Why it matters
For all of humanity’s scientific achievements, we have yet to have a complete map – and, therefore, a complete understanding – of our own planet.
There are many benefits to having a complete map of our ocean. Knowing the seafloor’s shape is fundamental for understanding ocean circulation and climate models, resource management, tsunami forecasting and public safety, sediment transportation, environmental change, cable and pipeline routing, and much more.
It is also vital information which will enable the realisation of the societal outcomes outlined by the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14: ‘to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable.’
Only 6% of the ocean floor was mapped to an adequate resolution when the initiative first started…
Seabed 2030 was launched at the first ever UN Ocean Conference in New York in 2017. Today, we’ve seen the figure grow to a quarter of the seabed mapped.
In 2017, Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation, announced the launch of Seabed 2030
24.9% of the ocean floor now mapped
5 Seabed 2030 Centers established
90 million km² of new data obtained since Seabed 2030’s inception
Seabed 2030 Project aims to discover how much of the seafloor has been mapped already and what might be held in the world's repositories.
All existing bathymetric data will be compiled into the freely available GEBCO digital map. This map will then identify areas where there is no data to inform future mapping expeditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find out more about the project and how it operates from the following frequently asked questions.
Why do we need a map of the seabed?
Scientists have told us that we have less than ten years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change but we simply cannot manage the unknown. The ocean covers over 70 per cent of Earth, and we therefore need a complete map of the seabed in order to empower the world to make critical decisions that will determine the future of our planet.
Knowing the seafloor’s shape is also fundamental for understanding ocean circulation, tsunami forecasting, fishing resources, sediment transportation, environmental change, underwater geo-hazards, cable and pipeline routing, and much more. It is essential to ensuring the sustainable management of the ocean, including that of fragile marine ecosystems.
How will Seabed 2030 achieve its ambitious mission?
Seabed 2030 is a truly global collaborative effort.
We need everyone to get involved in order to help us map 100% of the seabed, and our partnerships are invaluable in this quest. In addition to collating existing data, Seabed 2030 also identifies existing data that are not currently in publicly available databases and seeks to make these available, as well as identifying areas for which no data exists to inform future expeditions.
Click here to view Seabed 2030’s partners.
At what resolution will you map the ocean floor?
We aim for the best possible resolution, within practical limits. Gathering high-resolution data becomes more difficult the deeper the ocean gets. As a result, we have set an overall minimum requirement for different ocean depths as outlined in the table below.
This table shows the minimum resolutions we expect to achieve at each depth range by Seabed 2030.
|Grid cell size
|% of world ocean floor
|100 × 100 m
|200 × 200 m
|400 × 400 m
|800 × 800 m
What’s the role of technology in this endeavour?
In order to meet Seabed 2030’s ambitious but critical goal, ocean innovation and capacity building within the sector will need to develop at an unprecedented pace..
As multibeam echo sounders become more affordable, it will be possible to equip a greater number of vessels to contribute to the global effort. Companies are also developing unmanned surface vessels and underwater submersibles capable of diving several thousand meters below sea level and conducting ocean-mapping missions.
How can I play a part in this mission?
Where does the private sector fit into this?
To avoid duplication of mapping efforts, private sector organisations – many of which hold large volumes of data that are not publicly available – can indicate which sections of the ocean have already been mapped for commercial purposes. This will enable scientists to plan mapping expeditions to areas for which no data exists. We also encourage the private sector to contribute data at a reduced resolution, if client sensitivities are an issue. To find out more about how you can contribute, click here.