Questions and Answers on the European Atlas of the Seas
1. Why a European Atlas of the Seas?
The European Atlas of the Seas is a support tool for the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy for sustainable seas and coasts in Europe. Some maritime policy initiatives – be they specific to European seas, such as the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region or the Mediterranean Strategy, or cross-cutting, such as maritime spatial planning or maritime surveillance and knowledge – primarily involve Member States and stakeholders. In contrast, the EU Atlas of the Seas is geared first and foremost towards the general public.
At last year's Maritime Day Conference (on 19 and 20 May 2009 in Rome) the stakeholders concluded that an atlas of the seas could: 1) help people to visualise intuitively and succinctly the complexity of the marine environment, and notably Europe's sea basins; 2) attract a wide and varied audience and generate interest in the many aspects of the seas and their coastal regions; and 3) help translate and promote in a lively way Integrated Maritime Policy initiatives and, at the same time, support other initiatives and inter-linkages to mutual benefit.In short, one map is worth a thousand words, in particular when targeting the general public.
The atlas aims to raise awareness of Europe's oceans and seas and to facilitate access to sea-related information. The atlas will help increase knowledge of the various dimensions of our maritime Europe, as it offers a remarkably diverse range of information about Europe's seas, across national borders. It also enhances the understanding and profile of European policies and legislation on the seas and the coasts, which include – but not are not restricted to – the Common Fisheries Policy.
Moreover, the atlas responds to the Commission's drive to improve communication with citizens. It is an up-to-date communication tool enabling a rapid flow of information, which everyone will find it easy to use. It is mainly made up of dynamic maps, complemented by textual and graphical information. The atlas is available in English, German and French.
2. For whom has it been designed, and for which purpose(s)?
The European Atlas of the Seas has been conceived in the first instance for the general public, without excluding stakeholders or Member States. Europe's seas are crucial to its economy and employment levels (through transport, energy and other natural resources and fisheries), to its environment (as a climate regulator and source of biodiversity), to its leisure activities, and so on. To facilitate access to the public, a web-based approach has been chosen for the atlas, thereby making it easily and freely accessible, with information that is regularly enriched and updated, with special attention paid to intuitive and user-friendly navigation. The atlas will help Europe's citizens to get to know their seas better, to understand more clearly the core role that Europe's seas play in their daily lives, to familiarise themselves with the various activities and professions related to the seas, and to gain a closer insight into European policies and initiatives. This global focus is designed to demonstrate to citizens and stakeholders the benefits of an integrated approach to maritime policy to make our seas and coasts more sustainable.
3. Which regions are covered?
The atlas's focus is maritime Europe with its various dimensions (environment, transport, economy, population, etc.), including outermost regions, and its content is limited to quality-checked information that is available across the EU – and, where possible, neighbouring countries – and is considered relevant, on a European scale, to its target audience.
4. What can be found in the atlas?
The atlas shows facts and figures about the seas, as well as information on maritime policies and activities. These include sea depth and undersea relief names; rivers and their drainage basins; tide amplitude and coastal erosion; sea level rise and marine protected areas; maritime transport and port statistics; population density in coastal zones and employment in the fishing sector; fisheries product consumption; fishing quotas by species, Member State and fishing zone; the European fishing fleet distribution and composition; aquaculture production and much more.
5. Where do the data come from?
The data displayed in the atlas have been collected from European Commission departments, EU agencies, international organisations and so forth. The information source appears in each map's metadata. The plan is to update the data every 3 months.
6. How can users give feedback?
A public survey will enable the Commission to gather suggestions on potential improvements of this first edition of the atlas, taking into account user needs. The feedback received from users will help improve and enrich the atlas.
The online survey will run until 4 July 2010 and can be found at
Atlas e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to the Atlas: http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeatlas