Seventh Annual United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition Results

unwod 2020 1000 title

The winners of the United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition were announced during the UN World Oceans Day 2020 Virtual Event on 8 June 2020, curated by Belgian photographer Ellen Cuylaerts and hosted by the DivePhotoGuide (DPG).

Ten judges, including Adriana Basques, Adam Hanlon, Jill Heinerth, Darren Jew, Jane Morgan, Amos Nachoum, Miriam Stein Battles, David Salvatori, John Thet and Jim Standing presided over 10 categories, with the eventual winner Joanna Smart of Australia chosen for her image of a Nemo's Garden biosphere in the 'Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean' category.


Winner: Innovation Category and 2020 World Oceans Day Theme
Joanna Smart (Australia)

UNWOD 2020 Innovation 1st Place Joanna Smart title

Nemo's Garden biospheres (Joanna Smart/UNWOD 2020)

10m under the sea surface in Italy, a gardener tends to his plants. Nemo's Garden, created by Ocean Reef, consists of 6 air-filled biospheres and is an innovative experiment in alternative agriculture. Basil, lettuce, herbs, strawberries and tomatoes thrive in this unique underwater environment. The hydroponic systems produce their own fresh water through condensation and are powered by solar and wind energy. The biospheres of Nemo's Garden may provide an alternative source of food security in regions where land agriculture is not possible. Additionally, the garden provides a fantastic experimental laboratory for growing plants in extreme environments, with applications to space travel, including potential future missions to Mars.


Winner: Above Water Seascapes
Geo Cloete – 'Waking Up’

UNWOD 2020 Above Water Seascapes 1st Place Geo Cloete

Sandy anemones (Aulactinia reynaudi), West Coast, South Africa (UNWOD 2020)

Tidal pools fascinate me. Where most other environments on Earth operates on a yearly clock following the four seasons, tidal pools follow a twice-daily clock. The creatures who call tidal pools their home, need to be well adapted in order to survive in these very dynamic environments. One such creature is these Sandy anemones (Aulactinia reynaudi).

As the tide drops and the water, which normally covers and protects these anemones, drains away they undergo a drastic change in appearance. They close-up onto them shelves and shrink into small little blobs which don’t at all resemble the opened anemones in shape or colour. I like to think of it as if they go into a “hibernation stage” for a few hours to protect themselves against the harsh topside elements.

When the time turns and the crashing waves start to bridge the peripheral of the tidal pools with “fresh” nutrient-rich the anemones awake from their hibernation. Now the anemones must rely on their powerful foot muscles, with which they cling to the rocks, in order not to be swept away by the forceful waves and currents. As the tidal pool fills with water over the next few hours, the anemones return to their former colourful state. In full “bloom” the anemones are now ready to capture and feed on any food the waves and the rising tide might sweep past them.


Winner: Clean Our Oceans
Sirachai Arunrugstichai  ‘Crimson Tide’

UNWOD 2020 Clean Our Oceans 1st Place Sirachai Arunrugstichai

The photo was shot in collaboration with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources of Thailand (Sirachai Arunrugstichai/UNWOD 2020)

Deep red blood disperses over the sandy beach with the incoming tide, while a team of aquatic veterinarians from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources conduct necropsy on a 12 metres-long carcass of a Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) at Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Krabi Province, Thailand. The official necropsy results reveal that the primary cause of death of this pelagic cetacean is likely from organs failure due to illness, yet there were presence of plastics waste inside its digestive system, which could contribute to its untimely death, while also showing the far-reaching human effect of human behaviour in the wide open ocean.


Winner: Human Interaction
Renata Romeo

UNWOD 2020 Human Interaction 1st Place Renata Romeo

Male hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the South Laguna dive site in Tiran Island, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. (Renata Romeo /UNWOD 2020)

I still remember very well that moment as I was having my new housing and this turtle was gently swimming above our group around 15m for most of our dive and so I decided to approach him gently for some photos.

I just had the chance to make one shoot and he suddenly came very close to me very intrigued by my mask, perhaps because he was able to reflect himself on it. Wanting to enjoy the strange moment I left my housing with one hand and with my left hand I raised it and took this photo towards us. The turtle was then still close to my face for some time and beat with his muzzle on my mask and in the end he also tried to bite it.

Then when the other scuba divers approached to see the rare scene, always very gently, he resumed his path. Never has such a thing ever happened to me again, so I feel lucky to have had such a moment.


Winner: Ocean Art
Francisco Sedano – 'Going up in smoke'

UNWOD 2020 Ocean Photo Art 1st Place Francisco Sedano

The original image was taken with an Olympus EPL2 + 60mm macro lens + housing + Sea&Sea YS-02 strobe at Almuñecar, Spain. (Francisco Sedano/UNWOD 2020)

United Nations' 2019 report about global biodiversity states that extinction rates are accelerating and that we have already significantly altered 66% of the oceans. However, the COVID-19 crisis has given our planet a break. While we #stayhome, many reports are showing marine species reclaiming their niches. Evolution often arises amidst a crisis, and this one is giving a clear sign: a sign that we can still repair some of the damage to ensure our coexistence with a rich biodiversity. How many pandemics will it take to keep this world from going up in smoke?

The original image is a portrait of a Serranus cabrilla grouper. I turned it Black and White, and using layer masks, the liquify filter and a smoke brush in Photoshop I was able to achieve this effect with the aim of representing how the biodiversity is shrinking.


Winner: Rejuvenation
Leighton Lum

UNWOD 2020 Rejuvenation 1st Place Leighton Lum

Nesting turtles in Maui, Hawaii (Leighton Lum/UNWOD 2020)

This was taken in Maui, Hawaii. I happen to stumble upon this location by accident, during an afternoon swim. I thought it would make a great sunset spot so I ran back and grabbed some gear. The tide was rising so it was only accessible by swimming. I towed everything in a small pelican case and boogey board. It was quite the adventure! Spent several hours just sitting with these guys waiting for the sun to set. Shortly after this I had to quickly find my way back to shore in the dark.


Winner: Underwater Life
Michael Gallagher

UNWOD 2020 Underwater Life 1st Place Michael Gallagher

Anemone fish in its anemone (Michael Gallagher/UNWOD 2020)

I was scuba diving in the Ngemelis region in Palau in the South Pacific when I encountered this magnificent sea anemone closed up against the current, revealing its vivid red underside. As I studied it more closely, this resident pink skunk anemonefish stuck its head out of the anemone to inspect the intruder in its territory, which is when I snapped this photograph. Taken with a Canon 5D3 with a Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens at 15mm with a Kenko 1.4x teleconverter in a Hugyfot housing and with dual Inon Z-240 strobes.


Winner: Science in Action
Matthew Potenski

UNWOD 2020 Science in Action 1st Place Matthew Potenski

Tagging a tiger shark in the Bahamas (Matthew Potenski/UNWOD 2020)

This shot was taken as part of documenting a project by the Bimini Biological Field Station – Sharklab (BBFS) – located on Bimini island in the Bahamas. Their research deals primarily with the juvenile lemon sharks that use the inner lagoon of Bimini as a nursery. However, from time to time they explore other areas and look for other species of sharks. The Gulf Stream is just to the west of the island, and the depth drops off precipitously. The Sharklab set a deep, vertical line of hooks to see what kind of sharks would be patrolling this deep wall.  We caught this large almost 4 m (12 foot) tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) at a depth of over 1000 feet. We roped the tail and tied it up along our boat. Tiger sharks can pump water over their gills even when sitting still. The researchers still worked quickly to tag and measure this large shark.

The most delicate part of the process is getting an accurate length measurement. Someone needs to hold the end of the measuring tape on the shark's snout, what we term the 'bitey end'. Once the workup was done they removed the hook and successfully returned this impressive fish back to the depths. This same tiger shark was caught again on a similar deep set 2 months later, showing that this deep habitat may be important in its movement patterns.


Winner: Underwater Seascapes
Hannes Klostermann

UNWOD 2020 Underwater Seascapes 1st Place Hannes Klostermann

Taken in the channel Islands, California (Hannes Klostermann/UNWOD 2020)

A pair of California sheep head (Semicossyphus pulcher) and a giant sea star (Pisaster giganteus) in the kelp forest around one of California’s Channel Islands. These are incredibly rich habitats and host a surprising range of colourful creatures.


Winner: Youth
Kyla McLay  (17, California)

UNWOD 2020 Youth 1st Place Kyla McLay

Common dolphin near Catalina Island, California (Kyla McLay/UNWOD 2020)

I took this photograph while on our family boat on its way to Catalina Island. The water was perfectly glossy when we were joined by a pod of common dolphin surfing on our wake. I quickly grabbed my camera and while leaning over the railing of our bow, was lucky enough to capture a perfect shot of this young dolphin breaking through the surface of the water.


For a complete listing of all the winners, runners-up and more information about the United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition, visit the announcement on the Dive Photo Guide website.


uk print digital sub intl print digital sub digital onlysub




Love diving? You'll love these. Sign up today to immediately download our unique FREE gifts -

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 WRECKS - DIVE's 70-page, beautifully illustrated, colour guide to the world’s best wrecks

SCUBA STORIES - DIVE's collection f real life stories where divers, who have got themselves into perilous situations, describe how they reacted and what actions they took to ensure they lived to tell the tale

PACIFICHighlights of the Pacific - Dancing mantas in Hawaii • The Best Diving in the World, Galápagos, Cocos, Malpelo & Socorro • Mass Spawning Events in Palau

New Upright Gift Banners 300 x 600 px

Sidebar SUBSCRIBE spring 21 large2

Destinations Spotlight

Need inspiration for your next dive trip? Try one of our featured destinations from DIVE's travel partners.

sidebar philippines sidebar bahamas sidebar mexico sidebar fiji sidebar st helena 2020 Sidebar Egypt sidebar banner sabah sidebar banner belize sidebar banner south africa

DIVE Partners

sidebar banner egypt new ceningan divers ad 300x100 LH 300 min giphy subex Wakatobi Siladen Aggressor Fisheye Dive Worldwide gozo banner Arenui

Read DIVE magazine

DIVE magazine is available to read on many devices. Simply click one one of the options below

PCMac final
Apple finalAndroid final

Like what you see?

Join us on social and keep updated daily...