7 June 2007


7 June 2007
Press Release
PI/1781 SAG/414
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

World ocean day marked by United Nations atlas of oceans’ fifth year online


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a group of 14 partner organizations are celebrating World Ocean Day tomorrow, 8 June, by marking the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans (, a pioneering online encyclopaedia containing a wealth of information on the world’s oceans that is maintained collaboratively by an international network of expert editors.

The Atlas was launched in 2002 by a group of United Nations agencies and their partners -- constituting some of the world’s foremost ocean agencies -- amid mounting concern over the continuing deterioration of marine and coastal ecosystems with the goal of helping to reverse this decline and promote the sustainable development of oceans.  Overfishing, destruction of coastal habitat and pollution from industry, farms and households are endangering not only fish -- an important source of animal protein in the human diet -- but also are affecting marine biodiversity and even the global climate.

The Atlas allows policymakers, resource managers, academics and experts to access, contribute and continuously update and expand human knowledge on these issues—and their possible solutions.

“The basic idea is to pool knowledge and expertise from around the globe in one easy-to-use tool that can deepen our understanding of marine environments and help promote a shared, coherent vision for ocean management,” said Jorge Csirke, Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Management Division and the United Nations Atlas Project Director.

Currently the Atlas contains more than 4,000 entries on a vast range of themes, from fisheries biology to ocean law to undersea prospecting for pharmaceuticals to maritime transport and telecommunications.

Each topic category provides background information, lists United Nations agency programme roles and involved organizations, describes relevant legal and policy frameworks, identifies research needs, and gives an assessment of what the future holds.

These entries are maintained by a network of 42 volunteer expert editors, with another 7,000-plus “members” who receive regular updates on new or altered Atlas content, contribute to the content and give feedback to the editors.

About 100,000 people access the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans website each month.

Acting under the United Nations Ocean and Coastal Areas Network (UN-Oceans) framework, 15 United Nations and non-United Nations organizations make up the Atlas partnership, with the Food and Agriculture Organization serving as the coordinating Secretariat:  the International Atomic Energy Agency; the International Maritime Organization; the International Seabed Authority; the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; the United Nations Environment Programme; the World Meteorological Organization; the Census of Marine Life; Russia’s Head Department of Navigation and Oceanography; the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the National Geographic Society; the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the World Ocean Observatory; and the World Resources Institute with initial funding from the United Nations Foundation.

For further information, please contact:  Tina Farmer, Food and Agriculture Organization, tel.:  +39 06 5705 6846, e-mail:; Anne Rogers, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.:  +1 212 963 2476, e-mail:

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.