UK coastline shapefile?

UK coastline shapefile?

I'm looking for a shapefile for the coastline of the UK.

I'm guessing the Ordnance Survey 'geo-portal' is the best place to get this, but whenever I go to the Ordnance Survey site I get the shakes. (Seriously, trying to find any data on that site is really traumatic. I don't have a spare three days.)

Does anyone just have a simple URL for such a shapefile?

For the free Ordnance Survey data, go to Click on the big button at the top labelled "Order Now". On the new page, scroll down until you see Boundary Line. Each dataset has a number of check boxes for ordering options. Boundary line is only offered for the whole of the Great Britain so you only get two check boxes. The one on the left is to order on DVD and the one on the right is to download. I'd recommend the download option. Check the box then scroll to the bottom and click the big blue button marked "Next". On the next page fill in your details and then click "Continue". You will then get an email with the download link.

The coastline in the OS Boundary-Line data is a high-res representation of the mean high water. However, it is a polyline. Do not try to convert this to a polygon. Britain is composed of a convoluted coastline and thousands of satellite islands, peninsulas and rocky out-crops. This means that even a seriously powerful computer is likely to fail to stitch the polyline into a set of polygons (I know because I've tried!). Use one of the political boundary maps instead and dissolve all the polygons to get just the coast.

A great alternative is either the OSM data already mentioned in another reply or the GSHHG shorelines dataset (formerly known as GSHHS). This is global but comes in a series of resolutions. It is a big download though.

My number one source for shapefiles is DIVA-GIS, simply select your country (United Kingdom) and subject (Administrative areas).

Unzip the downloaded file and you should see 3 polygon shapefiles with differing top-levels. The layer GBR_adm0 contains a single polygon of the UK:

If you wish, you can convert this to a line shapefile (I used QGIS 2.6):

I use

It's in lat/long format, rather than OSGR format.

It covers the entire planet, but Shapefiles are a fairly simple format, so it's possible to write a smallish program to filter by latitude and longitude.

For the best resolution delineation of UK coastlines, use the OS Open boundaryline product. It's free and is far more accurate than other delineations online.

The only issue is it comes supplied as regional inland polygons (based on council or borough areas). The coastal stretches of these polygons are what you want. So I would download the data then:

  1. Dissolve all the polygons into one MULTIPOLYGON (orST_UNIONthe geometry column in postgis)
  2. Convert the new MULTIPOLYGON into a MULTILINESTRING
  3. ST_DUMPor convert this into separate LINESTRINGs
  4. For better performance, split the coastline LINESTRING into equal 100m long segments.

Maps and Geographic data showing information relevant onshore licensing of the oil and gas industry. All our onshore maps and data is held and created using the British National Grid.

Wallmap displaying current fields and licences (updated 01 September 2016)

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EEA coastline for analysis

  • />EEA coastline - Polyline (ZIP archive)
    26.21 MB Download file /data-and-maps/data/ga-downloads/DAT-132-en/eea-coastline-for-analysis-2/
  • />EEA coastline - Polygon (ZIP archive)
    29.17 MB Download file /data-and-maps/data/ga-downloads/DAT-132-en/eea-coastline-for-analysis-2/
  • INSPIRE - Polyline
    Download file /data-and-maps/data/ga-downloads/DAT-132-en/eea-coastline-for-analysis-2/inspire-polyline
  • INSPIRE - Polygon
    Download file /data-and-maps/data/ga-downloads/DAT-132-en/eea-coastline-for-analysis-2/inspire-polygon


Relation: Derived data set: Environmental Accounting Reference Layers - SDI Last upload: Last upload Scale of the data set: 1: 100000 Rights: EEA standard re-use policy: unless otherwise indicated, re-use of content on the EEA website for commercial or non-commercial purposes is permitted free of charge, provided that the source is acknowledged ( Copyright holder: European Environment Agency (EEA). Disclaimer: Methodology:

A priority was defined in the input data: first EU-Hydro geometry and, as auxiliary data, GSHHG dataset. The coastline of EU-Hydro represents the separation of land and water detected from Image2006 scenes. The status of the tidal wave depends on the date and time of the cloud-free scene used in Image 2006. The EU-Hydro do not cover the geographical requirements for EEA coastline. The EU-Hydro gaps are in Iceland, Canarias, Madeira, Azores, small islands (not represented in EU-DEM) and the northern Black Sea.

The creation process was focused on generating the coastline as line dataset and, later, as a secondary product, defining the polygon layer sea-land. The fundamental step of the workflow was the selection of sea features using a water mask polygon (value in EU-Hydro datasets = 255). The inland water bodies (fresh water) are rejected by this criteria, except the water bodies connected, at least by one point, to the sea (it is the case of some transitional water bodies). A few manual amendments to the dataset were necessary to meet the requirements from EU Nature Directives, Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The line dataset consists of one single line for the whole coastline. The polygon dataset was derived from the parent line dataset by adding two straight lines, one North-to-South, at the East-most part of the parent dataset, and the second one West-to-East, at the South–most part of the parent dataset. The two straight lines are taken from the NGA-derived coastline produced by the ETC-BD in 2008.

/>Coordinate reference system: EPSG:3035 />Data sources

EU-Hydro is a european-wide hydrological reference data set currently being developed under the Copernicus,, the European Earth Observation Programme.

GSHHG, "A Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Geography Database",

NGA coastline, Coastline features from the National Geospatial-Intelligency Agency (NGA).

Wind and GIS

GIS has many applications in wind mapping, analysis and modeling. Geographic data and modeling of wind performance can help site wind turbines. Study of wind patterns also is used for assessing wind damage potential.

The GIS staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides both national wind resource assessment of the United States and high-resolution wind data. GIS data on surface wind data, coastal marine area data, and upper-air data provides for an analysis of wind resource assessment. The methodology used to make a wind-potential ranking map is described in this 2001 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory entitled Geographic Information Systems in Support of Wind Energy Activities at NREL.

3TIER produces commercially available GIS wind data. The company’s global GIS wind data provides monthly and annual wind speed measurements. 3TIER also released a 2001 Wind Performance Map for the United States. The GIS analysis showed areas where wind speeds last year were above the long-term mean wind speeds. The analysis compared wind speed measurements from 2011 with wind conditions averaged over the period 1969-2008.

For the year as a whole, the US experienced above average wind speeds, though month-to-month and regional variability were not uniformly above average across the country. The Pacific Northwest and New England saw wind speeds roughly 5% below average for the year, while a broad section of the US from northern Montana to Texas and the mid-Atlantic states enjoyed a strong wind year with wind speeds 5-15% above normal.

WeoGeo just released two wind related GIS data sets. The data covers wind events between 1955 and 2010 for point locations of wind events and wind swaths.

Both datasets detail the location and date of the event, as well as the wind’s speed, if known. Additionally, starting in the 1980’s, wind related injuries, fatalities, and property loss estimates are also included with the data.

The National Weather Service (NWS) provides freely downloadable GIS wind data in shapefile and KML formats. The range of weather related GIS datasets available including Watch Warning Advisories, precipitation estimates and NEXRAD radar imagery. The nowCOAST GIS Web Mapping and WMS offers a wide range of surface wind observations, analyses, and forecasts for U.S. available via map viewer and WMS as well as other meteorological and oceanographic data and forecasts. The Wind ENergy Data and Information (WENDI) Gateway is intended to serve a broad range of wind-energy stakeholders by providing easy access to a large amount of wind energy-related data and information through its two main interfaces: the Wind Energy Metadata Clearinghouse and the Wind Energy Geographic Information System (WindGIS).

At the state level, the Minnesota GIS Wind Data offers GIS data for 30, 80 and 100 meter wind speeds. Also the Oklahoma Wind Map Products is a web page at the Oklahoma Wind Power Assessment describing the efforts to map the wind power resources of Oklahoma. Includes links to tutorials on calculating wind characteristics.

The Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States is available as a an online copy with hyperlinked pages to the volume with a list of viewable maps of the United States. The atlas was created by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in October of 1986.

UK coastline shapefile? - Geographic Information Systems

In examples provided in prior chapters, geodata was in the form of individual variables. Mapping Toolbox™ software also provides an easy means of displaying, extracting, and manipulating collections of vector map features organized in geographic data structures .

A geographic data structure is a MATLAB ® structure array that has one element per geographic feature. Each feature is represented by coordinates and attributes. A geographic data structure that holds geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) is called a geostruct, and one that holds map coordinates (projected x and y ) is called a mapstruct. Geographic data structures hold only vector features and cannot be used to hold raster data (regular or geolocated data grids or images).


Geographic data structures most frequently originate when vector geodata is imported from a shapefile. The Environmental Systems Research Institute designed the shapefile format for vector geodata. Shapefiles encode coordinates for points, multipoints, lines, or polygons, along with non-geometrical attributes.

A shapefile stores attributes and coordinates in separate files it consists of a main file, an index file, and an xBASE file. All three files have the same base name and are distinguished by the extensions .shp , .shx , and .dbf , respectively. (For example, given the base name 'concord_roads' the shapefile file names would be 'concord_roads.shp' , 'concord_roads.shx' , and 'concord_roads.dbf' ).

The Contents of Geographic Data Structures

The shaperead function reads vector features and attributes from a shapefile and returns a geographic data structure array. The shaperead function determines the names of the attribute fields at run-time from the shapefile xBASE table or from optional, user-specified parameters. If a shapefile attribute name cannot be directly used as a field name, shaperead assigns the field an appropriately modified name, usually by substituting underscores for spaces.

Fields in a Geographic Data Structure

One of the following shape types: 'Point' , 'MultiPoint' , 'Line' , or 'Polygon' .

Specifies the minimum and maximum feature coordinate values in each dimension in the following form:

[ min ( X ) min ( Y ) max ( X ) max ( Y ) ]

Omitted for shape type 'Point' .

1-by-N array of class double

character vector or scalar number

Attribute name, type, and value.

Optional. There are usually multiple attributes.

The shaperead function does not support any 3-D or "measured" shape types: 'PointZ' , 'PointM' , 'MultipointZ' , 'MultipointM' , 'PolyLineZ' , 'PolyLineM' , 'PolygonZ' , 'PolylineM' , or 'Multipatch' . Also, although 'Null Shape' features can be present in a 'Point' , 'Multipoint' , 'PolyLine' , or 'Polygon' shapefile, they are ignored.

PolyLine and Polygon Shapes

In geographic data structures with Line or Polygon geometries, individual features can have multiple parts—disconnected line segments and polygon rings. The parts can include counterclockwise inner rings that outline "holes." For an illustration of this, see Create and Display Polygons. Each disconnected part is separated from the next by a NaN within the X and Y (or Lat and Lon ) vectors. You can use the isShapeMultipart function to determine if a feature has NaN-separated parts.

Each multipoint or NaN-separated multipart line or polygon entity constitutes a single feature and thus has one character vector or scalar double value per attribute field. It is not possible to assign distinct attributes to the different parts of such a feature any character vector or numeric attribute imported with (or subsequently added to) the geostruct or mapstruct applies to all the feature's parts in combination.

Mapstructs and Geostructs

By default, shaperead returns a mapstruct containing X and Y fields. This is appropriate if the data set coordinates are already projected (in a map coordinate system). Otherwise, if the data set coordinates are unprojected (in a geographic coordinate system), use the parameter-value pair 'UseGeoCoords',true to make shaperead return a geostruct having Lon and Lat fields.

Coordinate Types. If you do not know whether a shapefile uses geographic coordinates or map coordinates, here are some things you can try:

If the shapefile includes a projection file ( .prj ), use shapeinfo to get information about the coordinate reference system. If the CoordinateReferenceSystem field of the returned structure is a projcrs object, you have map coordinates. If the field is a geocrs object, you have geographic coordinates.

If the shapefile does not include a projection file, use shapeinfo to obtain the BoundingBox . By looking at the ranges of coordinates, you may be able to tell what kind of coordinates you have.

The geoshow function displays geographic features stored in geostructs, and the mapshow function displays geographic features stored in mapstructs. If you try to display a mapstruct with geoshow , the function issues a warning and calls mapshow . If you try to display a geostruct with mapshow , the function projects the coordinates with a Plate Carree projection and issues a warning.

Examining a Geographic Data Structure

Here is an example of an unfiltered mapstruct returned by shaperead :

The output appears as follows:

The shapefile contains 609 features. In addition to the Geometry , BoundingBox , and coordinate fields ( X and Y ), there are five attribute fields: STREETNAME , RT_NUMBER , CLASS , ADMIN_TYPE , and LENGTH .

The output appears as follows:

This mapstruct contains 'Line' features. The tenth line has nine vertices. The values of the first two attributes are character vectors. The second happens to be an empty character vector. The final three attributes are numeric. Across the elements of S , X and Y can have various lengths, but STREETNAME and RT_NUMBER must always contain character vectors, and CLASS , ADMIN_TYPE and LENGTH must always contain scalar doubles.

In this example, shaperead returns an unfiltered mapstruct. If you want to filter out some attributes, see Select Shapefile Data to Read for more information.

How to Construct Geographic Data Structures

Functions such as shaperead or gshhs return geostructs when importing vector geodata. However, you might want to create geostructs or mapstructs yourself in some circumstances. For example, you might import vector geodata that is not stored in a shapefile (for example, from a MAT-file, from an Microsoft ® Excel ® spreadsheet, or by reading in a delimited text file). You also might compute vector geodata and attributes by calling various MATLAB or Mapping Toolbox functions. In both cases, the coordinates and other data are typically vectors or matrices in the workspace. Packaging variables into a geostruct or mapstruct can make mapping and exporting them easier, because geographic data structures provide several advantages over coordinate arrays:

All associated geodata variables are packaged in one container, a structure array.

The structure is self-documenting through its field names.

You can vary map symbology for points, lines, and polygons according to their attribute values by constructing a symbolspec for displaying the geostruct or mapstruct.

A one-to-one correspondence exists between structure elements and geographic features, which extends to the children of hggroup objects constructed by mapshow and geoshow .

Achieving these benefits is not difficult. Use the following example as a guide to packaging vector geodata you import or create into geographic data structures.

Making Point and Line Geostructs

The following example first creates a point geostruct containing three cities on different continents and plots it with geoshow . Then it creates a line geostruct containing data for great circle navigational tracks connecting these cities. Finally, it plots these lines using a symbolspec.

Begin with a small set of point data, approximate latitudes and longitudes for three cities on three continents:

Build a point geostruct it needs to have the following required fields:

Geometry (in this case 'Point' )

Lat (for points, this is a scalar double)

Lon (for points, this is a scalar double)

Display the geostruct on a Mercator projection of the Earth's land masses stored in the landareas.shp shapefile, setting map limits to exclude polar regions:

Next, build a Line geostruct to package great circle navigational tracks between the three cities:

Compute lengths of the great circle tracks:

Map the three tracks in the line geostruct:

You can save the geostructs you just created as shapefiles by calling shapewrite with a file name of your choice, for example:

Making Polygon Geostructs

Creating a geostruct or mapstruct for polygon data is similar to building one for point or line data. However, if your polygons include multiple, NaN-separated parts, recall that they can have only one value per attribute, not one value per part. Each attribute you place in a structure element for such a polygon pertains to all its parts. This means that if you define a group of islands, for example with a single NaN-separated list for each coordinate, all attributes for that element describe the islands as a group, not particular islands. If you want to associate attributes with a particular island, you must provide a distinct structure element for that island.

Be aware that the ordering of polygon vertices matters. When you map polygon data, the direction in which polygons are traversed has significance for how they are rendered by functions such as geoshow , mapshow , and mapview . Proper directionality is particularly important if polygons contain holes. The Mapping Toolbox convention encodes the coordinates of outer rings (e.g., continent and island outlines) in clockwise order counterclockwise ordering is used for inner rings (e.g., lakes and inland seas). Within the coordinate array, each ring is separated from the one preceding it by a NaN.

When plotted by mapshow or geoshow , clockwise rings are filled. Counterclockwise rings are unfilled any underlying symbology shows through such holes. To ensure that outer and inner rings are correctly coded according to the above convention, you can invoke the following functions:

ispolycw — True if vertices of polygonal contour are clockwise ordered

poly2cw — Convert polygonal contour to clockwise ordering

poly2ccw — Convert polygonal contour to counterclockwise ordering

poly2fv — Convert polygonal region to face-vertex form for use with patch in order to properly render polygons containing holes

Three of these functions check or change the ordering of vertices that define a polygon, and the fourth one converts polygons with holes to a completely different representation.

For an example of working with polygon geostructs, see Converting Coastline Data (GSHHG) to Shapefile Format.

Mapping Toolbox Version 1 Display Structures

Prior to Version 2, when geostructs and mapstructs were introduced, a different data structure was employed when importing geodata from certain external formats to encapsulate it for map display functions. These display structures accommodated both raster and vector map data and other kinds of objects, but lacked the generality of current geostructs and mapstructs for representing vector features and are being phased out of the toolbox. However, you can convert display structures that contain vector geodata to geostruct form using updategeostruct . For more information about Version 1 display structures and their usage, see Version 1 Display Structures in the reference page for displaym . Additional information is located in reference pages for updategeostruct , extractm , and mlayers .

UK coastline shapefile? - Geographic Information Systems

This geodatabase represents the Maritime Boundaries of the world. The database includes five global datasets:

  • Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 11 (including the boundary polylines)
  • Territorial Seas (12NM), version 3
  • Contiguous Zones (24NM), version 3
  • Internal Waters, version 3
  • Archipelagic Waters, version 3
  • High Seas, version 1

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2019). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, version 11. Available online at

Please note that for the delineation of our EEZ, we include the archipelagic waters and the internal waters of each country. This is a deviation from the UNCLOS EEZ definition.

1) Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 11
This dataset builds on previous versions of the world's EEZ. In version 9, the 200 nautical miles outer limit was completely recalculated using a higher resolution coastline as a normal baseline (ESRI Countries 2014) and straight baselines, where available. This dataset consists of two shapefiles: polylines that represent the maritime boundaries of the world's countries, the other one is a polygon layer representing the Exclusive Economic Zone of countries. This dataset also contains digital information about treaties, joint regime, and disputed boundaries.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2019). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Maritime Boundaries and Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 11. Available online at

2) 12 nautical miles zones (territorial seas)
Area enclosed within the maritime delimitations of a coastal state extending 12 Nautical Miles seawards from the baselines (normal and straight where available).

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2019). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Territorial Seas (12NM), version 3. Available online at

3) 24 nautical miles zones (contiguous zones)
Area enclosed within the maritime delimitations of a coastal state extending 24 Nautical Miles seawards from the baselines (normal and straight where available) and excluding the 12 nautical miles zone.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2019). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Contiguous Zones (24NM), version 3. Available online at

4) Internal Waters
The area of the seas enclosed between the landward side of the Straight baselines and the seaward side of the normal baselines (coastline).

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2019). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Internal Waters, version 3. Available online at

5) Archipelagic Waters
The area of the seas enclosed between the landward side of the Archipelagic baselines and the seaward side of the normal baselines (coastline).

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2019). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Archipelagic Waters, version 3. Available online at

6) High Seas
The area of the seas that is not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State, or in the archipelagic waters of an archipelagic State.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2020). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: High Seas, version 1. Available online at

Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, version 10:

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2018). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, version 10. Available online at

  • Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 10,
  • Territorial Seas (12NM), version 2,
  • Contiguous Zones (24NM), version 2,
  • Internal Waters, version 2,
  • Archipelagic Waters, version 2,

Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, version 9:

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2016). Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, version 9. Available online at

  • Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 9,
  • Territorial Seas (12NM), version 1,
  • Contiguous Zones (24NM), version 1,
  • Internal Waters, version 1,
  • Archipelagic Waters, version 1,

IHO Sea Areas

This dataset represents the boundaries of the major oceans and seas of the world. The source for the boundaries is the publication 'Limits of Oceans & Seas, Special Publication No. 23' published by the IHO in 1953. The dataset was composed by the Flanders Marine Data and Information Centre.

NB: The Southern Ocean is not included in the IHO publication and its limits are subject of discussion among the scientific community. The Flanders Marine Institute acknowledges the controversy around this subject but decided to include the Southern Ocean in the dataset as this term is often used by scientists working in this area. For more information, please refer to the Disclaimer.

Flanders Marine Institute (2018). IHO Sea Areas, version 3. Available online at

Flanders Marine Institute (2017). IHO Sea Areas, version 2. Available online at

Marineregions: the intersect of the Exclusive Economic Zones and IHO areas

The maritime boundaries provide a useful tool to limit national marine areas, but do not include information on marine regional and sub regional seas. This hampers the usage of these boundaries for implementing nature conservation strategies or analyzing marine biogeographic patterns. For example, a species occurring in the German EEZ can live in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea or Kattegat area. Each of these different marine areas has very distinct hydrological, oceanographic and ecological conditions.

Therefore, by combining the information on regional seas and national maritime boundaries, we can include both a environmental and managerial factor. We propose to overlay the information from the maritime boundaries (the Exclusive Economic Zones) with the IHO Sea Areas (IHO, 1953). This map including the global oceans and seas, has been drafted for hydrographic purposes, but also gives an unequivocal and acceptable distinction of the regional seas and oceans from an oceanographic point of view. The combination of these two boundaries allows us for example to create national regional sea areas for the global ocean.


We used the software ArcMAP 9.3 to make the new national sea boundaries intersect was, with several additional tools. The Analysis Tools Intersect to, Graphics and shapes, Calculate Geometry to, Field Calculator (ArcGIS), used to define the names and ID's using Visual Basic Expressions and the ET GeoWizards to remove multiple fields in the attribute table, to perform an Erase, Merge Layers.

If one uses the intersect method and both shapefiles are not exactly the same, in this case for instance for the coastline, we would create again lots of small polygons to analyze one by one. Although we did our best to minimize this, by using a lower coastline resolution, the small parts still appeared. If one uses the Intersect Tool, the result contains only the overlapping parts of both shapefiles. In the output of the Intersect Tool, only the EEZ features remain (Figure 6), but we also need the open sea oceans. Therefore the ET Geowizards Erase Tools was used, to delete from a rectangle all land and EEZ areas, so only the 'open seas' remained. This layer, with the result of the intersect were merged (Figure 8). Areas with the same Exclusive Economic Zone and the same sea basin were merged (with the Editor in ArcMap, except when both features are not connected to each other (single part features).


SEA EEZ Marine Region
Mediterranean Sea - Western Basin Italian Exclusive Economic Zone Italian part of the Mediterranean Sea - Western Basin
Mediterranean Sea - Eastern Basin Italian Exclusive Economic Zone Italian part of the Mediterranean Sea - Eastern Basin
Ligurian Sea Italian Exclusive Economic Zone Italian part of the Ligurian Sea
Tyrrhenian Sea Italian Exclusive Economic Zone Italian part of the Tyrrhenian Sea
Adriatic Sea Italian Exclusive Economic Zone Italian part of the Adriatic Sea
Ionian Sea Italian Exclusive Economic Zone Italian part of the Ionian Sea
Creation of names for the Marine Areas. As example, the ones for the Italian EEZ have been chosen.

Polygon creation by merging of both layers

The result of all this is a shapefile with 525 features.
Download intersect IHO/EEZ

Flanders Marine Institute (2020). The intersect of the Exclusive Economic Zones and IHO sea areas, version 4. Available online at

Flanders Marine Institute (2018). The intersect of the Exclusive Economic Zones and IHO sea areas, version 3. Available online at

Flanders Marine Institute (2012). Intersect of IHO Sea Areas and Exclusive Economic Zones (version 2). Available online at

Flanders Marine Institute (2010). Intersect of IHO Sea Areas and Exclusive Economic Zones (version 1). Available online at

Marine and land zones: the union of world country boundaries and EEZ's

This dataset combines the boundaries of the world countries and the Exclusive Economic Zones of the world. It was created by combining the ESRI world country database and the EEZ V11 dataset.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2020). Union of the ESRI Country shapefile and the Exclusive Economic Zones (version 3). Available online at Consulted on 2021-06-27.

The SeaVoX Salt and Fresh Water Body Gazetteer

The data set consists of a polygon file defining the limits of water bodies from the SeaVoX Salt and Fresh Water Body Gazetteer.
SeaVoX is a combined SeaDataNet and MarineXML vocabulary content governance group, it is moderated by BODC.

This polygon data set defines the geographic extent of the terms specified by the SeaVoX vocabulary governance to describe coherent regions of the hydrosphere. It includes land masses enclosing freshwater bodies. The coastline data set used in the shapefile is taken from the World Vector Shoreline data set (scale 1:250,000).
Reference for the data set: Polygon data set of the extent of water bodies from the SeaVoX Salt and Fresh Water Body Gazetteer,

The data file follows a hierarchical structure with each region consisting of one or more polygons. This approach was adopted to avoid the need to have overlapping polygons in regions where a sea area included a number of sub-regions, for example the Mediterranean Sea includes the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea etc. The following gives the level in the structure at which particular regions, which consist of more than one polygon can be found. This level in the structure is given by the polygon's attributes.

OSPAR Boundaries and Regions

A shapefile containing the external boundary and internal region boundary lines to describe the OSPAR area and a shapefile to describe the OSPAR Regions.

Statistics on Marbound and IHO (Costello et al., 2011) (Not integrated in gazetteer)

Depth and topography directly and indirectly influence most ocean environmental conditions, including light penetration and photosynthesis, sedimentation, current movements and stratification, and thus temperature and oxygen gradients. These parameters are thus likely to influence species distribution patterns and productivity in the oceans. They may be considered the foundation for any standardised classification of ocean ecosystems, and important correlates of metrics of biodiversity (e.g. species richness and composition, fisheries). While statistics on ocean depth and topography are often quoted, how they were derived is rarely cited, and unless calculated using the same spatial resolution the resulting statistics will not be strictly comparable. We provide such statistics using the best available resolution (1-minute) global bathymetry, and open source digital maps of the world's seas and oceans and countries' Exclusive Economic Zones, using a standardised methodology. We created a terrain map and calculated sea surface and seabed area, volume, and mean, standard deviation, maximum and minimum, of both depth and slope.
Download the results

  • Costello, M.J. Cheung, A. De Hauwere, N. (2011). The surface area, and the seabed area, volume, depth, slope, and topographic variation for the world's seas, oceans and countries. Environmental Science & Technology
  • Costello, M.J. Smith, M. Fraczek, W. (2015). Correction to Surface Area and the Seabed Area, Volume, Depth, Slope, and Topographic Variation for the World's Seas, Oceans, and Countries. Environmental Science & Technology
  • The surface area, and the seabed area, volume, depth, slope, and topographic variation for the world's seas, oceans and countries. Available online at Consulted on 2021-06-27.

Ecological classifications

Large Marine Ecosystems of the World

LMEs are natural regions of ocean space encompassing coastal waters from river basins and estuaries to the seaward boundary of continental shelves and the outer margins of coastal currents. They are relatively large regions of 200,000 km2 or greater, the natural boundaries of which are based on four ecological criteria: bathymetry, hydrography, productivity, and trophically related populations. The theory, measurement, and modeling relevant to monitoring the changing states of LMEs are imbedded in reports on ecosystems with multiple steady states, and on the pattern formation and spatial diffusion within ecosystems. The concept that critical processes controlling the structure and function of biological communities can best be addressed on a regional basis has been applied to the ocean by using LMEs as the distinct units for marine resources assessment, monitoring, and management.

Credit: Large Marine Ecosystem Program NOAA-Fisheries Narragansett Laboratory Narragansett, R.I. 02882 (

Longhurst Provinces

The dataset represents the division of the world oceans into provinces as defined by Longhurst (1995 1998 2006). The division has been based on the prevailing role of physical forcing as a regulator of phytoplankton distribution. The dataset contains the initial static boundaries developed at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada.
Note that the boundaries of these provinces are not fixed in time and space, but are dynamic and move under seasonal and interannual changes in physical forcing. At the first level of reduction, Longhurst recognised four principal biomes: the Polar biome, the Westerlies biome, the Trade winds biome, and the Coastal biome. These four biomes are recognised in every major ocean basin.
At the next level of reduction, the ocean basins are divided into provinces, roughly ten for each basin.
These regions provide a template for data analysis or for making parameter assignments on a global scale.

Please refer to Longhurst's publications when using these shapefiles.

A summary table has been prepared by Mathias Taeger and David Lazarus, Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin (2010-03-26). This table makes it easier to relate the classification of Longhurst to the original quantitative parameters used to create it. Productivity values are from the table in Longhurst, 1995, Chlorophyll values photic depth and mixed layer depth originate from graphs in Longhurst, 1998. The sea temperature at 0 and 50 m are from the World Ocean Atlas (2005), average values were calculated in ArcGIS. Each parameter value was set into 5 equal intervals. Download summary table.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2009). Longhurst Provinces. Available online at Consulted on 2021-06-27.

  • Longhurst, A.R et al. (1995). An estimate of global primary production in the ocean from satellite radiometer data. J. Plankton Res. 17, 1245-1271
  • Longhurst, A.R. (1995). Seasonal cycles of pelagic production and consumption. Prog. Oceanogr. 36, 77-167
  • Longhurst, A.R. (1998). Ecological Geography of the Sea. Academic Press, San Diego. 397p. (IMIS)
  • Longhurst, A.R. (2006). Ecological Geography of the Sea. 2nd Edition. Academic Press, San Diego, 560p.

Marine Ecoregions of the World, MEOW (Spalding et al., 2007)

MEOW is a biogeographic classification of the world's coasts and shelves. It is the first ever comprehensive marine classification system with clearly defined boundaries and definitions and was developed to closely link to existing regional systems. The ecoregions nest within the broader biogeographic tiers of Realms and Provinces.

MEOW represents broad-scale patterns of species and communities in the ocean, and was designed as a tool for planning conservation across a range of scales and assessing conservation efforts and gaps worldwide. The current system focuses on coast and shelf areas (as this is where the majority of human activity and conservation action is focused) and does not consider realms in pelagic or deep benthic environment. It is hoped that parallel but distinct systems for pelagic and deep benthic biotas will be devised in the near future.

The project was led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with broad input from a working group representing key NGO, academic and intergovernmental conservation partners.

Note: The inland boundaries of the ecoregions extend far inland - a convention to ensure inclusion of any coastline and estuarine/lagoonal systems which may be derived from different map sources. For visualisations in the Marine Regions gazetteer, the areas inland have been removed from the shapefile.

    Spalding, M. D. Fox, H. E. Allen, G. R. Davidson, N. Ferdana, Z. A. Finlayson, M. Halpern, B. S. Jorge, M. A. Lombana, A. Lourie, S. A., (2007). Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. Bioscience 2007, VOL 57 numb 7, pages 573-584. doi: 10.1641/B570707

ICES Ecoregions

  1. Within the EU accept the MSFD regional and sub-regional definitions.
  2. Separate Icelandic Seas from those around Greenland.
  3. Use Large Marine Ecosystem units to define the Arctic Ocean.
  4. Use the accepted Norwegian regional management plans definitions of the Norwegian and Barents Seas.

IOS Zooplankton Regions

This set of polygons is used to sort and/or merge zooplankton species into regions of narrow or broad interest for biomass and abundance analysis. The results are reported yearly in 'State of the physical, biological and selected fishery resources of Pacific Canadian marine ecosystems'.

  • Last report:
    Chandler, P.C., King, S.A., and Perry, R.I. (Eds.). 2016. State of the physical, biological and selected fishery resources of Pacific Canadian marine ecosystems in 2015. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3179: viii + 230 p.
    Galbraith, M., Young, K., Perry, I. 2016. Zooplankton along the B.C. Continental Margin, 2015

DFO Marine Bioregions (Department Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Fishing zones

ICES Statistical Areas

The ICES Statistical Areas delineates the divisions and subdivisions of FAO Major Fishing area 27. The Areas are used as bounding areas for calculation of fish statistics, e.g. catch per unit effort (CPUE) and stock estimates.

ICES Statistical Rectangles

The ICES statistical Rectangles are used as bounding areas for calculation of fish statistics, e.g. catch per unit effort (CPUE) and stock estimates.

The NAFO Convention Area

FAO Fishing Areas

The dataset represents the boundaries of the FAO Fishing Areas. The source for the boundaries is the description that can be found on the FAO website. The dataset was composed by the Flanders Marine Data and Information Centre.

(Historical) fishing areas of Belgian sea fisheries

Thematic gazetteers

Marine Natura 2000 Sources

The source of Natura 2000 sites is the GIS shapefile made available for download by the European Environment Agency. Natura 2000 sites span over the European Union (EU) territories both on land and on sea. This dataset compiles marine Natura 2000 sites. Although there isn't a defined criteria by the EU for what constitutes a Marine Natura 2000 site nor does the original dataset contain information on this matter, we defined a selection criteria to sort between marine and terrestrial sites. Thus, this dataset encompasses all sites that fall (partly) within the Exclusive Economic Zone of countries of the European Union, based on the high resolution EEZ GIS cover, V7. It might occur that a terrestrial site with marine importance, e.g. inland nesting ground for seabirds, is excluded from the selection of Marine sites or that a site with only a small marine proportion is included in this selection. This selection identifies 2,894 (partly) marine Natura 2000 sites

  • 1 - Natura 2000 Special Protection Area (SPA, EU Birds Directive) OR/AND
  • 2 - Natura 2000 Site of Community Importance (SCI, EU Habitats Directive)

Original bilingual denominations were accounted for and correctly included in, however, for sites named in one single language, it was assumed that the language of appellation was the main official language of the corresponding country.

World Marine Heritage Sites

This file contains the 46 World Marine Heritage Sites. Launched in 2005, the mission of the world Heritage Marine Programme is to establish effective conservation of existing and potential marine areas of Outstanding Universal Value to make sure they will be maintained and thrive for generations to come.
In order to create the data, information from the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme and Protected Planet were collected and compiled.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute (2013). World Marine Heritage Sites (version 1). Available online at Consulted on 2021-06-27.

Global contourite distribution

To create a global overview of contourite distribution, a literature study was performed. This task fits in the IGCP- and INQUA-project ( Both projects want to facilitate research and increase knowledge about these sediments deposits.

Contourites are sedimentary units which are deposited or substantially reworked by alongslope bottom currents. They refer to the lithological unit and the terminology reflects the grain size of the sediment. Drifts refer to the same sedimentary unit as a contourite, but the word 'drift' reflects the morphological appearance of the sedimentary unit. Their terminology reflects the external shape, and the internal shape, which is determined by seismography. If drifts are clustered into a local area of certain size, we call the clustered sediment group a Contourite Depositional System (CDS).
These sedimentary units are generally, but not exclusively, found in the deep sea (>2000m depth). They are a useful tool for determining paleoceanic and paleoclimatic changes, since their distribution is linked to bottom currents. They have gained interest from the hydrocarbon industry, since accumulation of source rocks may be influenced by bottom currents. Slope instability is also an area of interest for further research.

Source methodology:
For acquisition of the resulting information, several hundreds of papers on the relevant subject were read. When there were maps or similar images about contourites included in the paper, shapefiles were created by georeferencing them in QGIS, which were then uploaded into the Marine Regions website. If the articles did not provide such a map or image, the drifts or CDS's were marked by a single point with its set of coordinates.

In 2013, 166 records with the place type Drift were added to the Marine Gazetteer. These are linked to one of the 24 Contourite Depositional Systems, if they make part of such a system. Each drift is also influenced by a water mass or current. This water mass or current determines the sedimentation, erosion and movements of these sediments.

In 2014, the list was extended with 81 records of the place type Drift. No Contourite Depositional Systems were added. The search process was identical to 2013, only this time a summary paper was the starting point (Rebesco et al., 2014). In this publication, the major drifts were listed with their most relevant sources along with them. These listed sources were then sought after and read.

In 2018, 211 new records with the place type Drift were added to the Marine Gazetteer database, as well as 5 new records with the place type Contourite Depositional System, 14 new records with the place type Water Mass and 1 new record with the place type Current. These new features were extracted from 26 recent scientific publications (2014-2018).

All the Contourites and Contourite Depositional Systems were published as dataset in 2019.

Preferred citation:
Flanders Marine Institute Renard Centre of Marine Geology - Ugent (2019). Global contourite distribution database, version 3. Available online at

Regional gazetteers

Placenames Southern Bight of the North Sea and Scheldt Estuary

Different sources have been used to describe the Southern Bight of the North Sea region. The Interreg SAIL project provided geographic information on coastal regions, districts and communes bordering the Southern Bight of The North Sea. The Scheldemonitor project mapped in detail the Scheldt estuary, including the names of different mudflats and sandbanks.
Also various atlases have been used to describe in detail this area.

SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica

The SCAR Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica (CGA) has been compiled over a period of 20 years (commenced 1992) and consists of 36857 names that correspond to 18858 features. The SCAR gazetteer is available for download.

Bulgarian Antarctic Gazetteer

Bulgarian place names in Antarctica are approved by the Antarctic Place-names Commission, and formally given by the President of the Republic according to the Bulgarian Constitution and the established international practice. The Commission maintains international coordination with naming authorities of other Antarctic nations, and with the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Names given by Bulgaria are incorporated in the SCAR Composite Antarctic Gazetteer.

Four Maps representing Belgian toponyms in Antarctica

  • Queen Fabiola Mountains
  • Sør Rondane
  • Gerlache Strait
  • Belgica Mountains

Australian Antarctic Gazetteer

The Australian Antarctic Names and Medal Committee (AANMC) is the authority on Australian names in the Australian Antarctic Territory, and the Territory of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. It is responsible for the investigation and acceptance or rejection of all names proposals following prescribed procedures. These proposals must meet certain criteria in order to be accepted.

GIS meteorology of Azov and Black Seas author Vladimir Belokopytov

Included during the Ocean-Ukraine project.

New Zealand Gazetteer of place names

The New Zealand Gazetteer of Place Names contains all names for geographic places and features (both on land and undersea) within the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB). The Board can assign, approve, alter, adopt, validate, concur with or discontinue the names of geographic and undersea features, and Crown protected areas in New Zealand, its offshore islands and continental shelf, and the Ross Dependency of Antarctica.

Download Great Britain boundaries as shapefile for GIS

I am looking for a shapefile (readable e.g. in QGIS) which only contains the Great Britain boundaries. In other words I only need the island/s boundaries.

I have already checked and downloaded the 'Boundary-Line-GB' from OS Open Data ( but in the shapefile have been showed also the GB regions' boundaries (which I don't need).

Any suggestion from wehere I can download it for free?


Technical specification
Key FeaturesWhat this product offers
Data structureGrid points (DTM grid) Vector points and lines (Contours)
FormatsGML 3.2 and ASCII (DTM grid) GeoPackage, GML 3.2 and Esri shapefile (Contours).
ResolutionPost spacing of 50m (DTM grid) Vertical interval of 10m (Contours)
Tile size10km x 10km
Scale1:50 000
Update frequencyOnce a year, in July
CoverageGreat Britain

UK coastline shapefile? - Geographic Information Systems

Scientific work in Antarctica and its operational support depends on a reliable, consistent geographic framework. The SCAR Antarctic Digital Database (ADD) aims to provide a seamless topographic map compiled from the best available international geographic information for all areas. It covers Antarctica south of 60°S.

The SCAR ADD is a SCAGI pro duct. It consists of geographic information layers including coastline, ice-shelf grounding line, rock outcrop, contours, elevation point data such as survey points and spot heights, and human-presence features such as Research Station locations. It also includes other relevant information sources such as the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA), bedrock and surface Digital Elevation Models from BEDMAP, and glacier and ice-shelf change information for some regions.

The data are available through the ADD website in a range of formats including shapefile, Geopackage and Web Map Service (WMS), and are licensed according to Creative Commons CC-BY - data are free to use, modify and redistribute provided the source "SCAR Antarctic Digital Database" is acknowledged, and that the disclaimer on the ADD website is accepted.

The ADD website is a compilation of the best available geographic information for all areas. Consequently resolution varies from area to area according to the resolution of the source data. A few areas are based on maps compiled at scales of 1:50,000 scale or larger. Most mountainous areas such as the Antarctic Peninsula and TransAntarctic Mountains rely on mapping at 1:250,000 scale. The coastline and elevation information for the interior of the continent are based on remote-sensing data. All information served by the website has metadata stating the source.

For queries about the ADD please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Electoral Wards/Divisions are the key building blocks of UK administrative geography. They are the spatial units used to elect local government councillors in metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts, unitary authorities and the London boroughs in England unitary authorities in Wales council areas in Scotland and district council areas in Northern Ireland.

The Wards and Electoral Divisions list contains 9,481 areas of the following constituent geographies:

  • 7,218 Census Wards in England
  • 453 Census Electoral Divisions in England
  • 7 Census Merged Wards in England
  • 582 Census Wards in Northern Ireland
  • 353 Census Wards in Scotland
  • 856 Census Electoral Divisions in Wales
  • 12 Census Merged Wards in Wales

The boundaries are available as either extent of the realm (usually this is the Mean Low Water mark but in some cases boundaries extend beyond this to include off shore islands) or
clipped to the coastline (Mean High Water mark).