Eighth Annual United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition Winners

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The winners of the annual World Oceans Day photo competition have been announced. This year the competition has been divided into six categories – Ocean Life & Livelihood, Above Water Seascapes, Underwater Seascapes, Digital Ocean Photo art, faces of the Sea and Ocean Discoveries.

The competition was curated by Ellen Cuylaerts and judges were biologist and photojournalist Jennifer Hayes, filmmaker Julian Lennon, conservation photojournalist Joakim Odelberg, underwater photographer Ipah Uid Lynn and filmmaker Michel Strogoff.


Digital Ocean Photo Art

Francisco Paco’ Sedano, Spain  Winner

2021UNWOD Digital Ocean Photo Art Winner Francisco Sedano

In the Disney movie Aladdin, the Cave of Wonders there is a hidden cavern filled with all sorts of riches and magical artefacts that are guarded by a lion head. This interpretation isn't very different, however, the cave is guarded by a moray eel and filled with precious species. The capacity of underwater caves to harbour rich communities makes them important biodiversity reservoirs. This has been recognized by the European Union, which considers marine caves as a priority habitat requiring protection.

Technical details: The image consists of a triple exposure in Photoshop of three images I took in the Mediterranean Sea. All images were taken with an Olympus mirrorless camera and 60mm macro lens or 9-18mm wide-angle lens.

The Mediterranean Sea.


Concept/Model Christine Ren, Photographer Brett Stanley, USA, 2nd Place

2021UNWOD Digital Ocean Photo Art 2nd Place Brett Stanley

Title: Blindspots A conceptual look at the blindness consumers have when it comes to plastics, and their effect on the oceans - blindly buying goods and wish-cycling them in the hopes of allaying their own guilt.

San Francisco, California, United States.


Renata Romeo, Italy, 3rd Place

2021UNWOD Digital Ocean Photo Art 3rd Place Renata Romeo


The model's passion and love for the sea are rendered through the integration of different photographic components and chromatic contrasts melted in the water element.  Species:  anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis), soft coral (Dendronephthya spp), organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica)

Shark reef, Ras Mohamed National Park, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.


Faces of the Sea

Sayaka Ichinoseki, Japan, Winner

2021UNWOD Faces of the Sea Winner Sayaka Ichinoseki

They were very tiny and immature so I can’t say for sure but they are most likely to be yellow goosefish.  Just 2mm in size, these babies were in a two square-metre egg veil, just before hatching out. They were rotating as the entire egg veil was shaking with the tide current.

Hokkaido, Japan.


Sam Briggs, United States, 2nd Place

2021UNWOD Faces of the Sea 2nd Place Sam Briggs

A curious little amphipod (Ampithoe lacertosa) stares out from its tube-dwelling constructed of folded sea lettuce and amphipod silk.  Over the years, I have found some of the biggest personalities come in the smallest of packages. Don’t get me wrong, I love the charismatic megafauna just as much as the next person but there is just something about the little creatures of the sea that really captivate me.  

Bodega Bay, California, United States.


Evans Baudin, United States, 3rd Place

2021UNWOD Faces of the Sea 3rd Place Evans Baudin

Shortfin mako shark at sunset in the clear blue waters off the coast of Baja California. It is absolutely fascinating to observe pelagic species that have probably never seen a human before. Who is watching who?

Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico. 


Ocean Life/ Livelihoods

Renee Capozzola, United States, Winner

2021UNWOD The Ocean Life and Livelihoods Winner Renee Capozzola

Two local Indonesian fishermen paddle in a traditional canoe along a shallow coral reef looking for a good place to put down their lines.  These fishermen were practising handline fishing, a type of sustainable fishing without poles or nets. 

Adonara Island, Solor Archipelago, Indonesia.


Jacopo Brunetti, Italy, 2nd Place

2021UNWOD The Ocean Life and Livelihoods 2nd Place Jacopo Brunetti

The Fear: Sardines chased by a striped marlin during the annual migration in Magdalena Bay

Puerto San Carlos, Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico.


Henley Spiers, United Kingdom, 3rd Place

2021UNWOD The Ocean Life and Livelihoods 3rd Place Henley Spiers

Living in harmony with his local waters, David's life and passion revolved around the rhythms of the ocean. He hunts from large shoals of tuna using a speargun, taking only what he needs, in this case, a yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares),

Pacific Ocean, offshore of Costa Rica.


Victor Núñez, Spain, Honourable mention

2021UNWOD The Ocean Life and Livelihoods Honourable Mention Victor Nunez

This Glaucus atlanticus is known as the Blue Dragon. It is a mollusc that feeds on jellyfish, and by which it acquires this colour and their venom. It lives in a pelagic way in the open sea, and on certain occasions, the tides and the wind bring it to the coast, as in this case.

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.


Oceanic Discoveries


Tom St George, United Kingdom, Winner

2021UNWOD Oceanic Discoveries Winner Tom St George

A cave diver glides effortlessly through a beautifully decorated underground chamber in Sistema Aktun Hu.  The underwater cave systems of the Yucatan Peninsula are renowned for their incredible beauty and crystal clear waters. These underground rivers that wind their way to the ocean are facing increasing pressure from pollution and the over-extraction of water.

Sistema Sac Actun, Tulum, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Hannes Klostermann, Germany, 2nd Place

 2021UNWOD Oceanic Discoveries 2nd Place Hannes Klostermann

A school of skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) preys on a sardine bait ball in the Pacific Ocean.  Due to the relatively large size of the prey, the tuna ended up ripping apart any sardines they caught and each taking a chunk. This image also shows the skipjack's vertical stripes, which are only visible while hunting.

Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico. 


Sirachai Arunrugstichai, Thailand, 3rd Place

2021UNWOD Oceanic Discoveries 3rd Place Sirachai Arunrugstichai

A diver investigates the skeletal remains of a Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) in its watery grave among the vast empty seafloor. The cause of death of the baleen whale cannot be determined, due to the deteriorated condition of the carcass. 

Koh Haa Island, Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Krabi province, Thailand.


Underwater Seascapes

Nur Tucker, United Kingdom, Winner

2021UNWOD Underwater Seascapes Winner Nur Tucker

I spent a week in Los Islotes photographing lively and playful sea lions (Zalophus californianus). This one is a pup playing in a cave. Taken with Nikon D7200, Subal Housing, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens in natural light.

Los Islotes, La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.


Marchione Giacome, Italy, 2nd Place

2021UNWOD Underwater Seascapes 2nd Place Marchione Giacomo

'The cloud': The reefs around Moalboal in the Philippines are inhabited by thousands of sardines that form immense shoals, large enough to form masses of fish that obscure the sun, much like clouds moving during a thunderstorm. The scene is very impressive; the observer is left speechless in the face of this amazing spectacle put on by mother nature. Taken with a Nikon D800E, 17-35mm Nikon, Seacam, Sea & sea 120Ys.

Moalboal, Cebù Island, The Philippines.


Kevin De Vree, Belgium, 3rd Place

2021UNWOD Underwater Seascapes 3rd Place Kevin De Vree

Garden of Eden: As light pierces through the trees, mystical sunbeams surround a brightly coloured venus sea fan (Gorgonia flabellum). It creates a magical and a surreal underwater forest, teeming with life and colours, including redspot cardinalfish (Apogon parvulus). This photo highlights the beauty and importance of coral reefs as the underwater forests of our planet.

Dampier Strait, West Papua, Indonesia.


Above water Seascapes


Pawel Zygmunt, Poland, Winner

2021UNWOD Above Water Seascapes Winner Pawel Zygmunt

Visiting the epic Kallur cliff on Kalsoy Island is always a great experience. This time there was a bit of snow on the hills and the weather was very challenging. On the way up I was pummeled by a hail storm and pushed around by the strong wind. I was lucky to get to the lighthouse on time and hide behind it. I wasn't sure if I would be able to fully experience this place but the wind dropped a bit and it became safer to explore. I took a few shots from usual spots and then flew a drone, which wasn't easy in the strong wind; to be honest it was a bit risky. But I managed to capture Kalsoy Island from a slightly different perspective. In the background are the islands of Kunoy and Vidoy.

Kallur, Kalsoy Island, Faroe Islands, Denmark.


Christophe Mason-Parker, United Kingdom, 2nd Place

2021UNWOD Above Water Seascapes 2nd Place Christophe Mason Parker

An aerial view of Passe Dubois bisecting the islets of Ilot Emili and Ilot Yangue, part of the west channels of Aldabra Atoll. The channel is one of many that combine to fill and drain the vast lagoon of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Seychelles.

Ilot Emili and Ilot Yangue, Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles

Rafael Fernandez Caballero, Spain, 3rd Place

2021UNWOD Above Water Seascapes 3rd Place Rafael Fernandez Caballero

Aerial picture of a blue whale, the biggest animal that has ever existed on earth. While sailing in the open sea, it was amazing to see the whale from far away, the sea was flat and the conditions were perfect. When we realized that it was a blue whale all the people on the boat were excited. It was amazing to spend a long time together with the huge animal which was completely calm that day. An impressive mammal that is in danger of extinction, the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) can weigh up to 180 tonnes and measure up to 30 metres in length. Its heart is the size of a car, and a person could swim through its aorta.

Near Cerralvo Island, Baja California Sur, Mexico.


Matthew Meier, USA, Honourable mention

2021UNWOD Above Water Seascapes Honourable Mention Matthew Meier

A California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) pup scratches its chin with its rear flipper while basking in the early morning sunlight. The pup was warming up on the rocky shoreline after a recent swim in the cold water, as waves from the Pacific Ocean crashed in the background.

La Jolla, California, United States


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