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Minutes - 9th Steering Committee Meeting of the European Atlas of the Seas

Published on: Wed, 25/05/2022 - 18:23
Table of Contents
    This article summarises the main discussions of the 9th Steering Committee Meeting of the European Atlas of the Seas which took place remotely on 11 May 2022.

    9th Steering Committee Meeting of the European Atlas of the Seas

    Meeting location: Remote meeting via Zoom

    Date and time: Wednesday 11/05/2022 from 10:30 until 12:00

    List of Actions

    SC #







    Set up and implement a prioritisation process for the update of map layers in the Atlas

    EMODnet Secretariat and Bilbomática




    Develop new maps based on data from EMODnet Biology, EMODnet Geology, EMODnet Human Activities, DG MARE and the Education for Climate Coalition

    EMODnet Secretariat and Bilbomática




    Analyse the possibility to link directly to a webpage where the data can be downloaded rather than to the data provider homepage

    EMODnet Secretariat and Bilbomática

    To do



    Investigate the possibility for automatic updates of the map layers based on Eurostat data


    To do



    Investigate the possibility to show trends in human activities in the Atlas

    EMODnet Secretariat

    To do

    Actions are aimed to be completed by and reported during the next Atlas Steering Committee meeting.


    Meeting Minutes

    1. Welcome and introduction

    Introduction by the EMODnet Secretariat

    Conor Delaney (EMODnet Secretariat) opened the meeting by welcoming the Steering Committee (SC) members. He apologised for the absence of Jan-Bart Calewaert (EMODnet Secretariat).

    Perspectives from DG MARE

    Zoi Konstantinou (DG MARE) stated that the European Atlas of the Seas is a success story. It started many years ago and has gone through various phases. It is a tool that can provide fast and reliable information and data to its users. She thanked the Atlas team for the progress that has been made and highlighted that there is space for further development and expansion of the Atlas. She gladly noted, from participation in the meeting, that various European Commission services are showing interest in the Atlas.

    Approval of the agenda

    Conor Delaney presented the agenda for the meeting and, noting there was no objection or comment, proceeded with the meeting.

    1. Development of the Atlas

    Achieved and ongoing technical developments

    Josu Olaso Imaz (Bilbomática) presented the latest technical developments (see the related presentation). He gave a demonstration of the most important new feature in the Atlas V7: the Interactive Help Module. In addition to this new feature, the v7 release also included several technical improvements:

    • Inclusion of the web address of the map that users are consulting when they complete the feedback form. This allows the Atlas team to better understand users' questions and remarks and address the feedback appropriately.
    • The “Click on the map to get feature info” box is now hidden for non-clickable map layers.
    • Following requests for this, the print and measure tools are now activated by default.
    • A new basemap was added to the Atlas: Cities template (provided by ESRI).
    • Bugs were resolved as they were detected

    Finally, in the new map layer 'European Maritime Day in My Country 2022', Bilbomática integrated an “Atlas explorer” diploma that all users can download when they successfully complete the virtual boat race game developed for this map by the EMODnet Secretariat and available in the Teachers Corner.

    Planned features

    The Atlas team is working on several new functionalities:

    • A 'My maps' functionality that will make it possible for users to save their own maps. A new section will be added to the Atlas Menu alongside the 'Predefined maps', 'Layers' and 'Map stories'. Users will identify themselves using the EU Login functionality. The analysis phase and test for this functionality have been completed. The development phase in the Atlas remains to be implemented.
    • A new monitoring tool is under development to have greater control over the availability and performance of the maps in the Atlas.

    Steering Committee Feedback

    The Steering Committee members made no comments on the technical developments of the Atlas.

    1. Content maintenance and development

    Achieved and ongoing content development

    Tim Collart (EMODnet Secretariat) presented the status on content maintenance and development. Since the start of this year, five new map layers have been added to the Atlas and 34 map layers have been updated (see the related presentation for the list of map layers).

    Proposal for existing content revision

    A comprehensive review of all content in the Atlas was made and shared with the Steering Committee before the meeting. This review collected the year of the data in each of the map layers and investigated whether updates are available. The results of this analysis will be used as a basis to update outdated map layers. A prioritisation process will be applied in order to update the maps with the most impact (Action 1).

    Proposal for new content

    New maps are under consideration based on data from EMODnet Biology, EMODnet Geology, EMODnet Human Activities, DG MARE and the Education for Climate Coalition (see the related presentation for the lists of proposed maps; Action 2).

    Steering Committee Feedback

    Members of the Steering Committee asked the following questions and made the following remarks on content maintenance and development.

    • Rémy Denos (DG MARE A1) underlined the importance of having maps that are up to date and asked how maps displayed in the Atlas are selected. He further asked whether there should be less maps in the Atlas that are all up to date and suggested to focus updates on the maps that are most often used. Tim Collart (EMODnet Secretariat) explained that maps for which no updated datasets are available will be considered for removal from the Atlas and those for which data is available will be updated.
    • Silvia Dalla Costa (EEA) stated that the Atlas is very nice and intuitive. She asked how it is possible to have basic information on the map layers and whether metadata is included. Tim Collart indicated that some information is included in the map layers' descriptions. These abstracts are written with the data provider in layman's terms to be understood by all audiences of the Atlas, which mostly include non-expert users. By clicking on the logo of the data provider in the map layers' descriptions, users can directly access the data for some maps. This is not the case for all maps as some provided links lead to data provider’s homepage. This was done deliberately as the Atlas is not aimed at providing access to the data, however it could help the users as we noticed that users occasionally ask the data source in the feedback form. The Atlas team will analyse if it possible to replace these links to the webpage where the data is available (Action 3).
    • Julien Gaffuri (Eurostat) asked whether the Atlas team investigated the possibility to automate the update of map layers and make available historical data. EUROSTAT has developed an API that allows automatic updates. Tim Collart explained that the Atlas team is using the web mapping services of data providers. If such service is not available, it creates one. For EUROSTAT data, there is no automatic update procedure in place. The Atlas team can analyse what can be done (Action 4). One thing to consider is that the latest year of data does not always include a complete dataset in terms of geographic coverage. It is necessary to analyse the frequency of the updating services. Some manual work may still be needed.
    1. Monitoring performance

    Web traffic analysis and trends

    Tim Collart presented the Atlas' web traffic statistics. These show that 2021 was a very successful year and that the Atlas‘ user base has grown rapidly across Europa and beyond (see the related presentation for details). Since the start of 2022, the visits to the atlas average around 1800 per week. Interestingly, the highest number of visits was observed during European holiday periods. This shows that the Atlas is reaching a more general public. Approximately half of the users look at the Atlas with a browser configured in English while the other half uses other browser languages (see the presentation for details). The origin of Atlas visits shows that 3rd party content providers on the web are increasingly including the Atlas in their websites. Most notably, these include several e-learning websites, as well as the website from Nausicaá, one of the Atlas' partners. Statistics on which map layers are loaded show that people are using the Atlas to discover information on a wide diversity of topics, but most notably on administrative boundaries (e.g. Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and Exclusive Economic Zones) as well as offshore human activities (e.g. algae production facilities and wind farms).

    Steering Committee Feedback

    • Monika Peterlin (EEA) suggested showing trends in offshore human activities in the Atlas. Every year, snapshots are published but it would be helpful to see the development of human activities (e.g., wind farms) over time. Time-series could be included in case these are provided by EMODnet Human Activities (the data provider for these maps). The Atlas team will investigate if this is the case (Action 5).
    • Neil Holdsworth (ICES) noted that the most loaded layers by users relate to administrative borders and asked if it is known why this is the case. It was suggested that people maybe use the Atlas as an authoritative source for this information.
    • Rémy Denos (DG MARE) asked why map layers on Regional Fisheries Management Organisations are amongst the most consulted layers. It was suggested that it may be more convenient for people to look at maps of these boundaries in the Atlas than to download and visualize them from the data provider (FAO).
    • Carlos Cerezo (DG MARE) asked what part of the web traffic of DG MARE is going to the Atlas. Tim Collart indicated that the Atlas team no longer has access to the Europa Analytics of the DG MARE website (now on so they cannot make the comparison. This could be checked by the Communication Team from DG MARE.
    1. Promotion, Events and Partnerships

    Achieved and ongoing promotion

    Nathalie Van Isacker (EMODnet Secretariat) showed the diversity of users that the Atlas team is targeting with the Atlas. Serving these audiences, the Atlas can have many uses such as

    • Ocean literacy & education tool for students, teachers and the general public;
    • Communication tool for support to maritime policy;
    • Information tool for online media.

    She presented the Atlas' Communication Strategy and Campaign (see the related presentation for details), which includes following components:

    • The content of the Teachers’ Corner was further developed with the translation of the treasure hunt and biodiversity quiz into French, the publication of four new exercises on seagrass, algae, beach litter and fisheries and the publication of presentations given at workshops.
    • Partnerships play an important role in the Atlas promotion. Escola Azul Teachers provided exercises in Portuguese to the Atlas Teachers Corner last year and Nausicaá is using the Atlas in the aquarium, extending its visibility to the general public and schools.
    • Many synergies exist with Ocean Literacy and education networks (e.g. EU4Ocean).
      • Map layers were created for the EU4Ocean Coalition's communities that are used both in internal and external communication by the Coalition. Links to these networks provide opportunities to promote the Atlas at events and workshops (e.g., the Atlas was promoted as a tool for teachers at different sea basin events organised by the EU4Ocean Coalition).
      • Ocean Literacy and education networks can also act as multipliers on social media both to the benefits of the Atlas and the networks' activities or campaign as could be seen from the Atlas' pledge in the EU4Ocean #MakeEUBlue pledge campaign.
      • The Atlas team is currently working with the Education for Climate Coalition for the development of a citizen science challenge that will invite schools to produce a map.
      • Contact was established with Inforsciences, the science outreach department of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, on the occasion of the 'Printemps des Sciences', an annual science festival for schools and the general public.
    • Synergies continue to be developed between the Atlas promotion team and DG MARE communication unit. This includes the production of the EMD in my Country map layer, the publication of the Map of the month in the DG MARE newsletter and suggestions from the Atlas team on maps that could be embedded in communication products from DG MARE.
    • The Atlas promotional campaign includes:
      • Participation in workshops (examples listed above);
      • Online presence of the Atlas (e.g.; Map of the Week and planned stakeholder interviews);
      • Social media presence: Regular activity is maintained on the Atlas' Twitter account with a variety of tweets (e.g.; Map of the Week, highlighted map layers, events, Atlas releases and new features) and relevant retweets from partners, networks and stakeholders. Partners and education and ocean literacy organizations are regularly tagged for community building and increased visibility. Interestingly, retweets of Atlas tweets by the community are observed in different languages. The number of Twitter followers has steadily increased in the past year, reaching over 2,440 followers in May 2022.

    Next steps

    In the coming year, the Atlas team aims to further increase and diversify the audiences of the Atlas through the continued development of partnerships and synergies. Several opportunities (e.g.; 2022 CommOcean conference taking place in November) and interesting platforms (e.g., e-classe) have been identified.

    Steering Committee Feedback

    Grigore Rischitor (DG MARE) pointed out the importance of optimisation of the Atlas on Google. Tim Collart confirmed the role of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and the work that was done to improve the SEO in the previous phase. The Atlas gets 20% of its visitors from Google and is listed first when a user types ‘sea atlas’. Many visitors also access the Atlas through the Map of the Week, which can be found when searching for information on a wide range of marine topics online.


    Annex 1 – List of participants



    Zoi Konstantinou

    DG MARE A1

    Chantal Vanhove

    DG MARE A1

    Grigore Rischitor

    DG MARE A1

    Rémy Denos

    DG MARE A1

    Christos Theophilou

    DG MARE A3

    Stanislovas Jonusas

    DG MARE C3

    Cédric Lathuy

    DG MARE C4

    Alessandra Portis

    DG MARE E2

    Carlos Cerezo

    DG MARE E3

    Juan-Carlos Fernandez Gomez


    Yasar Tolga Sari


    Silvia Dalla Costa


    Monika Peterlin


    Neil Holdsworth


    Susanne Szkola


    Julien Gaffuri


    Tim Collart

    EMODnet Secretariat

    Conor Delaney

    EMODnet Secretariat

    Nathalie Van Isacker

    EMODnet Secretariat

    Clara Becares


    Natalia Orio


    Josu Olaso Imaz


    Sheila Garcia


    Alberto Javier Telletxea Viana