Third Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest

Sharing the beauty and importance of the ocean

2015 World Oceans Day Theme Winner – Cécile Gaspar (France)
Overall 2015 World Oceans Day theme winner – Cécile Gaspar (French Polynesia)

The oceans are essential to food security and the health and survival of all life. They power our climate and are a critical part of the biosphere. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as from 2009, 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day” (resolution 63/111, paragraph 171). The UN recognition of World Oceans Day is an opportunity to raise global awareness of the current challenges faced by the international community in connection with the oceans, and be part of the solutions.

World Oceans Day encourages you to make a difference in your life, community, and world by taking action to protect our ocean—for present and future generations. Despite the huge challenges facing the world’s ocean, by working together we can achieve a healthy ocean that provides for the billions of humans, plants and animals which depend on it every day.

This year you can share the beauty and importance of the ocean, through your photographs! Also, click here to access the official United Nations site  for more about the contest.

The ContestPrizesContest Rules2015 Photo Contest2014 Photo ContestCo-Coordinators

The Contest

Photography is a powerful medium of expression that can be used to communicate strong positive messages about a subject. This open and free photo contest seeks to inspire the creation and dissemination of such positive imagery, which conveys the beauty and importance of the ocean.

Five thematic categories are open for photographic submissions:

  1. Underwater Seascapes
  2. Underwater Life
  3. Above Water Seascapes
  4. Making a Difference: Humans in Action
  5. Youth: open category, any image of the ocean (above or below the surface) – photographed by a young person under age 16 (as of 1 April 2016)

Entries must portray a positive theme and be submitted electronically in accordance with the contest guidelines and subject to the contest rules.

Winning images will be recognized at a special World Oceans Day event at the United Nations on June 8, 2016.



Please read the Contest Rules for information regarding submission sizes and requirements. All entries must be submitted by 20 May 2016 at 5pm EST

Ellen Cuylaerts
2015 Human Interaction with the Ocean Winner – Ellen Cuylaerts (Belgium)


Winning images will be recognized at the United Nations on 8 June 2016 during the United Nations event marking World Oceans Day 2016.

The co-coordinators will recognize and widely share the winning images, and perhaps some top runner-ups, through websites, with the media, and through the informational materials related to subsequent contests.

Contest Rules

  • The contest is open to entrants of all skill levels.
  • Photo contest staff and judges are not allowed to enter the contest.
  • Each individual can only win one prize or prize package.
  • Winners will be announced on 8 June 2016 in New York, on the occasion of the marking of 2016 World Oceans Day at the United Nations, and published here no later than June 20, 2016.
  • Entries may have been taken from any camera, film (as scanned slides) or digital.

Conservation rules will be strictly observed. Flora and fauna should never be stressed or endangered for the sake of a photo. Entries suspected of exhibiting the following behavior will be disqualified:

  • Photographers visibly damaging the environment (e.g. gear dragging or kicking up sand)
  • Animals with signs of stress (e.g. puffed puffers, inking octopus)
  • Animals moved to an unnatural environment or risky location
  • Marine life being touched (e.g. coral polyps, seahorse tails)
  • Divers exhibiting poor buoyancy control

Images that have won or placed in photo contests with winning entries announced before 1 December 2015, may not be submitted. A winning image is defined as follows:

  • Any image that has placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a major photography contest (to be determined subjectively by judges)
  • Any image that has placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in any photo of the year-type contest. Photos of the day, week, or month are fine
  • Any single image that was part of a portfolio, but did not place as a single image, is eligible to be entered

Photographers retain all copyrights to their images. The organizers of World Oceans Day Photo Contest retain the right to publish the contest entries in any format to congratulate or feature the winners and their respective images, and to promote future World Oceans Day events. Winning images will be included in a press release for third party websites and publications in the context of congratulating and/or featuring the winners and winning images, and to promote future World Oceans Day events. Strict guidelines requiring photo credit and specific one-time press release usage are issued along with the press release.

Note on photo manipulation

Post processing images is allowed. This includes global adjustments to exposure, contrast, burning, dodging, cropping, sharpening, noise reduction, and tone. Minor cleaning of images is permitted, including the removal of backscatter, dust and scratches. HDR, panoramas, focus stacking or other techniques that involve using multiple images taken at the same time and place are also allowed.

Adding, removing or moving animals, people, plants or other objects is not allowed. For example, moving a fish, removing a reef element or adding a glow to a divers torch is not acceptable.

While digital manipulation is permitted, please keep in mind this not a Photoshop competition. All images should accurately represent the subject matter and nature. Images that appear to be overly processed may be disqualified at the judges’ discretion.

Photo Submission Guidelines

Entries must be saved in jpeg format and should be sized to be between 2000 and 6000 pixels in the longest dimension. Please limit your images to a maximum file size of 5,000KB (5MB). Images will be viewed on a large monitor and should be in the AdobeRGB 1998 or sRGB color space.

An image can be uploaded only into one category.

Note: Entrants should retain high-resolution files of their submissions. In the event your submission is selected as a finalist or winner, you will be asked to submit a high-resolution image for printing and display.

Second Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest (2015)

We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the Second Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest, jointly organized in 2015 by the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, The Ocean Project, World Ocean Network,  the World Festival of Underwater Images, the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dive Photo Guide, and WorldOceansDay.Org.

Congratulations to the 2015 World Oceans Day theme winner, Cécile Gaspar, French Polynesia; to the category winners, James Vodicka, Australia (Above Water Seascapes); Ellen Cuylaerts, Belgium (Human Interaction with the Ocean: Taking Action on Climate Change and Ocean Acidification); Fabrice Guerin, France (Underwater Life); Ellen Cuylaerts, Belgium (Underwater Seascapes); and Jerard Raphaelle Baclay, Philippines (Youth Photographer). Congratulations, too, to all the runners-up.

The winning photographs for 2015

The results were announced on World Oceans Day, Monday, June 8, 2015 at a reception at United Nations Headquarters in New York attended by several hundred delegates and organized in collaboration with Blancpain. The keynote speaker was the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Mr. Stephen Mathias. The finalists and winners were announced by the Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Ms. Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, and their photos were projected in large format. A quartet of the United Nations Orchestra provided musical entertainment.The finalists’ photographs will feature in physical exhibits around the world, accompanied by a narrative that underlines the importance of the oceans for humanity. This is in an effort to ensure that the plight of the oceans and its inhabitants remains top of the agenda throughout the year, not just on World Oceans Day itself.

The organizers congratulate all of the winners again and thank everyone who participated in the competition. Thank you for sharing your work, and helping us convey the beauty and value of the oceans.

Thank you to the 2015 photo contest judges

As with the First World Oceans Day Photo Competition, the judges selected the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place images from hundreds of entries in five categories: Above Water Seascapes, Human Interaction with the Ocean: Taking Action on Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, Underwater Life, Underwater Seascapes, and Youth Photographer. A 2015 World Oceans Day Theme winner was selected by the organizers.

  • Göran Ehlmé, Head Designer, Waterproof Diving Int. AB, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations & Education, Ocean Park, and Foundation Director, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong, China
  • Judy Mann, Conservation Strategist, South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Durban, South Africa
  • Kathy Moran, Senior Editor, Natural History, National Geographic, Washington, D.C., USA
  • Manu San Felix, Underwater Image Director, Pristine Seas project, National Geographic, Formentera, Spain

The winning photographers

  • 2015 World Oceans Day theme winner – Cécile Gaspar (France)
  • Above Water Seascapes winner: James Vodicka (Australia)
  • Human Interaction with the Ocean winner: Ellen Cuylaerts (Belgium)
  • Underwater Life winner: Fabrice Guerin (France)
  • Underwater Seascapes winner: Ellen Cuylaerts (Belgium)
  • Youth Photographer winner:Jerard Raphaelle Baclay (Phillipines)

Thanks also to the runner-ups

  • Above Water Seascapes – 2nd Place: Gregory Lecoeur (France)
  • Above Water Seascapes – 3rd Place: Bair Mokhosoev (Russian Federation)
  • Human Interaction with the Ocean – 2nd Place: Gregory Lecoeur (France)
  • Human Interaction with the Ocean – 3rd Place: Gregory Lecoeur (France)
  • Underwater Life – 2nd Place: Jennifer O’Neil (USA)
  • Underwater Life – 3rd Place: Doris Vierkoetter (Germany)
  • Underwater Seascapes – 2nd Place: Gregory Lecoeur (France)
  • Underwater Seascapes – 3rd Place: Ethan Daniels (USA)
  • Youth Photographer – 2nd Place: Jerard Raphaelle Baclay (Philippines)
  • Youth Photographer – 3rd Place: Jaime Rae (Canada)

First Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest (2014)

The co-coordinators were overwhelmed by the wonderful submissions to the First Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest, held in 2014! We are pleased to announce the winners in each category, and the overall winner.

The results were announced on June 9, 2014 by the Under-Secretary-General, the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, during a reception held in New York at the United Nations on the occasion of World Oceans Day and the 20th Anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – attended by some 200 delegates and accompanied by the United Nations Orchestra Quartet.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a photo, for sharing your superb images, and helping us convey the beauty and importance of the oceans to the world. Thanks also to the judges from around the world who helped pick the winners. See below for winning images.

Winners of the first annual photo contest

Thanks once again for all of those who participated in this first annual World Oceans Day photo contest, and congratulations to the winners!

Photos and inspiration for 365 days

This is only the beginning for the winners’ images. These amazing photos are being showcased through physical exhibits with partners around world, so that oceans are not only recognized on June 8, but also during all 365 days of the year. The photos are accompanied by a narrative that underscores the importance of the oceans for humanity. The launch of this exhibit took place in Marseilles, France, at the 41st annual World Festival of Underwater Images (Oct 30 – Nov 2, 2014) with the generous support of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If your organization or institution is interested in exhibiting the winning photos, please contact Bill Mott at: bmott (at)


Mark A. Johnson from Australia
2014 Above Water Seascapes – Mark A. Johnson

If your organization is interested in supporting the Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest please contact us here.

  • Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations: Within the United Nations, The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, (“DOALOS”) serves as the secretariat of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. It also assists the General Assembly of the United Nations in its policy-making role in relation to oceans and the law of the sea, among many other functions. DOALOS also assists the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel in his role as Focal Point for UN-Oceans. In these capacities, DOALOS coordinates United Nations activities relating to World Oceans Day, and seeks to raise awareness about the role the United Nations and international law can play in the sustainable development and use of the oceans and their living and non-living resources.
  • Dive Photo Guide: a comprehensive underwater photography and videography resource and award winning website for photographers and videographers of all levels. It has a community of over 50,000 underwater photographers and videographers from around the globe. Several times each year they also host DPG underwater photography expeditions.
  • IAEA OA-ICC : The Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC) is an IAEA “Peaceful Uses Initiative” (PUI) project based at the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco. The OA-ICC acts as a hub to promote and facilitate global actions on ocean acidification in three overall areas: science, capacity building and communication.
  • World Festival of Underwater Pictures: an artistic, cultural and scientific event which aims to promote better management of the sea and oceans. The World Festival of Underwater Pictures offers underwater movies, photographs, seminars, events and more.
  • World Ocean Network: a network of 500 members including natural history museums, aquaria, and foundations, who collectively reach an audience of 600 million individuals per year in 60 States. Through its membership, it brings together the worlds of politics, science, public administration and the media, and is in a very good position to raise awareness, inform and mobilise citizens on the issue of ocean preservation..
  • The Ocean Project: inspires action to protect our ocean with their network of approximately 2,000 partner zoos, aquariums, museums (ZAMs) and other conservation organizations in 80 countries — the largest ever developed for the ocean. The Ocean Project empowers its partners with cutting-edge communications research, tools, and related strategic resources, including grants that help ZAMs capture people’s imaginations, create more engaged citizens and communities, and result in significant conservation impact.