Flag of Tuvalu

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In 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name ".tv" for $50 million in royalties over the next dozen years.


Oceania, island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia

Geographic coordinates:

8 00 S, 178 00 E


total: 26 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 26 sq km


tropical; moderated by easterly trade winds (March to November); westerly gales and heavy rain (November to March)


very low-lying and narrow coral atolls

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m

Natural resources:


Land use:

arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2001)

Natural hazards:

severe tropical storms are usually rare, but, in 1997, there were three cyclones; low level of islands make them very sensitive to changes in sea level

Environment - current issues:

since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities (the Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build one other); beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is very concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country's underground water table; in 2000, the government appealed to Australia and New Zealand to take in Tuvaluans if rising sea levels should make evacuation necessary

Geography - note:

one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth; six of the coral atolls - Nanumea, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, and Nukulaelae - have lagoons open to the ocean; Nanumaya and Niutao have landlocked lagoons; Niulakita does not have a lagoon


11,468 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Polynesian 96%, Micronesian 4%


Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%, Baha'i 1%, other 0.6%


Tuvaluan, English, Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)

Government type:

constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy; began debating republic status in 1992


Funafuti; note - administrative offices are located in Vaiaku Village on Fongafale Islet


1 October 1978 (from UK)

Economy - overview:

Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. The country has no known mineral resources and few exports. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. Fewer than 1,000 tourists, on average, visit Tuvalu annually. Government revenues largely come from the sale of stamps and coins and worker remittances. About 1,000 Tuvaluans work in Nauru in the phosphate mining industry. Nauru has begun repatriating Tuvaluans, however, as phosphate resources decline. Substantial income is received annually from an international trust fund established in 1987 by Australia, NZ, and the UK and supported also by Japan and South Korea. Thanks to wise investments and conservative withdrawals, this Fund has grown from an initial $17 million to over $35 million in 1999. The US government is also a major revenue source for Tuvalu, because of payments from a 1988 treaty on fisheries. In an effort to reduce its dependence on foreign aid, the government is pursuing public sector reforms, including privatization of some government functions and personnel cuts of up to 7%. In 1998, Tuvalu began deriving revenue from use of its area code for "900" lines and in 2000, from the lease of its ".tv" Internet domain name. Royalties from these new technology sources could increase substantially over the next decade. With merchandise exports only a fraction of merchandise imports, continued reliance must be placed on fishing and telecommunications license fees, remittances from overseas workers, official transfers, and investment income from overseas assets.

Labor force - by occupation:

people make a living mainly through exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls and from wages sent home by those abroad (mostly workers in the phosphate industry and sailors)

Exports - commodities:

copra, fish

Exports - partners:

Poland 31.5%, Azerbaijan 13.7%, Italy 11%, France 11%, Germany 6.8%, Austria 6.8%, Rwanda 5.5%, Hungary 5.5%, Fiji 4.1% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods

Imports - partners:

Fiji 26.7%, Australia 19.4%, Poland 14.7%, Germany 13.7%, Japan 11.4%, New Zealand 8.7% (2003 est.)


Australian dollar (AUD); note - there is also a Tuvaluan dollar

Exchange rates:

Tuvaluan dollars or Australian dollars per US dollar - 1.5419, (2003), 1.8406 (2002), 1.9320 (2001), 1.7173 (2000), 1.5497 (1999)

Telephone system:

general assessment: serves particular needs for internal communications
domestic: radiotelephone communications between islands
international: country code - 688


total: 8 km
paved: 0 km
unpaved: 8 km (1999 est.)

Ports and harbors:

Funafuti, Nukufetau

Merchant marine:

total: 6 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 54,993 GRT/86,048 DWT
by type: cargo 3, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 1, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: Germany 4, Singapore 1, Thailand 1 (2003 est.)


1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military branches:

no regular military forces; Police Force (includes Maritime Surveillance Unit for search and rescue missions and surveillance operations)