Six first-place winners were selected and announced by actor and activist Lucas Bravo and the respective judges during the live broadcast of UN WOD at New York’s UN headquarters on June 8.
The free competition launched in March and explored six thematic categories connected with the overarching theme of the 2023 UN WOD; they are: No Time to Waste, Putting the Ocean First, The Wonderful World of Tides, Ocean Is Life, Big & Small Underwater Faces and Underwater Seascapes.
The judges selected first-, second-, and third-place winners for each category. World-renowned judges included wildlife photographer Rathika Ramasamy from India, underwater fine art wildlife photographer Ipah Uid Lynn from Malaysia, filmmaker and director Antoine Janssens from Switzerland, and wildlife photographer Rajan Desai of the United States.
The thousands of entries received for the 10th annual photo competition came from both professional and amateur photographers worldwide.
The photo competition was a collaboration between the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Ellen Cuylaerts, Nausicaa, Oceanic Global and Dive Photo Guide (DPG).
Without further ado, here are the winning photographs for 2023, taken by photographers hailing from more than 14 different countries.
No Time to Waste
First Place: Álvaro Herrero (Mekan), Spain
“A humpback whale with a buoy entangled to its tail, already decomposed, dies slowly and agonizingly,” Herrero said in an artist’s statement published on DPG. “A clear reflection of the slow and painful death that we are giving to our oceans, our planet.”
Second Place: Simon Lorenz, Germany
Third Place: Ines Goovaerts, Belgium
Putting the Ocean First
First Place: Tom Shlesinger, Israel
“Although the hawksbill sea turtle is critically endangered, it is quite common in the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat, northern Red Sea,” Shlesinger said in a statement on DPG. “This sea turtle is among the smallest of all sea turtles and its diet is diverse, ranging from sponges and soft corals to jellyfish, crustaceans, and more. Here, a hawksbill sea turtle checking out a coral nursery dubbed ‘the igloo’. This dome-shaped artificial reef was built and placed in the sea more than two decades ago. Quickly after corals were transplanted onto the igloo, many more established themselves naturally, which in turn attracted numerous species of fishes and other animals to visit and inhabit the structure.”
Second Place: Edwar Herreño Parra, Colombia
Third Place: Edwar Herreño Parra, Colombia
The Wonderful World of Tides
First Place: Chris Gug, United States
“While scouting over the ocean for the aggregation of mobula rays off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with my drone day after day, I came across the most beautifully powerful shorebreak where the massive waves crashed directly onto the sand,” Gug said in an artist’s statement on DPG. “Having captured plenty of images of the mobula schools, I set my attention to capturing images of the waves, but was immediately disappointed as they seemed to now be breaking about 20 meters out from the beach line, and no longer created the churning of the sand that I found so beautiful the day before. I came to realize that it was now low tide, and rocks a ways out were crumbling the waves and destroying the barrel due to the lower water levels. A quick Google search gave me the time of the peak high tide, and I returned yet another day to find the waves forming beautiful barrels energetically exploding directly on the beach, and sucking huge amounts of sand with each impact.”
Second Place: Sina Ritter, Germany
Third Place: Alex Permiakov, Russia
Ocean Is Life
First Place: Shane Gross, Canada
“A mother and son gather sea urchins for their family at low tide in a seagrass meadow in Bali, Indonesia,” Gross said, describing the photo on DPG. “Seagrass is an often overlooked coastal habitat important for food security, biodiversity, storm protection, and fisheries. Seagrass meadows also store carbon more efficiently than rainforests helping in our fight against climate change. Seagrass is something conservationists and fishers agree needs to be protected.”
Second place: Niklas Manger, Germany
Third place: Rachel Moore, United States
Big & Small Underwater Faces
First Place: Glenn Ostle, United States
“The narrow Sea of Cortez is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on the planet. Home to more than nine hundred species of fish, thousands of species of invertebrates, and a wide array of marine life, it so impressed Jacques Cousteau that he referred to it as the ‘aquarium of the world,’” Ostle said in a statement on DPG. “Only a short boat ride from LaPaz, Mexico, is a pair of rocky islets known as Los Islotes. With a population of between four and five hundred animals, it is home to the largest reproductive colony of California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) in the Sea of Cortez. We were fortunate to visit the islets at a time when huge schools of fish were also in abundance around the islets. The water seemed to boil with life and it was hypnotic to watch the sea lions dart into huge aggregations of silver fish, only to burst back through the schools, splitting, and dividing them. The fish would quickly regroup but so densely that it was often difficult to even see another diver just a few feet away. At times, the sea lions seemed to pause and appear somewhat overwhelmed at the sight of so many fish within easy reach, as this young sea lion seemed to be doing.”
Second Place: Simon Temple, United Kingdom
Third Place: Adriano Morettin, Italy
First Place: Andy Schmid, Switzerland
“A female Orca splitting a Herring Bait Ball while diving through it to get one, shot from underneath while freediving,” Schmid said in an artist’s statement on DPG. “Every winter enormous schools of Herring migrate from the open ocean into the fjords of Northern Norway and attract large numbers of big predators such as Orcas and Humpback Whales. Witnessing Orcas feeding on Herring using the so-called carousel feeding technique is very exciting but not easy to capture due to various factors: limited light and visibility, fast paced action plus cold surface and water temperature. Being able to freedive and capture the action on an ongoing feeding frenzy in these conditions is difficult but this winter I managed to create a series of photos I had never dreamt of capturing.”
Second Place: Mayumi Takeuchi-Ebbins, United Kingdom
Third Place: Simon Biddie, United Kingdom
The United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition is a tradition that asks photographers and artists from across the planet to share the ocean’s beauty and the significance of each year’s themes. Past years’ winning photos can be viewed here.
UN WOD has been celebrating the importance of the ocean to humans and the planet since its beginnings in 2008. In order to bring the world together to tackle the increasing challenges facing the world’s oceans, humans need to come together globally in order to gain a better understanding of the ocean’s vast, unexplored depths. In that spirit, Indigenous community members, youth activists and scientists joined decision makers, members of civil society, celebrities and others on June 8 at UN Headquarters in New York to celebrate the world’s oceans, and to discuss issues and solutions related to Earth’s greatest uncharted wilderness. The event was hosted by Oceanic Global and the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs.
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