Geographic Information Systems have become indispensable tools in managing and displaying marine data and information. However, a unique georeferenced standard of marine place names and areas was not available, hampering several marine geographic applications, for example the linking of these locations to databases to integrate data. The purpose of Marine Regions is therefore to create a standard, relational list of geographic names, coupled with information and maps of the geographic location of these features. This will improve access and clarity of the different geographic, marine names such as seas, sandbanks, ridges and bays and display univocally the boundaries of marine biogeographic or managerial marine areas.

Marine Regions is an integration of the VLIMAR Gazetteer and the VLIZ Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase. The VLIMAR Gazetteer is a database with geographic, mainly marine names such as seas, sandbanks, seamounts, ridges, bays or even standard sampling stations used in marine research. The geographic cover of the VLIMAR gazetteer is global but initially focused on the Belgian Continental Shelf and the Scheldt Estuary and the Southern Bight of the North Sea. Gradually more regional and global geographic information was added to VLIMAR and combining this information with the Maritime Boundaries database, representing the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the world, led to the creation of marineregions.org.

Marine Regions is managed by the Flanders Marine Institute. Funding for the creation of the VLIMAR gazetteer was provided initially through the EU Network of Excellence MarBEF, but also other European initiatives such as Lifewatch provide the necessary funding for the maintenance and management of Marine Regions.

Marine Regions depends on data and knowledge sharing from global, European, regional and national data providers and relevant experts. By setting up Collaboration Agreements, data providers will benefit from belonging to the Marine Regions partnership as they would get increased visibility, gain access to a variety of data analysis services which will benefit from integration of several distributed spatial datasets, as well as enjoying the benefit of the creation of stable unique identifiers. An example template of a Collaboration Agreement can be found here. Please contact info@marineregions.org if your organisation is interested in exploring this collaboration.