Natural England
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An ocean of information

California, USA. Natural England heralded today’s launch of ‘Ocean in Google Earth’, the newest version of Google Earth.


Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: “ ‘Ocean in Google Earth’ is a real opportunity to raise worldwide awareness of what exists in our marine environment, and to inspire people to protect it. We are excited at the potential that ‘Ocean in Google Earth’ has to raise the profile of the state of our seas, as it will encourage people to discover an amazing 3-D underwater world from their computers. Natural England has played an ongoing role in providing information about England’s seas to Google Earth and is looking forward to the opportunities that ‘Ocean in Google Earth’ present.”

She continued: “The marine environment is a vital cultural, economical and social asset that matters to everyone. Regardless of where we live in the world, all of us depend upon healthy ocean ecosystems to shape and regulate our climate and underpin sustainable economic activity.”

Professor Dan Laffoley of Natural England is also Vice-Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas for the international Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and on Google’s Ocean Advisory Council. He said: “'We are delighted to be working with Google on bringing oceans to life for many millions of people throughout the world. From today, internet users can now ‘dive in’ and explore our seas in 3-D. They can also help us create the world's first multimedia map of how we are protecting our oceans by uploading underwater data and photos online.”

Marine Protected Areas on Google Earth

Natural England first became involved with this project by contributing data to the Marine Protected Area (MPA) layer of software added to Google Earth on 7 October 2008. This layer has icons on Google Earth that, when clicked, show compelling video streams, photos and stories showcasing the network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the world. It includes a fascinating insight into life below English seas courtesy of Natural England which provided information for 43 marine sites around our coastline.

The unique difference that this MPA layer has from all other software layers on Google Earth is that it is interactive. Anyone around the world can upload their underwater photos, videos and stories on to this layer. Natural England started the process of uploading marine data for England’s seas when the MPA layer was launched; now it is encouraging users to get involved by sharing their local marine discoveries online too.


Notes for editors:

1. Natural England is the Government’s advisor on nature conservation, access, recreation and landscape in the marine environment out to the 12 nautical mile limit, a total of 5,623,001.24 hectares. To find out more about Marine Protected Areas, visit:

2. The Marine & Coastal Access Bill is currently before Parliament. Natural England is one of the organisations involved in the process of shaping the legislation for this Bill. In total, only 2% of UK seas (out of 200 miles) and 8% of the sea around England (i.e. 0 – 12 miles) have any form of protection. England has only one Marine Nature reserve covering 30.3 km sq in the sea around Lundy Island Marine Nature Reserve in the Bristol Channel. The No Take Zone, or Highly Protected Marine Reserve, within the Lundy MNR is just 3.3 km sq.

3. ‘Ocean in Google Earth’: Google is launching a new version of Google Earth which will include multimedia content for ocean areas for the first time, as well as other new enhancements to Google Earth.

4. Google convened an Ocean Advisory Council, a small group of top experts in ocean science and technology, to advise on the development of ‘Ocean in Google Earth’. Professor Dan Laffoley from Natural England is one of the experts on the Council.

5. To access ‘Ocean in Google Earth’ (from 18.00 GMT on Monday 02 February):

  • Download new version of Google Earth (free) from

  • Click on Ocean in navigation panel on left side of page to viewbuilt-in layers, including the Marine Protected Area (MPA) layer

6. The companion website, the global web portal for ocean conservation, was developed by IUCN and its partners (see About Us page on website for full list) to complement the Marine Protected Area layer in ‘Ocean in Google Earth’. It provides an easy-to-use interface for people from around the world to upload their own photos, videos and stories about our oceans. The content uploaded will be included in the Google Earth Marine Protected Area layer, meaning that users can directly contribute to the world’s first multimedia map of our oceans. Additional layers (e.g. fisheries) and ‘virtual tours’ of different types of MPAs will be made available on the web site in the 24 hours following launch by Google of Ocean.