235 tactical transport aircraft drawn from the Air Force's ET 82 "Maine" transport squadron.
Three principal French Navy vessels are based in the territory, including: the surveillance frigate Prairial, the patrol and support ship Bougainville and the coast guard vessel Arago. As of 2021, two smaller port and coastal tugs (RPCs), Maroa and Manini, were also operational in the territory. Flottille 35F of French naval aviation deploys a detachment of three AS 365N Dauphin helicopters in Tahiti. The helicopters carry out a variety of roles in the territory or may be embarked on Prairial as required. In late 2023 or early 2024, Arago is to be replaced by Teriieroo to Teriierooiterai, a vessel of the new Félix Éboué class of patrol vessels. The French Navy will further reinforce its offshore patrol capabilities in the region by deploying a second vessel of the class (Philip Bernardino) to Tahiti by 2025.
The National Gendarmerie deploys some 500 active personnel and civilians, plus around 150 reservists, in French Polynesia. The patrol boat Jasmin of the Maritime Gendarmerie is also based in the territory and is to be replaced by a new PCG-NG patrol boat in about 2025–2026.
The islands of French Polynesia make up a total land area of 3,521 square kilometres (1,359 sq mi),
It is made up of five archipelagos. The largest and most populated island is Tahiti, in the Society Islands. The archipelagos are:
|Name||Land area (km2)||Population||Density (per km2)||Notes|
|Marquesas Islands||1,049.3||9,346 (2017)||9||12 high islands; administratively making the Marquesas Islands subdivision|
|Society Islands||1,597.6||242,726 (2017)||152||administratively subdivided into the Windward Islands subdivision (4 high islands and 1 atoll) and the Leeward Islands subdivision (5 high islands and 4 atolls)|
|Tuamotu Archipelago||698.7||15,450 (2017)||22||80 atolls, grouping over 3,100 islands or islets; administratively part of the Tuamotu-Gambier subdivision|
|Gambier Islands||27.8||1,431 (2017)||51||6 high islands and 1 atoll; administratively part of the Tuamotu-Gambier subdivision|
|Austral Islands||147.8||6,965 (2017)||47||5 high islands and 1 atoll; administratively part of the Austral Islands subdivision|
|TOTAL||3,521.2||275,918 (2017)||78||121 high islands and atolls (75 inhabited at the 2017 census; 46 uninhabited)|
Aside from Tahiti, some other important atolls, islands, and island groups in French Polynesia are:
French Polynesia is home to four terrestrial ecoregions: Marquesas tropical moist forests, Society Islands tropical moist forests, Tuamotu tropical moist forests, and Tubuai tropical moist forests.
French Polynesia is divided in five administrative subdivisions (subdivisions administratives):
- Marquesas Islands (French: les îles Marquises or officially la subdivision administrative des îles Marquises)
- Leeward Islands (French: les îles Sous-le-Vent or officially la subdivision administrative des îles Sous-le-Vent) (the two subdivisions administratives Windward Islands and Leeward Islands are part of the Society Islands)
- Windward Islands (French: les îles du Vent or officially la subdivision administrative des îles du Vent) (the two subdivisions administratives Windward Islands and Leeward Islands are part of the Society Islands)
- Tuāmotu-Gambier (French: les Îles Tuamotu-Gambier or officially la subdivision administrative des îles Tuamotu-Gambier) (the Tuamotus and the Gambier Islands)
- Austral Islands (French: les îles Australes or officially la subdivision administrative des îles Australes) (including the Bass Islands)
The five administrative subdivisions are not local councils; they are solely
Four administrative subdivisions (Marquesas Islands, Leeward Islands, Tuamotu-Gambier, and Austral Islands) each also form a deconcentrated subdivision of the government of French Polynesia. These are called circonscriptions ("districts"). The head of a circonscription is the tavana hau, known as administrateur territorial in French ("territorial administrator"), but the Tahitian title tavana hau is most often used. The tavana hau is the direct representative of the president of French Polynesia's government who appoints him or her. The Windward Islands, due to their proximity to Papeete, do not form a deconcentrated subdivision of the government of French Polynesia.
The 5 administrative subdivisions are themselves divided in 48 communes. Like all other communes in the French Republic, these are municipalities in which local residents with either a French or another EU citizenship elect a municipal council and a mayor in charge of managing local affairs within the commune. Municipal elections occur every six years on the same date as in the rest of the French Republic (the last municipal elections took place in 2020).
30 communes are further subdivided in 98 associated communes which have each a delegate mayor and a registry office. These 30 communes were subdivided in associated communes either because they have a large land territory (particularly in the larger islands such as Tahiti or Nuku Hiva) or because they are made up of atolls distant from each other (particularly in the Tuamotu archipelago), which led to the creation of associated communes for each inhabited atoll.
17 communes (out of French Polynesia's 48 communes) have banded together in three separate communities of communes. These indirectly elected intercommunal councils are still relatively new in French Polynesia, and unlike in metropolitan France and its overseas regions it is not mandatory for the communes in French Polynesia to join an intercommunal council. The three intercommunal councils in existence as of 2022, all formed on a voluntary basis, were:
- community of communes of the Marquesas Islands (in French: communauté de communes des îles Marquises, or CODIM), formed in 2010 by all the communes in the administrative subdivision of the Marquesas Islands
- community of communes Hava'i (in French: communauté de communes Hava'i, or CCH), formed in 2012 by all the communes in the administrative subdivision of the Leeward Islands, with the exception of Bora-Bora which preferred to remain separate for financial reasons
- community of communes Terehēamanu (in French: communauté de communes Terehēamanu), formed in 2021 by 5 exurban and rural communes on the eastern side of the island of Tahiti: Hitiaa O Te Ra, Taiarapu-Est, Taiarapu-Ouest, Teva I Uta, and Papara.
These communities of communes, as elsewhere in the French Republic, are not full-fledged territorial collectivities, but only federations of communes. From a legal standpoint, the only territorial collectivities in French Polynesia are the overseas collectivity of French Polynesia and the 48 communes.
Total population was 278,786 according to the August 18, 2022 census, 68.7% of whom lived on the island of Tahiti alone. The urban area of Papeete, the capital city, has 136,771 inhabitants (2017 census).
At the 2017 census, 89.0% of people living in French Polynesia had been born there (up from 87.3% in 2007); 8.1% had been born in Metropolitan France (down from 9.3% in 2007); 1.2% were born elsewhere in overseas France (down from 1.4% in 2007); and 1.7% were from foreign countries (down from 2.0% in 2007). The population of natives of Metropolitan France living in French Polynesia has declined in relative terms since the 1980s, but in absolute terms their population peaked at the 2007 census, when 24,265 lived in French Polynesia (not counting their children born there). With the local economic crisis, their population declined to 22,278 at the 2012 census, and 22,387 at the 2017 census.
|Born in foreign
countries with French
citizenship at birth¹
|¹Persons born abroad of French parents, such as |
Pieds-Noirs and children of French expatriates.
²An immigrant is by French definition a person born in a foreign country and who didn't have French citizenship at birth. Note that an immigrant may have acquired French citizenship since moving to France, but is still listed as an immigrant in French statistics. On the other hand, persons born in France with foreign citizenship (the children of immigrants) are not listed as immigrants.
At the 1988 census, the last census which asked questions regarding ethnicity, 66.5% of people were ethnically unmixed
Chinese, Demis, and the white populace are essentially concentrated on the island of Tahiti, particularly in the urban area of Papeete, where their share of the population is thus much greater than in French Polynesia overall. Despite a long history of ethnic mixing, ethnic tensions have been growing in recent years, with politicians using a xenophobic discourse and fanning the flame of nationalism.
|Official figures from past censuses.|
|Home languages in French Polynesia (2017 Census)|
All the indigenous languages of French Polynesia are
French is the sole official language of French Polynesia. An organic law of 12 April 1996 states that "French is the official language, Tahitian and other Polynesian languages can be used." At the 2017 census, among the population whose age was 15 and older, 73.9% of people reported that the language they spoke the most at home was French (up from 68.6% at the 2007 census), 20.2% reported that the language they spoke the most at home was Tahitian (down from 24.3% at the 2007 census), 2.6% reported Marquesan and 0.2% the related Mangareva language (same percentages for both at the 2007 census), 1.2% reported any of the Austral languages (down from 1.3% at the 2007 census), 1.0% reported Tuamotuan (down from 1.5% at the 2007 census), 0.6% reported a Chinese dialect (41% of which was Hakka) (down from 1.0% at the 2007 census), and 0.4% another language (more than half of which was English) (down from 0.5% at the 2007 census).
At the same census, 95.2% of people whose age was 15 or older reported that they could speak, read and write French (up from 94.7% at the 2007 census), whereas only 1.3% reported that they had no knowledge of French (down from 2.0% at the 2007 census). 86.5% of people whose age was 15 or older reported that they had some form of knowledge of at least one Polynesian language (up from 86.4% at the 2007 census but down from 87.8% at the 2012 census), whereas 13.5% reported that they had no knowledge of any of the Polynesian languages (down from 13.6% at the 2007 census but up from 12.2% at the 2012 census).
French Polynesia appeared in the world music scene in 1992, recorded by French musicologist Pascal Nabet-Meyer with the release of The Tahitian Choir's recordings of unaccompanied vocal Christian music called himene tārava. This form of singing is common in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, and is notable for a unique drop in pitch at the end of the phrases, a characteristic formed by several different voices, accompanied by a steady grunting of staccato, nonlexical syllables.
Data from 1991 revealed that Catholics were in the majority in the
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had 28,147 members as of 2018[update]. Community of Christ, another denomination within the Latter-Day Saint tradition, claimed 9,256 total French Polynesian members as of 2018 including Mareva Arnaud Tchong who serves in the church's governing Council of Twelve Apostles. There were about 3,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Tahiti as of 2014[update], and an estimated 500 Muslims in French Polynesia.
Due to the island location and the fact that the French Polynesia produce a significant array of fruits and vegetables, natural local produce, especially coconut, features in many of the dishes of the islands as does fresh seafood. foods like
The Polynesian traditional sport va'a is practiced in all the islands. French Polynesia hosts the Hawaiki nui va'a an international race between Tahiti, Huahine and Bora Bora.
French Polynesia is famous for its
There are many spots to practice kitesurfing in French Polynesia, with Tahiti, Moorea, Bora-Bora, Maupiti and Raivavae being among the most iconic.
French Polynesia is internationally known for diving. Each archipelago offers opportunities for divers. Rangiroa and Fakarava in the Tuamotu islands are the most famous spots in the area.
Rugby is also popular in French Polynesia, specifically Rugby union.
Television channels with local programming include Polynésie la 1ère (established in 1965) and Tahiti Nui Television (established in 2000). Channels from metropolitan France are also available.
Economy and infrastructure
The legal tender of French Polynesia is the CFP franc which has a fixed exchange rate with the euro. The nominal gross domestic product (or GDP) of French Polynesia in 2019 was 6.01 billion U.S. dollars at market exchange rates, the seventh-largest economy in Oceania after Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Guam. The GDP per capita was US$21,615 in 2019 (at market exchange rates, not at PPP), lower than in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, and New Caledonia, but higher than in all other independent insular states and dependent territories of Oceania.
French Polynesia was severely affected by the
French Polynesia has a moderately developed economy, which is dependent on imported goods, tourism, and the financial assistance of mainland France. Tourist facilities are well developed and are available on the major islands. Main agricultural productions are
French Polynesia's seafloor contains rich deposits of nickel, cobalt, manganese, and copper that are not exploited.
In 2008, French Polynesia's imports amounted to 2.2 billion U.S. dollars and exports amounted to 0.2 billion U.S. dollars.
There are 53 airports in French Polynesia; 46 are paved.
In 2017, Alcatel Submarine Networks, a unit of Nokia, launched a project to connect many of the islands in French Polynesia with underwater fiber optic cable. The project, called NATITUA, is intended to improve French Polynesian broadband connectivity by linking Tahiti to 10 islands in the Tuamotu and Marquesas archipelagos. In August 2018, a celebration was held to commemorate the arrival of a submarine cable from Papeete to the atoll of Hao, extending the network by about 1000 kilometres.
- Taïna Barioz (born 1988), World Champion skier representing France.
- Billy Besson, Olympic sailor representing France
- Michel Bourez (born 1985), professional surfer.
- Cheyenne Brando (1970–1995), model, daughter of Marlon Brando and Tarita Teriipaia.
- Jacques Brel (1929–1978), Belgian musician who lived in French Polynesia near the end of his life.
- 1981 Eurovision Song Contest.
- Chantal Galenon, politician and women's rights activist.
- post-impressionistpainter who spent the last years of his life in French Polynesia.
- Conrad Hall (1926–2003), American cinematographer.
- Vaitiare Hirson-Asars (born 1964), actress.
- Ella Koon (born 1979), singer, actress and model.
- Karina Lombard (born 1969), French-American model and actress.
- Pouvāna'a 'Ō'opa (1895–1977), politician and Tahitian nationalist.
- Fabrice Santoro (born 1972), professional tennis player.
- Tarita Teriipaia (born 1941), actress, third wife of Marlon Brando.
- Marama Vahirua (born 1980), footballer, cousin of Pascal Vahirua.
- Pascal Vahirua (born 1966), French former international footballer.
- Célestine Hitiura Vaite (born 1966), writer.
- Outline of French Polynesia
- Index of French Polynesia-related articles
- List of colonial and departmental heads of French Polynesia
- French colonial empire
- List of French possessions and colonies
- Lists of islands
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