An Atlantic Ocean Map

An Atlantic Ocean Map

What is it?

To date, just 5% of the ocean floor has been mapped. Under AORA, the remainder of the Atlantic Ocean floor will be charted, making it the best-understood ocean on Earth.

Seabed Mapping
Why is it important?

Seabed mapping enables us to observe and predict changes in weather, climate and ecosystems. The connectivity between the shape of the ocean floor and the ocean circulation above it drives our climate, our weather, and the movement and productivity of the seafood resources within the ocean. The more we understand the ocean floor, the more we can fundamentally increase our knowledge of underwater terrain and habitats, why ocean currents move the way they do and why species migrate to certain places and not others.

  • Although only 5% of the ocean floor is currently mapped - with just 1% of this gridded at high resolution - research teams have already identified previously uncharted undersea volcanoes and mountain ranges. Knowing what lies on the ocean floor will inform safer shipping and search and rescue policies, provide better knowledge for siting cables and pipelines, and help make the Atlantic the best-known, best-understood, and most predictable ocean in the world.
  • 103 million mi² of deep sea exists in perpetual darkness. While almost 200,000 species have been identified (UNESCO/IOC 2018), actual numbers of unknown marine life may lie in the millions. Ocean mapping reveals invaluable insights into deep-sea marine ecosystems, profoundly the affecting the ways in which future generations will think about sustainability, food and medicine.
  • The United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as the Decade of the Ocean, while the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a goal dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans (SDG14). Seabed mapping will ensure that future uses of ocean energy - from marine geothermal power to mineral extraction - will help to deliver on these ambitious UN goals.
Where are we now?

A strategy has been developed to map the Atlantic and surveying has already begun. Using the latest technology, we are making ground-breaking discoveries, including previously uncharted undersea volcanoes and mountains.

Some achievements to date:

How are we doing it?

AORA Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group (ASMIWG) was established to identify the steps required to implement a seabed mapping strategy.

The key objectives include:

  • identifying the issues and priorities of seabed mappers in order to prepare a unified seabed map of the shared Atlantic
  • progressing data availability, harmonisation and standards
  • improving communication and the sharing of best practices

Membership of the group comprises experts from the following neighbouring Atlantic countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Monaco, Portugal, Spain, the UK, and the USA.

Under AORA, researchers are now collaborating on seabed mapping projects such as :

Other seabed mapping initiatives:


The Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration, or ASPIRE, is a major multi-year, multi-national collaborative ocean exploration field program focused on raising collective knowledge and understanding of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Project Website
SponGES is a research and innovation project funded under the H2020 Blue Growth BG1 call aimed at “Improving the preservation and sustainable exploitation of Atlantic marine ecosystems”. Its overarching goal is to develop an integrated ecosystem-based approach to preserve and sustainably use deep-sea sponge ecosystems of the North Atlantic.
Project Website
The ATLAS project is striving to improve our understanding of complex deep-sea ecosystems and their associated species, including those that are new to science. Researchers are looking to predict future changes to these ecosystems and species together with their vulnerabilities in the face of climate change.
Project Website


The Atlantic Seabed Mapping Vision Statement and Roadmap arises from the activities of the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Work Group and is conducted through the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA) between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America. The progress and vision towards achieving a baseline seabed and habitat map of the Atlantic Ocean, was presented at the All Atlantic Ocean Research Forum, 6-7 February 2020, in Brussels, Belgium. The Seabed Mapping Group has, in the last five years, defined and tested all the necessary steps to map the previously uncharted seafloor of the Atlantic Ocean. With the onset of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the Seabed Mapping Group calls on the international leaders to provide the resources and framework necessary to achieve this ambitious goal, in order to deliver on their commitment to the Galway and Belém Statements. Creating an accurate fact based map of the Atlantic seafloor is essential for the sustainable use of our ocean, and will greatly help us to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 14 – Life Below Water. A diverse group of stakeholders participated in this work and the outcome summarized here in this roadmap is a result of extensive consultation with workshop and meeting participants, as well as others that were invited to comment on the work as it progressed. The editorial team would like to thank all those who contributed with comments and input.
Ocean technology enables mankind to utilize the ocean environment and resources efficiently, safely, sustainably and profitably.
This white paper summarizes a vision for improved sharing, discovery, and access to seafloor data in the North Atlantic Ocean.
This Report was produced by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-Ordination and Support Action. The Lead Partner responsible for Ocean Observation Work Package in the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-Ordination and Support Action is Institute of Marine Research, Norway.