Marine Life Shines in Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

Who can resist a grinning balloonfish?


Daryl Duda / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

There's a sea lion blowing bubbles, a bubblefish that looks like it's grinning, and a teeny seahorse floating away.

These are the winners in the Ocean Conservancy's 2021 Photo Contest. Featured animals included many species of sharks, seals, dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, sea lions, eels, whales, penguins, and other types of marine life.

Now in its ninth year, the competition received 647 entries. Although judges made the final selection, there were 5,502 votes cast for the winners.

“Even though I am normally partial to elasmobranches (shark and ray species), as a judge, I had to remain unbiased," Jasmin Graham, CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences, tells Treehugger. “When judging, I was looking for photos that captured ocean wildlife or seascapes from a different or unique perspective—one that helped me see the species or landscape in a new light.”

“I was looking beyond the photo when judging this year,” says judge, wildlife and travel photographer Lewis Burnett. “I am a photographer myself, and my goal is that by capturing nature, I will inspire people to live a more environmentally conscious life. Which submissions were spurring me to emotion or action?”

The Up Close & Personal Winner was "Balloonfish," above, photographed by Daryl Duda in Key Largo, Florida.

Duda had this to say:

“The oceans comprise 70% of the Earth and provide food and oxygen to its inhabitants. If we don’t keep our oceans healthy, we cut off our lifeblood.” Key Largo, Florida, United States

Here's a look at the other winners and the images that received honorable mentions.

Judges' Choice Winner

sea lion blowing bubbles

Matthew Bagley / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"Bubble Lion" by Matthew Bagley

“Photography has the ability to affect change by bringing awareness to the beauty that lies beneath. I want everyone to have the chance now and in the future to experience these feelings; the beautiful connections with the natural underwater world.” Port Lincoln, South Australia, Australia

Coastlines & Seascape Winner

celestial penguin

Kimball Chen / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

“Celestial Penguin” by Kimball Chen

“It is exciting that wildlife photography has been an ever-increasing tool to connect with other humans about both images and stories that fuel important conversations and awareness of our one ocean. I am passionate about finding ways that humans can forge a new and healthier relationship with our ocean and its creatures.” Curio Bay, South Island, New Zealand

Marine Wildlife Winner

baby seahorse

Ängela Leonor / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

“Baby Seahorse” by Ängela Leonor

“I like the sea because it teaches you amazing things. My grandpa passed away and he always worked sailing on ships and cruises, so every time I look to the horizon‚ it’s like he is never gone.” Valencia, Spain

Human Impact Winner

seal with plastic

Nicholas DeNezzo / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

“Recreational Bycatch” by Nicholas DeNezzo

“I’ve always been fascinated with the diversity and abundance of life in the ocean, and have worked toward protecting this valuable resource. As a wildlife rehabilitation specialist, I work every day to help protect the animals that are impacted by human influence, like this entangled sea lion.” San Diego, California, United States

Honorable Mentions

These are the photos that received honorable mentions.

puffin on water

Celia Garland / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"A Running Start" by Celia Garland

bonaire colors

Keith Ibsen / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"Bonaire Colors" by Keith Ibsen

soldier fish with isopod

Glenn Ostle / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"Soldier Fish with Isopod" by Glenn Ostle

bottlenose dolphins

Thibaut Bouveroux / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"Bottlenose Freestyle Contest" by Thibaut Bouveroux

serenity point blue

Mark Butler / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"Peace and Tranquility" by Mark Butler

Queens Crown

Michelle Drevlow / 2021 Ocean Conservancy Photo Contest

"Queen's Crown" by Michelle Drevlow