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Extraordinary underwater scene wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

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Selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries, the winners of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were revealed at an online awards ceremony.

French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta was announced as this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his enigmatic image, Creation, that captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. Every year, for five years, Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July. After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, hunting the groupers in packs. Overfishing threatens this vulnerable species, but here the fish are protected within a special biosphere reserve.

Chair of the judging panel, writer and editor, Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox OBE says, ‘The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic, and intriguing and has an otherworldly beauty. It also captures a magical moment –a truly explosive creation of life –leaving the tail-end of the exodus of eggs hanging for a moment like a symbolic question mark.

Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum says, ‘This year’s Grand Title winner reveals a hidden underwater world, a fleeting moment of fascinating animal behaviour that very few have witnessed. In what could be a pivotal year for the planet, with vital discussions taking place at COP15 and COP26, Laurent Ballesta’s Creation is a compelling reminder of what we stand to lose if we do not address humanity’s impact on our planet. The protection provided to this endangered species by the biosphere reserve highlights the positive difference we can make.’

You can watch the award ceremony below, where many more incredible underwater images feature

The 58th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will open for entries from photographers of all ages, nationalities, and levels on Monday 18 October 2021.

For more visit the WPOTY website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

The Big Shark Pledge: Shark Trust’s new campaign kicks off with a call for support

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With the ink still drying on last week’s landmark listing of nearly 100 species of sharks on Appendix II of CITES, the Shark Trust insists that this is not the time for shark conservation to take a break. The UK-based NGO this week launches its biggest-ever concerted campaign to tackle the overfishing of oceanic sharks. They are calling on people across the world to join the call for stricter controls on high seas fisheries.

The Big Shark Pledge is at the heart of an ambitious set of campaign actions. Working to secure science-based catch limits on all sharks and rays affected by the international high seas fishing fleet. The pledge will build the largest campaigning community in shark and ray conservation history to support a raft of policy actions over the vital years ahead.

Many of our best known and much-loved sharks make their home on the high seas. In our shared ocean, these oceanic sharks and rays face a very real threat from a huge international fleet of industrial-scale fishing vessels. Research published in early 2021 confirmed that over three-quarters of oceanic sharks and rays are now at risk of extinction due to the destructive impact of overfishing. They have declined by 71% over the last 50 years.

The Shark Trust is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and has a long history of securing positive changes for sharks, skates and rays. The Big Shark Pledge will build on the success of their NoLimits? campaign which underpinned landmark catch limits on Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako in the North Atlantic.

While the listing of so many species on the CITES trade agreement is certainly a positive step, there remains a huge challenge in ensuring that sustainable practices are embedded in international fisheries.” says Shark Trust Director of conservation, Ali Hood. “Sharks on the high seas face extraordinary pressure from excessive fishing practices. This has to be addressed through international agreements such as those secured for Blues and makos.”

There is hope and a feeling of momentum in the shark conservation community. Just last week, in addition to the new CITES listings, the Shark Trust, working with partners in the Shark League, secured the first-ever international quota for South Atlantic Mako at ICCAT meeting in Portugal. The new campaign from the Shark Trust aims to push forwards from here, engaging a wave of support through the Big Shark Pledge to bolster policy action.

This will be a long-term international and collaborative effort. Forging a pathway to rebuild populations of high-seas sharks and rays. By putting science at the heart of shark conservation and fisheries management. And making the vital changes needed to set populations on the road to recovery.

Shark Trust CEO Paul Cox says of the Big Shark Pledge “It’s designed to give everyone who cares about the future of sharks the chance to add their voice to effective and proven conservation action. By adding their name to the Pledge, supporters will be given opportunities to apply pressure at key moments to influence change.

Click here to sign the Big Shark Pledge

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Jeff chats to… Craig Waller, Underwater Lighting Technician on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Craig Waller, Underwater Lighting Technician on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Craig is a Key Grip and Lighting Director with 10,000s of hours of Set Experience.

In Craig’s own words:

I started my career when I was in my first year of college.  I always had that creative side of the brain that needed to be followed as a career.  I thought that would be in designing engineering pieces but wasn’t happy about the idea of an office cubicle and drafting table.

I accidentally found my way onto a big commercial job for a week and decided “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO”.   I made it my career after that. This is a quick list of recent and big projects in my 35 yrs of TV / Film / Photography.

Most Recently:

  • “Black Panther 2” – UW Lighting Technician / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
  • “Stranger Things” Season 4 – UW Lighting Technician / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
  • “Suicide Squad 2” – UW Gaffer / 2nd Unit Underwater Team
  • NASCAR / FOX Sports 1 – Network TV Lighting Director – 7 years / 700 races of Live BIG track TV shows
  • 10,000s of commercials / music videos / tv shows

I started diving when I was 18 years old with my OW and then AOW with PADI. I was diving with lots of friends in the late 80s and early 90s and then moved onto Kayaking. I got my daughter into diving when she turned 14 and have picked up where I left off.

I have approx 5000 dives now and spend most of my free time diving.

Here are my certs:

  • OW – AOW 1989
  • Adv Nitrox / Deco 2020
  • Cavern – Intro Cave 2021
  • CCR Tech – Fathom – 2021

You can find out more at www.craigwaller.com


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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