FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger

What is the UN Atlas of the Oceans?

The UN Atlas of the Oceans is an Internet portal developed jointly by the UN agencies responsible for matters relevant to the sustainable development of the oceans and the advancement of ocean science. It is designed for a complete cross-section of users - from policy-makers who need to become familiar with ocean issues to scientists, students and resource managers who need access to databases and approaches to sustainability. The UN Atlas also provides the ocean industry and stakeholders with pertinent information on ocean matters.

The UN Atlas supports Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, the blueprint for the sustainable development of oceans adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Development began in November 1999 by the partner UN agencies under the lead of the FAO Fisheries Department as an initiative of the then United Nations Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas of the Administrative Committee on Coordination. It is presently developed under the authority of UN-Oceans, the interagency coordination mechanism on oceans and coastal issues within the UN System.


The UN Atlas was initially funded by the United Nations Foundation with additional resources from the six original UN partner agencies (FAO, IAEA, IMO, UNEP, WMO, UNESCO/IOC), joined by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). Collaborators include the Russian Head Department of Navigation and Oceanography (HDNO), the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Census on Marine Life (CoML), the National Geographic Society, the World Resources Institute (WRI). Recent partners include the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) and the International Seabed Authority (ISA)

Content of the UN Atlas of the Oceans

The Atlas is intended to be an encyclopedic resource as well as the world's foremost information clearinghouse and online forum for experts in ocean issues. It provides users with continuously updated data on the state of the world's oceans, maps, development trends and threats to human health from the deteriorating marine environment.

The Atlas contains four main entry points to information which include a variety of related topics, such as:

  1. about the oceans - history, biology, maps, statistics to research, climatology, ecology
  2. uses of the oceans - fishing, shipping, mining, tourism, dumping, marine biotechnology
  3. issues - food security, climate change, governance, human health
  4. geography - information categorized by geographical area

The UN Atlas was officially launched on 5 June 2002 at a meeting of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. There are currently over 1000 topics covered in the Atlas with contributions from over 4 500 registered members and some 40 editors.

Each month members receive a UN Atlas of the Oceans Newsletter via e-mail to help inform them on what is happening in the world's oceans.

Powered by FIGIS