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Antarctic Seals image wins Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020

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A balletic photograph of crabeater  seals  swirling  around  an  iceberg sees French photographer Greg Lecoeur named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020.

Lecoeur’s photograph triumphed over 5500 underwater pictures entered by underwater photographers from 70 countries around the world. 

© Greg Lecoeur/UPY2020

To shoot “Frozen Mobile Home” Lecoeur travelled to Antarctica on a small yacht, enabling him to document the wildlife on icebergs as they drift at the whim of polar currents. 

“Massive and mysterious habitats,” explains Lecoeur, “little is known about how wildlife thrives around these mobile homes. Icebergs fertilize the oceans by carrying nutrients from land that spark blooms of marine life and also provide homes for larger animals, like these crabeater seals.” 

Lecoeur lives in Nice, France, but works full time as a photographer, travelling the world documenting life in the oceans.

Chair of the competition judges, Dr Alexander Mustard MBE, commented: “The motion of these seals and the ethereal landscape of the pitted iceberg takes our eyes on a journey through the frame and transports us to the icy ocean of Antarctica.”

In  the  same  contest,  Italian  photographer, Pasquale  Vassallo was  named Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2020 for his photo, revealing the final moments of a tuna’s life as it is hauled up towards a fishing boat.

© Pasquale Vassallo/UPY2020

Vassallo took the photo “Last Dawn, Last Gasp” in the Mediterranean Sea, near his hometown of Naples. “This winter I accompanied some local fishermen,” explains Vassallo. “Diving at dawn, I followed the nets as they were hauled up from the depths, revealing a conveyor belt of dead and dying wildlife, such as this little tunny tuna gasping for life.”

Competition judge Peter Rowlands commented: “If a picture paints a thousand words, then a great one asks a thousand questions.”

Judge Mustard continues: “the ocean faces many threats,  including  climate  change,  overfishing  and  plastic pollution,  and  the  conservation section of the Underwater Photographer of the Year gives a platform for the photographers, who are our eyes in and on the ocean seeing these issues first-hand. Much of what happens in the oceans goes unseen, but such powerful images help make more of us aware.”

The  Underwater  Photographer  of  the  Year  competition  also  aims  to  promote  new photographic talent. Anita Kainrath, from Austria, was named as Up & Coming Underwater Photographer  of  the  Year  2020 for  an  uplifting  picture  of  baby  lemon  sharks  thriving  in  a mangrove in the Bahamas. Her image “Shark Nursery” is not only beautiful, but it shows how important mangroves are, not just for protecting tropical coastlines, but also in the lives of endangered species.

© Anita Kainrath/UPY2020

Kainrath, from Vienna, explains the challenges in producing the image: “I was standing in knee-high water, trying to hold my camera still, waiting for the sharks, while mosquitoes and sand-flies were feasting on me! After about an hour the lemon shark pups finally came into photographic range and I was able to make this image.” 

Judge Rowlands commented:  “Her  perseverance  has  definitely  paid  off  with a beautifully balanced and observed image.”

The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and makes two awards specifically to British photographers. Nick More, from Devon, England was named as British Underwater  Photographer  of  the  Year  2020 for  his  pop-art  style  photograph “Rabbitfish Zoom Blur” taken in Indonesia. “I created this effect in camera,” explains More, “by zooming my lens at the same time as I hit the shutter. My flash has frozen the central fish while the ambient light is blurred by the zooming.” 

© Nick More/UPY2020

The  title  of Most  Promising  British  Underwater  Photographer 2020 goes to Nur Tucker from Wimbledon, London for an artistic panning photo of a seahorse. Her creative image “Commotion in the Ocean” uses an in-camera  double  exposure  to  create  a feeling of waves surrounding this seahorse. Tucker explains: “I love experimenting and I have tried  many  different  techniques,  with  varying  degrees  of  success!  After  many  attempts, everything came together with this shot.” 

© Nur Tucker/UPY2020

Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools.  British  photographer  Phil  Smith  was  the  first  Underwater  Photographer  of  the  Year, named in 1965. Today’s competition attracts  entries  from  all  around  the  world, has  13 categories,  testing  photographers  with  themes  such  as  Macro,  Wide  Angle,  Behaviour  and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. This year’s judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge and Alex Mustard.


To see all the incredible images that were placed in this years awards, or to learn more about the competition please visit the UPY website by clicking here.

To download the free 180 page downloadable Yearbook please click here.

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Mares EOS LRZ Torch Range

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What does LRZ stand for I hear you ask? The answer is: LED lights, Rechargeable, Zoomable. Mares have created a versatile set of seven underwater lights in the new range to suit all needs and budgets.

I tested the most powerful of them – the EOS 32LRZ at Capernwray on a cold but bright spring day. I was diving with Alex Mustard, and so all the underwater images are by him, showing me trying out the torch in both the shallows and in some of the wrecks at this site.

All the torches in the new line have an LED visual battery charge indicator that allows you to keep the battery level under control.

Want to use it out of the water? No problem! The new EOS LRZ torches feature an innovative temperature control system that allows you to use them both underwater and on land. I can see myself using this on gloomy dog walks later in the year!

As you can see from the video I filmed just after getting back from a dive, the torch is easy to use, even with thick gloves in cold water. The zoomable light beam means that you can highlight a particular spot, or have a wide beam, which is great for both modeling for a photographer, and exploring different underwater environments.

The EOS 32LRZ has a powerful beam with 3200 lumens of power and 135 minutes of burn time. Perfect for some of the darker dives you can experience in the UK, but also for exploring overhead or enclosed environments. I easily got 2 long dives out of a single charge, and then was able to recharge it in my car using a USB cable on the way home, ready for the next day of diving.

The look and feel of these torches are great. In your hand you can feel the quality of the torches. They are solid and well built. They also look great. Each torch in the range comes with a padded case to keep them safe during transport.

For more, visit the Mares website by clicking here.

All underwater images by Alex Mustard

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Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World launches Green Fins Japan!

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The Reef-World Foundation, the Onna Village Diving Association, the local government, and Oceana are delighted to announce that Japan is now the 14th country globally to implement the Green Fins initiative – a UN Environment Programme initiative. Onna Village in Okinawa is the first Japanese tourist destination to adopt Green Fins environmental standards to reduce the threats associated with diving and snorkelling on the marine environment.

Green Fins is piloted in Onna Village, Okinawa prefecture, an area renowned for its marine sports and has been working to protect its reefs for many years. Green Fins is implemented as part of the national Sustainable Development Goals project, which aims to manage and illustrate to the local industry how sustainable tourism can play a role in reef conservation. The economic benefits of the reefs benefit not only the fisheries industry but also the tourism industry as it has rocketed in recent decades.

If the project is successful – proving the value of sustainable tourism – the model has the potential to be escalated to a national level. A wide rollout would allow Reef-World to focus on uptake and expansion into other marine tourism and biodiversity hotspots across Japan. Green Fins implementation in Japan would provide practical solutions to many of the common problems faced in the area. It would also help to promote high standards for diving in the country. Improving the quality of the diving industry through Green Fins would demonstrate the added value of Onna Village’s tourism product. This, in turn, will encourage tourists to spend more time and money diving in the region.

Following a week of training by Reef-World (23 to 28 May 2022), Japan now has a national Green Fins team comprised of four fully certified Green Fins Assessors and two Green Fins Coordinators from Oceana and the local government. They will be responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and certifying dive and snorkel operators to become Green Fins members in the country. This involves providing training about the ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions to these threats and Green Fins’ environmental standards to dive and snorkel operators. Green Fins membership will help marine tourism operators improve their sustainability and prove they are working hard to follow environmental best practices as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

James Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We are really excited to finally introduce Green Fins in Japan. We have been planning this for almost three years, but the travel restrictions related to the pandemic hindered progress. The diving industry in Okinawa and the marine life upon which it has been built is so unique, it must be preserved for generations to come. The Okinawa diving community is very passionate about protecting their marine environment, and Green Fins has given them an opportunity to collectively work to reduce their environmental impact and pursue exemplary environmental standards.”

Diving and snorkelling related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or plastic debris and the effects of climate change. Based on robust individual assessments, the Green Fins initiative helps identify and mitigate these risks by providing environmental consultation and support to dive and snorkel operators. Through Green Fins implementation in Japan, Reef-World aims to reduce negative environmental impacts in the region by reaching 10 marine tourism operators, training 50 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practices among 10,000 tourists in the first year.

Yuta Kawamoto, CEO of Oceana, said: “Green Fins will help to unify all the conservation efforts in Okinawa by applying the guidelines in many areas and raising tourists awareness. We hope this will increase the sustainable value in the diving industry and in turn increase the diving standards in the country.”

Green Fins is a UN Environment Programme initiative, internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.

To date, four dive operators in Onna Village have joined the global network of 600+ trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Benthos Divers, Okinawa Diving Center, Arch Angel and Pink Marlin Club. There has also been significant interest from other operators, even those that are not located in Onna Village, for Green Fins training and assessment.

Suika Tsumita from Oceana said: “Green Fins serve as an important tool for local diving communities to move towards a more sustainable use of their dive sites; so that they can maintain their scenic beauty and biological richness to provide livelihoods for many generations to come.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or  www.greenfins.net/countries/japan. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up for Green Fins can find the membership application form at: www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.

Dive and snorkel operators in Japan interested in signing up to be Green Fins members can contact the Green Fins Japan team at japan@greenfins.net.

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