Bathymetric data, in essence information about the water depth and underwater topography of oceans and seas, is important in many aspects of marine research, administration and spatial planning as well as for management of marine and coastal environments and their resources. In coastal areas societal needs are at the forefront: safety of vessel navigation is the most prioritized rationale for bathymetric mapping close to the coast, around shoals and along shipping routes. This mapping is the basis for the production of nautical charts. Finally, bathymetry data is also essential for planning marine installations and infrastructure such as wind turbines, coastal defences, oil platforms and pipelines. Research and academia organisations, governmental agencies, industry and citizens can benefit significantly from access to good bathymetric data.
Even though bathymetric data are still sparse in many regions, significant international efforts are pursued in order to assemble all the data collected by various actors and make these available to the public. EMODnet Bathymetry is the major effort undertaken by Europe on this challenge.