Rosie Leaney

Sixth Annual World Oceans Day Photo Competition

The oceans are essential to food security and the health and survival of all life. They power our climate and they are a critical part of the biosphere.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as from 2009, June 8 would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day” (resolution 63/111, paragraph 171). The UN designation 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.

For the sixth year running, you can share the beauty and importance of the ocean through your photographs!

The Contest

Photography is a powerful medium to convey a feeling or a message. This open and free photo competition seeks to inspire the creation of imagery capturing the beauty, the challenges and the importance of the ocean and humankind’s relation to it, hoping to contribute to actions to preserve it.

The photo competition has seven thematic categories open for photographic submissions:

  1. Gender and Oceans* NEW!
  2. Underwater Seascapes
  3. Underwater Life
  4. Above Water Seascapes
  5. Human Interaction: Making a Difference
  6. Clean Our Ocean: Images relating to the ocean that show the positive or negative consequences of human interference above or below the waterline
  7. Youth: Open category, any image of the ocean – below or above the surface (photographed by a person under 18 years of age as of 1 May 2019) 


Click here to enter the Competition!

Dan Charity

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

All entries must be submitted by April 30, 2019 at 12 midnight Eastern Standard Time (EST).


Cristina Mittermeier by Paul Nicklen

* The World Oceans Day 2019 Theme “Gender and the Ocean” will be judged by Cristina Mittermeier. The adventurer, conservationist, speaker, writer and photographer is the Founder and President of Sea Legacy and has published numerous stories about people in coastal communities living from and with the oceans. She’ll be looking at your images with the following in mind:


The issue of gender and oceans begins with the lack of access to resources and the limitations to participation. When it comes to fisheries, women are often lingering along the back walls of coastal community gatherings. They are marginalized from fisheries’ decision-making processes or cooperatives because of gender norms. Fisherwomen are often delegated to harvesting sessile species of lesser value, like clams or seaweed, and using handcrafted tools they’ve made themselves. The jobs available to women have to do with the gutting, cleaning, packaging and selling of fish and seldom with the more profitable aspects of the industry. If the husband of a fisherwoman dies, she is often cut off from accessing markets, distributors, and her everyday fishing gear can be reclaimed by the husband’s family. These widows and their children face food insecurity, an ironic result of being part of, but not in control of, harvesting the ocean’s bounty.

On a global level, one in two seafood workers worldwide is a woman, but we know almost nothing about them. Even the United Nations (UN), first researching this area in 2015, has trouble finding reliable data on women’s participation, roles, power dynamics, and access to ocean resources globally. What we do know is that women as a whole are essential contributors to fisheries, aquaculture, and seafood processing, which means they are also critical agents of change for these sectors. This project seeks to contribute visual information to our collective blind spot.

In my experience traveling all around our world’s coastal regions, the story that emerges is one in which if women were given equal access, our fisheries and our relationship to the ocean would likely be more gentle and more sustainable.”


Winning images will be recognized at the United Nations on Friday, June 7, during the United Nations’ event marking World Oceans Day 2019.


Recognition and diffusion of the winning images and finalists will be widely exposed throughout the contest websites, the media and the information materials related to subsequent competitions.


Winning photos have been printed for exhibitions around the world. In 2016, one winning photo was also selected to be used as the cover of the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment.

Shane Gross

Photo Submission Guidelines

Entries must be saved in JPEG format and should be sized to be between 2,000 and 6,000 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.

Please do not include any watermark or borders on your images. These elements will detract from the image’s impact.

The same image can only be entered into one category.

Note: Entrants should retain high-resolution and RAW files, if applicable, 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, and, if applicable, a RAW image to check if adjustments made to the image comply with the rules.

Contest Rules

  • The contest is open to entrants of all skill levels.
  • Photo contest staff and judges are not allowed to enter the contest.
  • Winners will be announced on June 7, 2019 in New York, on the occasion of the marking of World Oceans Day at the UN, and published on shortly afterwards.
  • Entries may have been taken from any camera, digital or film (as scanned slides).
  • Conservation rules will be strictly observed. Flora and fauna should never be stressed or endangered for the sake of a photo. Entries suspected of involving the following behavior will be disqualified:
    • Photographers visibly damaging the environment (e.g., gear dragging or kicking up sand, divers exhibiting poor buoyancy control)
    • Animals with signs of stress (e.g., puffed puffers, inking octopus)
    • Animals moved to an unnatural environment or risky location
    • Marine life being touched or placed (e.g., nudibranchs, coral polyps, seahorse tails)
  • Images that have won or placed in photo contests with winning entries announced before March 1, 2019 may not be submitted. Any single image that was part of a portfolio, but did not place as a single image, is eligible to be entered. 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 eligible
  • Photographers retain all copyrights to their images. The organizers of World Oceans Day Photo Competition 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, as well as for awareness-raising purposes for the work of the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. 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. Winning images can be used by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations and their partners to promote awareness, preservation and conservation. 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.


Geo Cloete

If your organization would be interested in supporting the Annual World Oceans Day Photo Competition please contact us here.

  • Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations (DOALOS): Within the United Nations, 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.
  • World Ocean Network is 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.
  • DivePhotoGuide (DPG) is a comprehensive underwater photography and videography resource and award-winning website for photographers and videographers of all levels. DPG has a community of over 50,000 underwater photographers and videographers from around the globe. Several times each year DPG also hosts underwater photography expeditions.
  • World Festival of Underwater Pictures is 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.
  • 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.

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