Modern Pacific Island Populations & Territories


The broadest definition of the Pacific Islands encompasses those twenty–three island states and territories of the Pacific Ocean, including Micronesia (mostly north of the equator) and Papua New Guinea, but excluding the European populations of Hawaii (Hawai‘i) and New Zealand (Aotearoa). West Papua, or Irian Jaya, has a substantial Melanesian number of people, but population figures for the indigenous inhabitants are not available on that province of Indonesia, which was seized in 1960 and in which there is a lively resistance movement.

The eight "Pacific Island Countries" or "PICs" are nominally independent, and they comprise some of the larger states in area and population, excluding the special case of Papua New Guinea. Others in this category are Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

These 23 states and territories demonstrate a wide spectrum of political status, from Rapanui (Easter Island), which is an integral part of the Chilean state, to independent states. Along the way, there are special statutes for the French territories which provide them with a kind of home rule, to the situation of the Cook Islands and Niue, whose citizens carry New Zealand passports, but who have elected assemblies for internal and, occasionally, foreign affairs.

Micronesia, except for Kiribati and Nauru, is within the sphere of influence of the United States of America and persons there have open access to their metropolitan power, though their political status exhibits considerable variation, from the total dependency of Guam (a possession) to the status of "Autonomous Self-Governing" countries. Citizens of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, for example, are citizens of the USA.

Table 1 • South Pacific Populations, Areas & Densities
Country, State or Territory
Population in 1996
Land Area (km2)
EEZ

(000s km2)

Population Density (land)
American Samoa
58,900
200
390
234
Cook Islands
19,900
237
1,830
79
Easter Island (Rapanui)a
2,500
166
 
15
Federated States of Micronesia
109,200
701
2,978
149
Fiji
800,500
18,272
1,290
39
French Polynesia
220,000
3,521
5,030
54
Guam
153,700
541
218
246
Kiribati
78,400
811
3,550
89
Marshall Islands
57,400
181
2,131
240
Nauru
11,200
21
320
472
New Caledonia (Kanaky)
196,800
19,103
1,740
9
Niue
2,300
259
390
9
Northern Mariana Islands
62,700
471
1,823
92
Palau (Belau)
17,700
488
629
31
Papua New Guinea
4,141,800
462,243
3,120
8
Pitcairn
47
5
800
11
Samoa (formerly "Western Samoa")
165,100
2,935
120
55
Solomon Islands
395,200
28,530
1,340
10
Tokelau
1,500
10
290
158
Tonga
90,000
747
700
127
Tuvalu
9,600
26
900
348
Vanuatu
173,900
12,190
680
12
Wallis & Futuna
14,800
255
300
54
South Pacific
6,783,147
551,913
30,569
12
South Pacific Excluding Papua New Guinea
2,641,347
89,670
27,443
28

Sources:

Pacific Islands Populations Data Sheet 1996, Noumea, Population/Demography Programme, South Pacific Commission. a. Rapanui (Easter Island) figures are based upon genealogical fieldwork of Grant McCall, carried out in 1985–1986 and projected at an approximate growth of 50 persons per year.

North and South Pacific Ocean and Rim Sketch Map


 


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