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Primary bathymetric units of Australia's EEZ

Note: This metadata describes the dataset in accordance with the ANZLIC (Australia New Zealand Land Information Council) Core Metadata Guidelines Version 2.

Dataset citation

ANZLIC unique identifier: ANZCW0703007503

Title: Primary bathymetric units of Australia's EEZ


Custodian: Geoscience Australia

Jurisdiction: Australia



The data set provides outlines for the maximum extent of the Primary Bathymetric Units (geomorphic provinces) of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone for regions beyond the shelf break (i.e., slope, rise, abyssal plain/deep ocean floor), including the offshore island territories but not the Australian Antarctic Territory. The slope is 4,059,760 km2 (45.02% of the EEZ), rise 97,070 km2 (1.08%), and abyssal plain/deep ocean floor 2,884,590 km2 (31.99%). These data were compiled in 2004 as part of the draft national benthic marine bioregionalisation which is designed to provide improved knowledge of Australia's seabed. The Primary Bathymetric Units represent regional-scale bathymetric features and faunal distributions. The dataset includes the names of units in the attribute table as well as the area and perimeter of each unit.

ANZLIC search words:

  • GEOSCIENCES Geomorphology Mapping
  • MARINE Mapping

Spatial domain:

locality map

Geographic extent name: AUSTRALIA INCLUDING EXTERNAL TERRITORIES - AUSAAT - Australia - Australia

Geographic extent polygon: 90 -9, 175 -9, 175 -55, 90 -55, 90 -9,

Note: The format for each Geographic extent name is: Name - Identifier - Category - Jurisdiction (as appropriate) See GEN Register

Geographic bounding box:
North bounding latitude: -9 °
South bounding latitude: -55 °
East bounding longitude: 175 °
West bounding longitude: 90 °

Data currency

Beginning date: 2002-07-01

Ending date: Not Known

Dataset status

Progress: In Progress

Maintenance and update frequency: Not Known


Stored data format:
DIGITAL - shp ArcView shape file ArcView Geographic WGS84
Available format type:
DIGITAL - shp ArcView shape file ArcView Geographic WGS84

Access constraints:

No restrictions

Free Data Download

Data quality


The Primary Bathymetric Units were originally captured as geomorphic provinces in 2002 as part of a program run by Geoscience Australia and the National Oceans Office to create a spatial inventory of large-scale benthic biogeographical regions for Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (Harris et al., 2005). The Primary Bathymetric Units are thus defined by the International Hydrographic Office (IHO, 2002), and were identified using a 250 m spatial resolution bathymetry model with reference to previously published geological studies. In most places, the boundaries between the geomorphic provinces corresponded to already published boundaries or were defined by morphology or by seismic reflection and sedimentary data. The Primary Bathymetric Units were identified on contour and false colour maps and drawn by hand onto transparent compilation maps. When completed, the compilation maps were scanned, geo-referenced and the separate polygons were digitised and stored as an ARC/GIS shape file. Care was taken where separate sheets joined to ensure that the units were correctly identified and retained their identity across the sheet boundaries.

Positional accuracy:

Positional accuracy of the boundaries varies depending on the source data. Due to the scale of the map, and quality of the bathymetric, reflection and sediment data, the approximate accuracy of the boundaries is probably +/-10 km.

Attribute accuracy:

No attribute for data quality exists at this stage. This attribute will be updated once a reliability map for the source data has been generated. The reliability map will be based on the spatial distribution of soundings.

Logical Consistency:

The bathymetric grid was examined visually for data consistency. In some circumstances individual data were inconsistent in the grid. In these cases the data were either left out or corrected.

Terms and nomenclature used to describe the Primary Bathymetric Units are based on definitions endorsed by the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO, 2002). Adopting IHO terms ensures a standard nomenclature that is widely recognised. Regional data sets were then compiled as a single national coverage. Where appropriate, the boundaries and Primary Bathymetric Unit classifications are consistent with United Nations Law of the Sea boundaries and definitions.

Tests were also carried out on the data for completeness, correct spatial representation, attribute accuracy, and logical consistency and correctness.


Coverage: The Primary Bathymetric Units cover all of the Exclusive Economic Zone beyond the shelf break. The raw data that makes up the bathymetric grid upon which the units are based is derived from numerous sources and has been obtained opportunistically hence the actual data coverage is generally patchy and irregular. A data density map for the bathymetry grid is not yet available.

Classification: The three Primary Bathymetric Units defined by this data set are internationally recognised categories of seabed features (IHO, 2002). The terms slope, rise, abyssal plain/deep ocean floor are based on definitions endorsed by the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO, 2002). Further details of these terms and documentation underlying their adoption by IHO may be found at the following internet address: for complete IHO documentation (IHO, 2002). The slope was defined by the shelf break, which is an abrupt increase in seabed gradient denoted by closely spaced contours at the seaward edge of the outer shelf. In most places this was easily recognised and in places where it was not apparent previous geological studies have been used to define its location. The boundary between the slope, rise and abyssal plain/deep ocean floor is defined by the foot-of-slope. This position was defined by high-resolution seismic reflection and sedimentary data (were appropriate) as the maximum change in gradient as the base of the continental slope.

Verification: Field verification was limited to reviewing published literature of prominent marine features within the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone.

Contact information

Contact organisation: Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia) (GA)
Contact position: Manager Client Services
Mail address: Cnr Jerrabomberra Ave and Hindmarsh Dr
Mail address: GPO Box 378
Locality: Canberra
State: ACT
Country: Australia
Postcode: 2601
Telephone: 02 6249 9966
Facsimile: 02 6249 9960
Electronic mail address:

Metadata information

Metadata date: 2013-03-08

Additional metadata

Metadata reference XHTML:

Metadata reference XML:


Harris, P.T., Heap, A.D., Passlow, V., Sbaffi, L., Fellows, M., Porter-Smith, R., Buchanan, C. and Daniell, J., 2005. Geomorphic Features of the Continental Margin of Australia. Geoscience Australia Record 2002/26. 146pp.

IHO, 2002.

Authors:Heap, A.D. Harris, P. Sbaffi, L. Passlow, V. Fellows, M. Daniell, J. Buchanan, C. Porter-Smith, R.