Seabed Mapping

We’re helping to fund a scoping study that we hope will be the catalyst for more coordinated and comprehensive mapping of the marine environment to generate efficiencies, uncover new opportunities and support decision making.

The greater part of the UK lies under the sea, but knowledge of this area, which spans over 330,000 square miles, remains incomplete. More coordination in organising seabed mapping activities and sharing the data could yield benefits for businesses and public sector organisations, as well as supporting jobs and economic growth.

The UK’s marine sector employs around 113,000 people and contributes at least £11 billion to the UK economy each year. These significant contributions, already set to increase, could grow even more if the industry had access to comprehensive, quality seabed mapping data.

A national seabed mapping programme has the potential to significantly improve our understanding of the marine environment. This will enable us all to plan with more confidence and accuracy, and ultimately reduce costs across the board.”

Peter Edmonds, Spatial Data Manager at The Crown Estate

It is estimated that only 30% of the UK seabed has been mapped in detail and that it would take decades to map it all, if activities continue as they currently are. At the moment, several different public and private sector bodies are involved in mapping UK waters, with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) delivering the only systematic mapping programme. With different organisations and sectors commissioning studies, the same area is sometimes mapped multiple times, often to varying specifications.

As active managers of the UK seabed, we take a great interest in improving understanding of our offshore estate and supporting the sustainable development of the marine sector. We have therefore made a contribution to help fund a scoping study being led by the MCA and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. The work has been undertaken by environmental research consultancy Eunomia, in collaboration with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

We hope that this study will be the catalyst for more consistent and comprehensive mapping of the marine environment. This would save the industry costs and uncertainty, particularly in the early planning stages of development projects. It would also enable effective decision making and could uncover new commercial growth opportunities, alongside environmental management and safety improvements.