The Falkland Islands are a UK Overseas Territory located 52 degrees south of the equator in the South Atlantic Ocean some 300 miles to the east of South America.
The Islands have a population of approximately 3,000 people, of which some 2,000 live in the capital, Stanley. Following an invasion by Argentinian forces in 1982 and a subsequent war to reclaim the islands, there is also a permanent UK military garrison at Mount Pleasant, 36 miles from Stanley, of about 1,000 military personnel.
Substantially all the population live on the larger of the two main islands, East Falkland, where the capital, Stanley is located. In addition to the large island of West Falkland there are about 700 other smaller islands, which are almost all uninhabited. The climate and lifestyle of the population is similar to that found on many of the more remote Scottish islands. The Falkland economy has traditionally been based on agriculture and offshore squid fishing and currently has an annual GDP of approximately £100 million, which enables the Islands to be economically sufficient in all areas but defence.
The Falklands have a GDP per head higher than in mainland UK and the population can be described as reasonably affluent. The main swing factor in the economy is the state of the fishing industry. The Falkland Islands Government derives a substantial part of its income from the sale of licenses to the international fishing fleets which operate in the 200 mile fishing zone round the Islands. Fishing activity and catch sizes tends to be cyclical, and is affected by climatic and oceanographic factors including the direction and strength of ocean currents. Revenue is also generated from the tourists on cruise ships en route to the Antarctic.
Oil exploration around the Falkland Islands has gained considerable momentum with recent confirmed commercial discoveries projected to lead to oil production from the offshore fields around the Islands by late 2017. The UK quoted group Premier Oil estimates that its Sea Lion field in the north Falklands basin holds around 350 million barrels of oil and exploration work is continuing in the southern basins by US oil major, Noble Energy, Borders and Southern and Falkland Oil and Gas Limited.
The Falkland Islands Government has begun to plan ahead to ensure that the Falklands are prepared. The current infrastructure will need substantial expansion and development to be able to accommodate the requirements of an emerging oil industry, including development of appropriate port and warehousing facilities, and industrial and residential accommodation.