Part of the subantarctic waters of New Zealand, they display a high level of productivity, biodiversity, wildlife population densities and endemism among birds, plants and invertebrates.
The islands were first discovered in 1800. A sealing boom at the islands in 1805 to 1807 led up to eighty men there, even leading to a battle between American and British-led gangs at one point. It drove fur seals to extinction after over 100 000 had been hunted for their pelts. Introduced rodents have caused problems by preying on the indigenous wildlife. The estimated 200 000 mice on Antipodes Island were eliminated in 2016.