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Falkland Islands

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Falkland Islands
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Desire the right"
Anthem:  God Save the Queen  (official)
Song of the Falklands 
Location of the Falkland Islands relative to the United Kingdom (white, top centre).
Location of the Falkland Islands relative to the United Kingdom (white, top centre).
and largest city
51°42′S 57°51′W
Official languages English
Ethnic groups ()
  • 61.0% Falkland Islander
  • 29.0% British
  • 2.6% Spanish
  • 0.6% Japanese
  • 6.5% Chilean & others
Demonym Falkland Islander
Government British Overseas Territory
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor Nigel Haywood
 -  Chief Executive Keith Padgett
 -  Responsible Minister ( UK) Hugo Swire MP
Legislature Legislative Assembly
 -  British rule re-established 1833 
 -  Crown Colony 1841 
 -  British Dependent Territory 1981 
 -  British Overseas Territory 2002 
 -  Current constitution 2009 
 -  Total 12,173 km2 ( 162nd)
4,700 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0
 -  2012 estimate 2,841 ( 220th)
 -  Density 0.26/km2 ( 241st)
0.65/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 -  Total $75 million ( 223rd)
 -  Per capita $55,400 ( 7th)
Currency Falkland Islands pound ( FKP)
Time zone FKT ( UTC−4)
 -  Summer ( DST) FKST ( UTC−3)
Drives on the left
Calling code 500
ISO 3166 code FK
Internet TLD .fk
a. ^ Song of the Falklands is used as the islands' anthem at sporting events.
b. ^ The majority are of British origin.
c. ^ Parliamentary democratic dependency under constitutional monarchy.
d. ^ Interrupted by Argentine military government in 1982.
e. ^ Fixed to the Pound sterling (GBP).
f. ^ The Falklands has been on FKST since September 2010.

The Falkland Islands ( / ˈ f ɔː l k l ən d /; Spanish: Islas Malvinas) are an archipelago located in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf. The principal islands are about 310 miles (500 kilometres) east of the Patagonian coast at a latitude of about 52°S. The archipelago which has an area of 4,700 square miles (12,173 square kilometres) comprises East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 smaller islands. The islands, a British Overseas Territory, enjoy a large degree of internal self-government, with the United Kingdom guaranteeing good government and taking responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs. The capital is Stanley on East Falkland.

Controversy exists over the Falklands' original discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans. At various times there have been French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain re-established its rule in 1833, though the islands continue to be claimed by Argentina. In 1982, following Argentina's invasion of the islands, the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between both countries resulted in the surrender of all Argentine forces and the return of the islands to British administration.

The population, estimated at 2,841, primarily consists of native Falkland Islanders, the vast majority being of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian, and Scandinavian. Immigration from the United Kingdom, Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a former population decline. The predominant and official language is English. Under the British Nationality Act of 1983, Falkland Islanders are legally British citizens.

The islands lie on the boundary of the Subarctic maritime climate and Temperate maritime climate zones with both major islands having mountain ranges reaching to 2,300 feet (700 m). The islands are home to large bird populations, although many no longer breed on the main islands because of the effects of introduced species. Major economic activities include fishing, tourism, sheep farming with an emphasis on high-quality wool exports, and oil exploration. Oil exploration, licensed by the Falkland Islands Government, remains controversial as a result of maritime disputes with Argentina.


The Falkland Islands took their English name from "Falkland Sound", the channel between the two main islands, which was in turn named after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount of Falkland, by Captain John Strong, who landed on the islands in 1690. The Spanish name, las (Islas) Malvinas, is derived from the French name, Îles Malouines, named by Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764 after the first known settlers, mariners and fishermen from the Breton port of Saint-Malo in France. The ISO designation is Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and its ISO country code is FK.

As a result of the sovereignty dispute, the use of many Spanish names is considered offensive in the Falkland Islands, particularly those associated with the 1982 invasion. General Sir Jeremy Moore would not allow the use of Islas Malvinas in the surrender document, dismissing it as a propaganda term.


Before the Falklands War

Controversy exists as to who first discovered the Falkland Islands, with competing Portuguese, Spanish and British claims from the 16th century. While Amerindians from Patagonia could have visited the Falklands, the islands were uninhabited when discovered by Europeans. The first reliable sighting is usually attributed to the Dutch explorer Sebald de Weert in 1600, who named the archipelago the Sebald Islands, a name they bore on Dutch maps into the 19th century.

In 1690, Captain John Strong of the Welfare en route to Puerto Deseado was driven off course and reached the Falkland Islands instead, landing at Bold Cove. Sailing between the two principal islands, he called the passage "Falkland Channel" (now Falkland Sound), after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland, who as Commissioner of the Admiralty had financed the expedition. The island group takes its English name from this body of water.

In 1764, French navigator and military commander Louis Antoine de Bougainville founded the first settlement on Berkeley Sound, in present-day Port Louis, East Falkland. In 1765, British captain John Byron explored and claimed Saunders Island on West Falkland, where he named the harbour Port Egmont and a settlement was constructed in 1766. Unaware of the French presence, Byron claimed the island group for King George III. Spain acquired the French colony in 1767, and placed it under a governor subordinate to the Buenos Aires colonial administration. In 1770, Spain attacked Port Egmont and expelled the British presence, bringing the two countries to the brink of war. War was avoided by a peace treaty and the British return to Port Egmont.

In 1774, economic pressures leading up to the American Revolutionary War forced Great Britain to withdraw from many overseas settlements. Upon withdrawal, the British left behind a plaque asserting Britain's continued claim. Spain maintained its governor until 1806 who, on his departure, left behind a plaque asserting Spanish claims. The remaining settlers were withdrawn in 1811.

In 1820, storm damage forced the privateer Heroína to take shelter in the islands. Her captain David Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and read a proclamation claiming the islands. This became public knowledge in Buenos Aires nearly a year later after the proclamation was published in the Salem Gazette. After several failures, Luis Vernet established a settlement in 1828 with authorisation from the Republic of Buenos Aires and from Great Britain. In 1829, after asking for help from Buenos Aires, he was instead proclaimed Military and Civil Commander of the islands. Additionally, Vernet asked the British to protect his settlement if they returned.

View of Port Louis, probably 1838 or 1839.

A dispute over fishing and hunting rights resulted in a raid by the US warship USS Lexington in 1831. The log of the Lexington reports only the destruction of arms and a powder store, but Vernet made a claim for compensation from the US Government stating that the settlement was destroyed. (Compensation was rejected by the US Government of President Cleveland in 1885.) Lexington's Captain declared the islands "free from all government", the seven senior members of the settlement were arrested for piracy and taken to Montevideo, where they were released without charge on the orders of Commodore Rogers.

In November 1832, Argentina sent Commander Mestivier as an interim commander to found a penal settlement, but he was killed in a mutiny after four days. The following January, British forces returned and requested the Argentine garrison leave. Don Pinedo, captain of the ARA Sarandi and senior officer present, protested but ultimately complied. Vernet's settlement continued, with the Irishman William Dickson tasked with raising the British flag for passing ships. Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane, returned and was encouraged by the British to continue the enterprise. The settlement continued until August 1833, when the leaders were killed in the so-called Gaucho murders. Subsequently, from 1834 the islands were governed as a British naval station until 1840 when the British Government decided to establish a permanent colony.

Naval confrontation during the 1914 Battle of the Falkland Islands. Painting by William Lionel Wyllie.

A new harbour was built in Stanley, and the islands became a strategic point for navigation around Cape Horn. A World War I naval battle, the Battle of the Falkland Islands, took place in December 1914, with a British victory over the smaller Imperial German Asiatic Fleet. During World War II, Stanley served as a Royal Navy station and serviced ships which took part in the 1939 Battle of the River Plate.

Sovereignty over the islands again became an issue in the second half of the 20th century, when Argentina saw the creation of the United Nations as an opportunity to pursue its claim. Talks between British and Argentine foreign missions took place in the 1960s, but failed to come to any meaningful conclusion. A major sticking point in all the negotiations was that the inhabitants preferred that the islands remain British territory.

A result of these talks was the establishment of the islands' first air link. In 1971, the Argentine state airline LADE began a service between Comodoro Rivadavia and Stanley. A temporary strip was followed by the construction of a permanent airfield and flights between Stanley and Comodoro Rivadavia continued until 1982. Further agreements gave YPF, the Argentine national oil and gas company, a monopoly over the supply of the islands' energy needs. The Times in its obituary of Rex Hunt states that it was generally accepted by the Foreign Office that when Hunt was appointed governor part of his brief was "to soften up the island's 1800 inhabitants to the idea that British sovereignty could not be taken as given in perpetuity". In his first dispatch back to the Foreign Office he wrote "There is no way we will convince these islanders that they will be better off as part of Argentina".

Falklands War and its aftermath

British paratroopers guard Argentine prisoners of war.

On 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and other British territories in the South Atlantic. By exploiting the long-standing feelings of Argentines towards the islands, the nation's ruling military junta sought to divert public attention from Argentina's poor economic performance and growing internal opposition. The United Kingdom's reduction of military capacity in the South Atlantic is considered to have encouraged the invasion.

On 3 April 1982, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 502, calling on Argentina to withdraw forces from the islands and for both parties to seek a diplomatic solution. International reaction ranged from support for Argentina in most of Latin America, to opposition in the Commonwealth and most of Western Europe. Chile was the only Latin American country that provided overt support to the British by allowing ports of call and airport logistics. In contrast, Peru was the only Latin American country that provided war material to the Argentinian military, including Mirage aircraft, parts, and Exocet missiles. A divided United States administration, initially publicly neutral, eventually came out in support of the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom sent an expeditionary force to retake the islands. After short but fierce naval and air battles, the British forces landed at San Carlos Water on 21 May, and a land campaign followed leading to the British taking the high ground surrounding Stanley on 11 June. The Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June 1982. The war resulted in the deaths of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as 3 civilian Falklanders.

After the war, the British increased their military presence on the islands, constructing RAF Mount Pleasant and increasing the military garrison. Although the United Kingdom and Argentina resumed diplomatic relations in 1990, no further negotiations on sovereignty have taken place. It is believed that 19,000 Argentine land mines across an area of 13 square kilometres remain from the 1982 war dispersed in a number of minefields around Stanley, Port Howard, Fox Bay and Goose Green. Information is available from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operation Centre in Stanley. In 2009, mine clearance began at Surf Bay, and clearances took place at Sapper Hill, Goose Green and Fox Bay. Further clearance work was due to begin in 2011.

Sovereignty dispute

A sign at the Argentine-Brazilian border, translated into English, proclaims "The Malvinas are Argentine". Signs like this exist throughout Argentina.

The United Kingdom and Argentina both claim responsibility for the Falkland Islands. The UK bases its position on continuous administration of the islands since 1833 (apart from 1982) and the islanders having a "right to self determination, including their right to remain British if that is their wish". Argentina posits that it gained the Falkland Islands from Spain, upon becoming independent from it in 1816, and that the UK illegally occupied them in 1833.

The present dispute began in 1945, shortly after the formation of the United Nations, when Argentina reasserted its claim of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and its dependencies (primarily South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands). In 1964, the United Nations passed a resolution calling on the UK and Argentina to proceed with negotiations over the sovereignty dispute.

Later that decade, intending to improve its relations with South America by transferring the Falkland Islands (with provisions to protect the islanders' way of life), the United Kingdom secretly discussed the subject with Argentina. However, when the news became public, the Falklanders protested the plans. As a result, the UK increased its focus on the Islanders' self-determination; Argentina disagreed, and negotiations effectively remained at a stalemate. Subsequent talks between the two nations took place until 1981, but they failed to reach a conclusion on sovereignty.

Diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Argentina, which were severed at the outbreak of the Falklands War in 1982, were re-established in 1990. In 2007, Argentina reasserted its claim over the Falkland Islands, asking for the UK to resume talks on sovereignty. In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and declared that there would be no talks over the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. As far as the United Kingdom and the residents of the Falkland Islands are concerned, no pending issue to resolve exists.

Modern Falkland Islanders continue to reject the Argentine sovereignty claim. In 2010, Falklands correspondent Tom Leonard, from British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, wrote that "The 3,000-strong community is already proudly British [...]. The younger islanders may not share the older generation’s memories but there is clearly no love lost with the Argentines among them". On 10 March 2013, the Falkland Islands held a referendum over its political status, and voters overwhelmingly favoured remaining under British rule.

Contemporary Argentine policy also maintains its position that modern Falkland Islanders do not have a right to self-determination. Argentina claims that, in 1833, the UK expelled Argentine authorities and settlers from the Falklands with a threat of "greater force" and that the UK afterwards barred Argentines from resettling the islands. Argentina reiterated its position towards the Falklanders in 2012, after a meeting of the UN Decolonization Committee, when its representatives refused to accept a letter from the Falkland Islands offering the opening of direct talks between both governments. Argentina only recognises the UK government as a legitimate partner in negotiations and considers the islands, along with South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as part of the province of Tierra del Fuego.

On 11 March 2013, the results of the Falkland Islands sovereignty referendum were announced, with 98.8% of voters supporting the Islands staying as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, only 3 of 1,517 were opposed.

Politics and government

The islands are a British Overseas Territory which, under the 2009 Constitution, enjoys a large degree of internal self-government, with the United Kingdom guaranteeing good government and taking responsibility for defence and foreign affairs.

Executive authority is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor on her behalf. The Governor is also responsible for the administration of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as these islands have no native inhabitants. The governor acts on the advice of the Executive Council, composed of himself as chairman, the Chief Executive, Director of Finance and three elected Legislative Assembly Members. The current Governor Nigel Haywood took office in October 2010.

The Legislative Assembly consists of the Chief Executive, Director of Finance and the eight members elected for four-year terms by universal suffrage, of whom five are from Stanley and three from Camp. There are no political parties, and no formal opposition. It is presided over by the Speaker, - as of 2012 Keith Biles. The last election, the first under the 2009 constitution, took place on Thursday 5 November 2009.

Justice is administered by a resident senior magistrate and a non-resident Chief Justice of the islands who visits the islands at least once a year. The senior magistrate handles petty criminal cases, civil, commercial, admiralty and family cases and is also the island's coroner. The Chief Justice handles serious criminal cases and hears appeals. The constitution binds the judiciary to comply with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights when hearing cases related to human rights.

Freedom of expression in the Falkland Islands is guaranteed by the constitution, with the United Kingdom's superior courts explicitly empowered to hear appeals. Freedom of the press is comparable to that of the United Kingdom; which, in turn, in the view of many commentators, is significantly better than that of any other South American country.


Badge of the Falkland Islands Defence Force.

A British military garrison is stationed on the Falkland Islands, and the islands also have a company-sized light infantry unit (FIDF) that is completely funded by the Falklands government (£400,000 in 2009). The unit is trained under a secondment arrangement with the MOD – as of 2010 the FIDF employed a Royal Marine WO2 as a permanent staff instructor and a major as commanding officer; the rest of the force are part-timers. It is equipped with quad bikes, inflatable boats and Land Rovers and is armed with heavy machineguns, grenade launchers and sniper rifles. In addition to defence duties, the force provides a mountain rescue service and has been trained by the Royal Navy in mounting armed deterrence against illegal fishing activity.


There are approximately 380 children between the ages of 5 and 16 on the islands (excluding families of military personnel). Their education, which follows the English system, is free and compulsory. Primary education is available at Stanley where there are boarding facilities, at RAF Mount Pleasant for children of service personnel and at a number of rural settlements where remote learning is supported by the Stanley based Camp Education Unit. The Islands' only secondary school is in Stanley and offers boarding facilities and 12 subjects to GCSE level. After 16, suitably qualified students may study at two colleges in England for their A-levels or for vocational qualifications. The government pays for older students to attend higher education, usually in the UK.

Medical care

The Falkland Islands Government Health and Social Services Department provides medical and dental care for the islands. The King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH), completed in 1987, is Stanley's only hospital. It is run jointly by the Falkland Islands Government and the UK Ministry of Defence. Specialist medical care is provided by visiting ophthalmologists, gynaecologists, ENT surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, oral surgeons and psychiatrists from the United Kingdom. Patients needing emergency treatment are air-lifted to the United Kingdom or to Santiago (Chile).


Map of the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean on a projection of the Patagonian Shelf about 310 miles (500 kilometres) east of the Patagonian coastline and about 280 miles (450 kilometres) north-east of the southerly tip of Tierra del Fuego. In ancient geological time, this shelf was part of Gondwana, which, around 400 million years ago, broke from what is now Africa and drifted westwards relative to Africa.

The Falklands, which have a total land area of 4,700 square miles (12,173 square kilometres) and a coastline estimated at 2,200 miles (3,500 km) comprise two main islands, West Falkland and East Falkland and about 776 smaller islands. The two principal islands lie between 51°15′ S and 52°25′ S and between 57°40′ W and 61°05′ W and are 140 miles (220 km) from east to west and 87 miles (140 km) from north to south. They are heavily indented by sounds and fjords and have many natural harbours. The two main islands are separated by the Falkland Sound.

East Falkland, which contains the capital Stanley and the British military base at Mount Pleasant, is the more populous of the two main islands.

Both West Falkland and the northern part of East Falkland have mountain ranges that are underlaid with Palaeozoic rock, which, as a result of secondary forces associated with continental drift are at 120° to each other. The highest point of the islands is Mount Usborne, 2,313 feet (705 m) on East Falkland, while Mount Adam on West Falkland is only 16 feet (5 m) lower.

The southern part of East Falkland, the Lafonia Peninsula, which is connected to the rest of the island by a 2.5 miles (4 km) narrow isthmus, is dissimilar to the rest of the island. Most of Lafonia is a flat plain underlain by younger Mesozoic rock, but in the north west is Permian rock which is similar to that of parts of Ecca Pass in South Africa.


The Falkland Islands lie on the transition area between maritime subarctic climates ( Köppen cfc) and polar tundra climate (Köppen ET) zones that is very much influenced by the proximity of the Andes, the cool South Atlantic ocean with its northerly Patagonian current and the Antarctic Peninsula land mass some 680 miles (1,100 km) to the south giving the islands a narrow annual temperature range. The January average maximum temperature is about 15°C (59°F), and the July maximum average temperature is about 5°C (41°F). The average rainfall in Stanley is 604 millimetres (23.8 in), East Falkland as a whole 534 millimetres (21.0 in) and West Falkland as a whole 555 millimetres (21.9 in) with the flat areas, and in particular Lafonia, where the average annual rainfall falls to 400 mm or lower being much drier than the mountainous areas. Humidity and winds are however constantly high. Snow and sleet are frequent in winter, although snowfall is rarely deep. Gales are very frequent, particularly in winter.

Weather conditions are known to be extremely changeable, with it not being unusual to face all four seasons in one afternoon. The reason for this is the many wind directions resulting in many air masses mixing at the Drake Passage, which is often an area of low pressures.

Whilst being located as far south as the UK is north, the absence of a warming current like the Gulf Stream means temperatures are considerably colder than comparable areas in North West Europe. Weather forecasts are given by a local branch of the UK's Met Office.

Climate data for Stanley, Falkland Islands
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 29
Average high °C (°F) 15
Average low °C (°F) 7
Record low °C (°F) 0
Precipitation mm (inches) 56
Avg. precipitation days 24 20 23 24 26 22 23 22 21 21 21 23 270
Source: Weather2


Biogeographically, the Falkland Islands are classified as part of the Antarctic ecozone and Antarctic Floristic Kingdom. Strong connections exist with the flora and fauna of Patagonia in South America. The only terrestrial mammal upon the arrival of Europeans was the warrah, a fox-like canid found on both major islands. It became extinct in the mid 19th century. 14 species of marine mammals frequent the surrounding waters. The elephant seal, the fur seal, and the sea lions all breed on the islands, and the largest elephant seal breeding site has over 500 animals in it. 227 bird species have been seen on the islands, over 60 of which are known to breed on the islands. There are two endemic species of bird, and 14 endemic subspecies. There are five penguin species breeding on the islands, and over 60% of the global black-browed albatross population also breed in the area.

Five penguins walking up a grassy slope against the wind
Penguins at Gypsy Cove.

There are no native reptiles or amphibians on the islands. Over 200 species of insects have been recorded, along with 43 spider species and 12 worm species. Only 13 terrestrial invertebrates are recognised as endemic, although information on many species is lacking and it is suspected up to two thirds of species found are actually endemic. Due to the island environment, many insect species have developed reduced or absent wings. There are around 129 freshwater invertebrates, the majority being rotifer; however, the identification of some species remains in dispute. Six species of fish are found in freshwater areas, including zebra trout (aplochiton zebra) and falklands minnows (Galaxias maculatus). Different species of krill are found in Falkland waters, with lobster krill inhabiting the warmer waters in the north.

There are no native tree species on the archipelago, although two species of bushes, fachine (Chiliotrichum diffusum) and native box are found. Other vegetation consists of grasses and ferns. Around 363 species of vascular plants, 21 species of ferns and clubmosses and 278 species of flowering plants have been recorded on the islands. Of the vascular plants, 171 are believed to be native and 13 to be endemic. Some bogs and fens exist and support some freshwater plant species, but these are not common on the islands. Tussac grass, which averages 6.6 ft (2 m) in height but can reach up to 13 ft (4 m), is found within 300 m (1,000 ft) of the coast where it forms bands around larger islands. The dense canopies formed create an insulated micro-climate suitable for many birds and invertebrates. The pale maiden (Olsynium filifolium) is the islands' proposed national flower.

There is little long-term data on habitat changes, so the extent of human impact is unclear. Vegetation such as tussac grass, fachine, and native box have been heavily impacted by introduced grazing animals. Many breeding birds similarly only live on offshore islands, where introduced animals such as cats and rats are not found. Virtually the entire area of the islands is used as pasture for sheep. There is also an introduced reindeer population, which was brought to the islands in 2001 for commercial purposes. Rats and Grey foxes have been introduced and are having a detrimental impact on birds that nest on the shores, as are feral cats. 22 introduced plant species are thought to provide a significant threat to local flora.


A squid trawler, and a cruise ship in Port William representing two trends in recent economic development.

The earliest economic activity on the islands, from 1770 onwards, was whaling and sealing. From the mid ninteenth century onwards, sheep farming played an important part in the island's economy. In more recent years fishing, oil exploration and tourism have played a leading part in the economy of the islands.

Today, apart from defence, the islands are self sufficient with annual exports of $125 million and imports of $90 million (2004 estimate). The Falkland Islands use the Falkland pound, which circulates interchangeably with the pound sterling and which is backed by the pound sterling on a one-for-one basis. Falkland coins are produced in the United Kingdom; coins are identical in size to the United Kingdom currency but with local designs on the reverse. The Falkland Islands also issue their own stamps. Both the coins and stamps are a source of revenue from overseas collectors.

Farmland accounts for 1,123,985 ha (4,339.73 sq mi), more than 90% of the Falklands land area. Since 1984, efforts to diversify the economy have made fishing the largest part of the economy and brought increasing income from tourism. Sheep farming was formerly the main source of income for the islands and still plays an important part with high quality wool exports going to the UK. According to the Falklands Government Statistics there are over 500,000 sheep on the islands with roughly 60% on East Falkland and 40% on West Falkland.

The government has operated a fishing zone policy since 1986 with the sale of fishing licences to foreign countries. These licences have recently raised only £12 to 15 million a year in revenue, as opposed to £20m to £25m annually during the 1990s. Locally registered fishing boats are also in operation. More than 75% of the annual catch of 200,000 tonnes (220,000 short tons) is squid.

Map of the Falkland Islands economic zone in relation to its neighbours.

Tourism has grown rapidly. The islands have become a regular port of call for the growing market of cruise ships with more than 36,000 visitors in 2004.

A 1995 agreement between the UK and Argentina had set the terms for exploitation of offshore resources including oil reserves as geological surveys had shown there might be up to 60 billion barrels (9.5 billion cubic metres) of oil under the seabed surrounding the islands. However, in 2007 Argentina unilaterally withdrew from the agreement; Falklands Oil and Gas Limited then signed an agreement with BHP Billiton to investigate the potential exploitation of oil reserves. Due to the difficult climatic conditions of the southern seas exploitation will be difficult, though economically viable; the continuing sovereignty dispute with Argentina is also hampering progress.

In February 2010 exploratory drilling for oil was begun by Desire Petroleum, but the results from the first test well were disappointing. Two months later, on 6 May 2010, Rockhopper Exploration announced that "it may have struck oil". Subsequent tests showed it to be a commercially viable find; an appraisal project was launched and on 14 September 2011 Rockhopper Exploration announced that plans were under way for oil production to commence in 2016, through the use of floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) technology.


Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley, with an arch made of whale bone. One of the earliest economic activities on the islands was whaling.

The population of the Falkland Islands is primarily of British descent (about 70 percent of the population), mainly as a result of Scottish and Welsh immigration to the islands. In the 2006 census, some Islanders identified themselves as of French, Gibraltarian, and Scandinavian descent. Other minorities include those from Chile and Saint Helena, many of whom have become assimilated. Among the few Argentines currently residing in the islands is Maria Strange, wife of the author and historian Ian Strange.

Residents of the Falklands are often called " Kelpers" or "Islanders". The legal term for having the right of residence is "belonging to the islands". From 1 January 1983, as provided in the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, the islanders have been full British citizens.

A population decline leading up to the Falklands War has reversed, with the population bolstered by immigration from the British island of Saint Helena, and Chile though figures for immigration are skewed by including children born to Falkland Islander women who for medical reasons travelled abroad for their confinement as being "born abroad". Historical census figures show that the population rose from an estimate of 287 in 1851 to 2,272 in 1911. The population was 2,094 in 1921 and 2,392 in 1931, but it then declined to 1,813 in 1980. However, the population recorded in the 2001 census was higher than at any previous point in history. By 2006 the population had increased to 2,955 of whom 2,115 lived in Stanley and 477 in Mount Pleasant, 194 in the rest of East Falkland, 127 in West Falkland and 42 in the other islands. These figures exclude all military personnel and their families, but include 477 people who were present in the Falkland Islands in connection with the military garrison. In 2012, the population of the Falkland Islands (excluding British Ministry of Defence personnel and families based at RAF Mount Pleasant, stood at 2,841, the drop being attributed to a decline in the number of contractors associated with the air base. A breakdown of the figures showed that Stanley had a population of 2121, Camp had a population of 351 and contractors at Mount Pleasant made up the remaining 278.

The age distribution of the islands residents is skewed towards people of working age (20–60) – 65% as opposed to 21% aged below 20 and 14% aged above 60. Males outnumber females by 53% to 47% with the deviation being most prominent in the 20–60 age group. In the 2006 census, 67.2% of the islanders identified themselves as being Christians, 31.5% either declined to answer or had no religious affiliation and the remaining 1.3% (39 individuals) identified themselves as adherents of other faiths. The islands have three churches, one for each of the Church of England, Roman Catholic and United Free Church communities.



The first telephones in the Falklands were installed by the Falkland Island Company in 1880, with lines to all settlements in Camp being installed by 1907. In 1911, Marconi built a telegraph office that permitted telegrams to be sent to Montevideo. In 1950, the fixed line telephone service to Camp was replaced by a radio service; the 2006 census showed that of the 307 two-metre radio receivers in the islands, 129 were located in Camp. In 1989, Cable and Wireless won the contract to provide the Island's national and international telephone services. In 2006, a GSM 900 mobile extraoricular network was installed.

In 2006, broadband was successfully implemented in Stanley and Mount Pleasant Complex, and was rolled out across the islands in 2008/09. The International Telecommunication Union figures for 2011 identified the Falkland Islands as having the highest proportion of internet users in the world – 96.38%.


Typical Falkland Islands road.

In 1982, the Falkland Islands had no roads outside Stanley, only tracks. By 2007, the Falkland Islands had a road network of 488 miles (786 km) which in 2012 had been extended to 536 miles (862 km) linking to all occupied mainland settlements. Speed limits are 25 mph (40 km/h) in built-up areas and 40 mph (64 km/h) elsewhere. As of 2006, the Falkland Islands had 67 motor vehicles per 100 people, with 4x4 vehicles accounting for 66% of the total.

The Falkland Islands have two airports with paved runways – the main international airport RAF Mount Pleasant, 43 kilometres (27 mi) west of Stanley. opened in 1986 and the smaller Port Stanley Airport on the outskirts of Stanley, opened in 1979 following the 1971 Anglo-Argentine agreement regarding an air link between the countries. Mount Pleasant is used for military purposes and for heavy aircraft that require long runways, whereas Stanley is used for internal flights and smaller aircraft.

The Royal Air Force operates flights from RAF Mount Pleasant to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, England, with a refuelling stop at RAF Ascension Island. RAF flights are on TriStars although charter aircraft are often used if the TriStars are required for operational flights. Local military air support – moving of personnel, equipment and supplies around the islands is carried out under contract by British International (BRINTEL) which operates two Sikorsky S61N helicopters. The principal civilian air operator at Mount Pleasant is LAN Airlines which operates weekly flights to Santiago, Chile via Punta Arenas.

The Dash-7 of the British Antarctic Survey at Stanley.

The main operator at Port Stanley Airport is the Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) which operates Islander aircraft which can use the grass airstrips at most settlements. Flight schedules, which are broadcast on the radio every evening, are planned on a daily basis according to passenger needs.

Private operators from Stanley include the British Antarctic Survey who operate an air link to the Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula and also serve other British bases in the British Antarctic Territory using a de Havilland Canada Dash 7.

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