An additional 5.4 million square kilometres of new data – equating to an area twice the size of Argentina – has been added to the definitive map of the world’s ocean floor, with 24.9 percent of the seabed now mapped. 

The latest figure was announced by HSH Prince Albert during the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) Assembly, currently taking place in Monaco. Formed by the representatives of its 98 Member States and Observers, the Assembly meets triannually to discuss new developments in technical standards, ocean mapping and agree on resolutions to guide activities. 

The global effort behind mapping the world’s entire ocean floor before the end of the decade is being spearheaded by Seabed 2030 – a collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), itself a joint programme of the IHO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prince Albert II praised developments made in ocean mapping, and acknowledged the role of GEBCO – which this year is celebrating 120 years. GEBCO was initiated in 1903 by his ancestor, Prince Albert I of Monaco. 

Mapping the ocean floor is a critical step towards informing decision-making in areas such as resource management, environmental change, and ocean conservation. It directly supports UN SDG 14, to conserve and sustainably use the ocean. Seabed 2030 is a formally endorsed Action of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (The Ocean Decade). 


Illustration: the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO)