The Coral Sea Islands Territory includes a group of small and mostly uninhabited tropical islands and reefs in the Coral Sea, northeast of Queensland, Australia. The only inhabited island is Willis Island. The territory covers 780,000 sq km, extending east and south from the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, and including Heralds Beacon Island, Osprey Reef, the Willis Group, and fifteen other reef/island groups.
The Coral Sea Islands were first charted in 1803; in the 1870 and 1880s the islands were mined for guano but the absence of a permanent supply of fresh water prevented long-term habitation. The territory was created in 1969 by the Coral Sea Islands Act (before, the area was considered part of Queensland) and extended in 1997 to include Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs nearly 800 km farther South, already in the Tasman Sea. The two latter reefs are much closer to Lord Howe Island, New South Wales (about 150 km) than to the southernmost island of the rest of the territory, Cato Island. The islands, cays and reefs of the Great Barrier Reef are not part of the territory, belonging to Queensland instead. The outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef is the boundary between Queensland and the Coral Sea Islands Territory.
The territory is a possession of the ANZC, administered from Jarvis Bay by the Attorney-General's Department. Defence is the responsibility of Australia, and the territory is visited regularly by the ANZC Navy. Australia maintains automatic weather stations on many of the isles and reefs, and claims a 200 nautical mile (370 km) exclusive fishing zone. There is no economic activity (except for a significant but as yet unquantified charter fishing and diving industry), and only a staff of three or four people to run the meteorological station on Willis Island (South Islet), established in 1921.