Current number of valid species: 2064

Lobster, author: Daniel Vaulot
Undaria pinnatifida, author: Ignacio Bárbara
Elachista fucicola, author: Ignacio Bárbara
Nucella lapillus, author: Nozères, Claude


Although Belgium is the smallest North Sea country with the shortest coastline (± 67 kilometers) and a continental shelf of 3.457 km2, it has a long history of marine research in which scientists try to understand its diversity and complexity.

A first step towards understanding is to obtain an idea of the species diversity within this area, in other words, to establish an inventory of the local marine species.

In 2010, the Flanders Marine Institute undertook efforts to compile a species list for the Belgian marine waters. Information was extracted from already existing initiatives (e.g. TISBE, see further) and a new literature search was started to further complete the Belgian marine list. Additionally, a number of databases containing Belgian marine distribution data were searched for relevant information (Integrated Marine Environmental Readings and Samples, IMERS & the European Ocean Biodiversity Information System, EurOBIS).

The literature search however showed that not all distribution records were trustworthy, leading to the fact that - solely based on literature - there would probably be an overestimation of the number of species present in the Belgian part of the North Sea.

This conclusion lead to an additional quality check, where a whole range of field experts were asked to help verify the geographical spread of all species listed as 'present in the Belgian part of the North Sea' based on literature and to list additions or specific comments such as 'extinct in Belgian marine waters', 'vagrant', ... All this additional information is available in the database. A list of all contributing experts on geographical spread can be consulted here.

For some species groups, research is very limited within Belgium, leading to geographically unverified species. For these groups, the species list is solely based on literature.

The taxonomical content of BeRMS is controlled by the taxonomic experts of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), not by database managers. These taxonomic experts are responsible for the quality and content of the different taxonomic groups and ultimately decide whether a species name is valid or not.

BeRMS scope

This Register only contains the names of species currently or historically occurring in the Belgian part of the North Sea. So far (September 2010), only species occurring in the marine environment up till (but not including) the coastal dune front.

Future efforts will be undertaken to list all known species of the coastal zone, including the salt marshes, mud flats, dunes and the adjacent brackish areas.

Left: study area in September 2010 - Belgian part of the North Sea
Right: future study area, updates will contain species from brackish and terrestrial coastal / estuarine areas
and the Scheldt estuary

(Click on the map for an enlarged view)

History of BeRMS

Since 2000, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) compiles distribution information on species from the Southern Bight of the North Sea into a single database: the Taxonomic Information System for the Belgian coastal area - TISBE. TISBE tried to develop a comprehensive list of all species recorded for the Belgian coast, the Southern Bight of the North Sea and its surrounding countries.

Despite the availability of a general list for the Southern Bight, there was a growing demand for a species list only containing species present in the Belgian part of the North Sea. In 2010, this general request led to the development of BeRMS, the Belgian Register of Marine Species, which was primarily based on TISBE and extended with additional literature data and validations by experts.

Feedback & updates

Comments from our users are very much welcomed. So if you come across incorrect or incomplete information, or if you are willing to contribute to this initiative, please contact Leen Vandepitte or Wim Decock.

New updates will be added to the online version of the database and will thus become readily available on the website. An update of the paper version of this list will happen on a less regular basis.

A list of 'known issues' on the Belgian Register of Marine Species is available online. This way, users will be aware of the existing difficulties and how they are or will be dealt with in the future.


Usage of data from the BeRMS in scientific publications should be acknowledged by citing as follows:

If the data from the BeRMS constitute a substantial proportion of the records used in analyses, the chief editor(s) of the database should be contacted. There may be additional data which may prove valuable to such analyses.

Individual pages are individually authored and dated. These can be cited separately: the proper citation is provided at the bottom of each page.



The VLIZ Belgian Marine Species Consortium maintains this Register, but is aware that it may be incomplete and may contain errors. The Consortium cannot be held responsible for any errors or misuse of the data contained in this Register.