Before you begin exploring the OBIS-SEAMAP web site

The OBIS-SEAMAP web site provides a variety of tools to explore, map and download survey data for marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles collected from data providers across the globe.

You don't need an account to access the web site. However, use of the data available through the OBIS-SEAMAP web site is subject to the OBIS-SEAMAP Terms of Use. In short, you are required to contact data providers and get permission to use the OBIS-SEAMAP data for any publication or product.

This online help overviews the basic use of the OBIS-SEAMAP Search Interface.

How to get more help

Before continuing reading this help, first be familiar with how to get more help. Each of the query tools and functions in the Interface has its detailed help that you can view by clicking '?' icon . The online help is initially displayed within the Search Interface. If you want to see it in a larger window, you can resize the help window or load it in a browser's new tab or window by clicking the pin icon at the upper right corner of the help window.

Overview of the Search Interface

Three variations of the Search Interface

There are three variations of access to the Search Interface that result in different URLs and slightly different usage and functionality.

  1. Advanced Search Interface
  2. The Advanced Search Interface builds the foundation of the data exploratory tools for the OBIS-SEAMAP data.

    The other two variations function as particular cases depending on your interest.

    By default, the Advanced Search Interface loads the gridded summary of the OBIS-SEAMAP data and presents the OBIS-SEAMAP Terms of Use that you are required to look through.

    The Advanced Search also accepts URL parameters that help you get the map of your interest quickly. The following table shows available parameters.

    Type Key Value
    Examples and notes
    Species sp_tsn ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN)

    Sightings of Humpback whale and Blue whale,180528

      species / scientific / scientific_name Species scientific name

    Sightings of Humpback whale and Blue whale

    This is the same as

    Dataset dataset_id Dataset ID

    Dataset "SEFSC Atlantic surveys 1992 (Dataet ID: 3)"

    This is same as

    Datasets "SEFSC Atlantic surveys 1992 (Dataet ID: 3)" and "SEFSC Caribbean Survey 2000 (Dataset ID: 7)",7

    Temporal year A single year or a range of years

    Humpback whale sightings in Year 2000

    Humpback whale sightings from 2000 through 2003,2003

      month / months Months (numeric)

    Humpback whale sightings in January and February,2

      season / seasons winter / 1; spring / 2; summer / 3; fall / 4

    Humpback whale sightings in summer or fall,4,fall

    Zone / Region zone Zone type [eez|lme|meow];Zone name;Zone ID

    Zone name and ID can be found in the "Select zones" window

    Humpback whale sightings within Australian EEZ;Australia;8323

      region Zone ID
    Applicable to preloaded region layer.
    Layer type initLayer points

    By default, the sightings are aggregated by unit cell. If you want to see individual sightings as points (i.e. the points layer), set this parameter. Note the drawing may be slow if there are a lot of sightings (e.g. > 10,000).

    Pygmy Sperm Whale with the points layer shown

    Color by colorBy sp_tsn / dataset / series

    For the points layer, specify how the points are color-coded.

    Pygmy Sperm Whale with the points layer shown and classified by dataset

    Those parameters with "Multiple?"showing "YES" accept multiple values which should be given comma-separated.


  3. Dataset Page
  4. If you are interested in a particular dataset, the Dataset Page gives you the quickest access to the information and data of the dataset. The Dataset Page loads its data and presents its metadata automatically.
    This is convenient if you are a data provider and want to have a direct link to your dataset.

    The URL of the Dataset Page is:

    where dataset_id is the Dataset ID, a numeric identifier of the dataset, which you will need to know in advance.

    If you don't know the Dataset ID, the quickest access to the Dataset Page would be to look into "Browse Datasets" section on the front page. The datasets are grouped by the data providers. You can also find datasets that include observations of a particular species. Once you found your dataset of interest, click the name of the dataset that brings you to the Dataset Page.

    Browse Datasets on Front Page


  5. Species Profile Page
  6. If you are interested in a particular species, the Species Profile Page gives you the quickest access to the information and data of the species. The Species Profile Page loads its data and presents the species profile compiled by OBIS-SEAMAP automatically.

    The URL of the Species Profile Page is:

    where itis_tsn is a taxonomic serial number organized by the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (

Quick Search

If you know your species or datasets of interest, the Quick Search at the top gives you the quickest way to extract data that you are looking for. The Quick Search box accepts the following names or words and returns the matched species or dataset. It is equipped with live search functionality that dynamically searches the database as you type in (the live search is enabled at three letters or longer).

The Quick Search returns the matched items with the headline of the category such as 'Species found', 'Datasets found', 'Datasets from Matched Providers', so you know what kind of data are found in the OBIS-SEAMAP database.

By clicking the dataset or species you are interested in, it is added to the search criteria and displayed in the Dataset or Species Selection panel. Then, the map is updated to show the data of your selection.

Full text search

The Quick Search has a powerful option to look into the metadata of datasets and species with a word or phrase you are interested in. By simply turn on [Full text] option, the search tries to match your keyword with the following metadata elements:

For datasets:

For species:

Gridded distribution or points

Gridded distribution

By default, the map displays the gridded summary of the data extracted. This gives you a quick view of the spatial distribution of the data. The summary represents one of the following counts or indexes color-coded by that count at a specific resolution with the number of records being default.

To change the count type, click the icon to the Summary layer and press one of the six count type buttons in the dialog that comes out.

To see the legend of the colors, click the Legends button at the lower right corner of the Interface.

The summary's spatial resolution changes according to the current Google Maps zoom level as below.

Zoom level Resolution
0 - 4 1 degree
5 - 9 0.1 degree
10 - 0.01 degree

You can also fix the resolution at one of the above three available resolutions. See the online help for the Layer selection panel for more details.

Points layer

The points layer renders individual observation records as points on the map. Since the number of points can be huge (e.g. 100,000 points), it may take a few minutes to map all. You can switch between the gridded summary and the points layer anytime by choosing one of them in the Layer selection panel. The points layer is not available when no criteria are set up (you can't see all the OBIS-SEAMAP data as points at once), though.

Points are rendered with symbols based on the data type. For example, visual sightings collected from a vessel or airplane survey is rendered with a filled circle. Telemetry locations from a tagged animal are given a triangle. Points are given the same colors per dataset, species or individual animals. You can choose one of them by clicking the icon to the Points layer and press one of the three option buttons in the dialog that comes out. If you chose 'Individuals', the observation records that are not identified to an individual (this is usually the case for vessel or airplane visual sightings) are given red.

To see the legend of the point symbols and colors, click the Legends button at the lower right corner of the Interface. At this moment, you can't change the colors, which will be a future improvement.

Download data

OBIS-SEAMAP provides flexible and powerful data download features. You can download data in the following formats:

For more details, see Download OBIS-SEAMAP data