Sharks Highlighted in Winning Photograph
WASHINGTON, DC—SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank today announced the winners of the fourth annual Ocean in Focus conservation photography contest. Photographers from around the world submitted their most compelling images illustrating human impacts on marine ecosystems, as well as images that inspire hope for ocean health. The Ocean in Focus grand prize is awarded to Terry Goss, of San Francisco, California, for his photograph of a blue shark off the coast of Rhode Island with a rusted hook protruding from its lower jaw.
"Photography is an impactful storytelling tool to illuminate and connect viewers with issues that are difficult to envision, such as those beneath the ocean's surface," said Dawn M. Martin, President of SeaWeb. “The Ocean in Focus contest enables people to see the impacts of their everyday life on the ocean, and inspire positive interaction with this life-giving resource.”
The steel circle hook with heavy monofilament line shown in the winning image is from a longline fishing vessel. Longline fishing can result in the bycatch of non-target species such as sharks, turtles and seabirds. While the introduction of circle hooks, like the one shown in the photo, has reduced the incidence of bycatch, it is still imperfect. In a recent study, Ward et al. (2008)* found that replacing wire leaders (such as the one in the image) with monofilament line increased the catchability of target species while decreasing shark catch rates by 58%. The issue of protecting sharks, an apex predator of the ocean, has been garnering support this year in the media due to governmental actions taken by several state and national governments, particularly around shark finning.
“It’s hard to easily understand that ocean health is critical for our survival. Photographs can create an indelible impression which touches the heart as well as the brain and helps us seek the understanding we need,” Sven-Olof Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions.
The runner-up for the Ocean in Focus contest is Peri Paleracio of Quezon City, the Philippines, for his picture of a boat in the Philippines with plastic and trash pollution suspended in the water. This over-under shot illustrates the often-unseen view of the impact of littering on the ocean.
Marine debris, especially plastic, is a major issue in the ocean for myriad reasons. Seabirds commonly ingest plastics and feed them to their young, mistaking the debris for food, which may result in injury or death due to starvation, malnutrition and entanglement, among other impacts. This is also a serious problem for many fish species and baleen whales, which consume plastics and introduce harmful toxins into the food chain. Virtually all plastic that has been produced to date still exists in some form due to its long decomposition rate.
Winning images and other submissions for the 2011 contest can be viewed at and downloaded from the Marine Photobank for free non-commercial, educational use by conservationists, teachers, researchers, students, and in some cases, the media, to enlighten others and raise awareness around the threats facing the ocean all over the planet.
SeaWeb is an international, nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to using the science of communications to transform people’s relationship with the ocean. www.seaweb.org
Teachers: The Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA) provides several topics from Marine Pests and Threats to Marine Stormwater Pollution. Free online teaching units here.
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