Innovation for Sustainable Development​

These photos are drawn from the 2020 Annual World Oceans Day Photo Competition, part of that year’s World Oceans Day celebrations, which focused on Innovation for Sustainable Development. This theme provided an opportunity to explore the important contribution that innovative approaches in the areas of science, technology, business, art, partnerships, etc. can make towards achieving the effective conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources.

The importance of innovation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals has long been recognized and there are many examples of innovative solutions that have already made waves in overcoming some of the challenges facing the marine environment, including environmental degradation, overfishing, climate change, and pollution. This World Oceans Day provided an opportunity to highlight and celebrate these solutions and to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on Sustainable Development Goal 14.

This exhibit is organized by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations, with the support of the Swiss watch manufacturer Blancpain, the sponsor of the 2020 World Oceans Day Photo Competition.

Contest Winner

These air-filled biospheres are an innovative experiment in alternative agriculture. Basil, lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and tomatoes thrive in this unique underwater environment. The hydroponic systems produce their own fresh water through condensation and are powered by solar and wind energy.

Photo by Joanna Smart (Italy)


This location was found by accident, during an afternoon swim. The tide was rising so it was only accessible by swimming. The photographer spent several hours just sitting with these turtles waiting for the sun to set. This beautiful picture was definitely worth the adventure.

Photo by Leighton Lum (Maui, Hawaii, USA)

This photo was taken in February 2020 before the lockdown during an excursion on the Ligurian mountains at an altitude of about 1000 m (3280 ft) in a small lake where the common European frog (Rana temporaria) reproduces.

Photo by Flavio Vailati (Beigua Mountains, Italy)

Underwater Seascapes

A pair of California sheep head (Semicossyphus pulcher) and a giant sea star (Pisaster giganteus) in the kelp forest around one of California’s Channel Islands. These are incredibly rich habitats and host a surprising range of colourful creatures.

Photo by Hannes Klostermann (California, USA)

This beautiful image carries the name "Circle of Life". It shows a hard coral reef made of Egyptian Staghorn coral (Acropora asper). The picture was taken from above when a group of divers passed, utilizing the distortion effect of the fisheye lens.

Photo by Yung Sen Wu (Red Sea, Egypt)

Underwater Life

While scuba diving, the photographer encountered this magnificent sea anemone closed-up against the current, revealing its vivid red underside. This resident pink skunk anemonefish stuck its head out of the anemone to inspect the intruder in its territory.

Photo by Michael Gallagher (Ngemelis Region, Palau)

Dexter’s wall, Palau, a few hundred yards from Blue Corner, is where green turtles come to sleep and scratch themselves on the reef. This green turtle scratching its belly on the reef is remarkably unconcerned by the camera.

Photo by Greg Volger (Dexter's Wall, Palau)

Above Water Seascapes

These anemones (Aulactinia reynaudi) call tidal pools their home and are well adapted to their dynamic environments. As the tide drops, they undergo a drastic change in appearance.

Photo by Geo Cloete (West Coast, South Africa)

This is a vertical panorama of the Pfeiffer Beach archway in Big Sur on the central California coast. The Milky Way is clearly visible with the naked eye in areas with little light pollution such as this, but not as brightly and colourfully as captured here on camera.

Photo by Marcin Zajac (Big Sur, California, USA)

Human Interaction: Making a difference

This incredible picture is a selfie shot. The turtle came very close, intrigued by the mask, perhaps because it saw its reflection in it. The turtle stayed close to the photographer's face for some time, beating with its muzzle on the mask and trying to bite it.

Photo by Renata Romeo (Tiran Island, Sharm el Sheikh, Red Sea, Egypt)

A diver finds an endangered whale shark with a discarded commercial fishing line covered in barnacles wrapped around her midsection and buried deep in her skin. The diver followed the whale shark into a strong current to cut her free.

Photo by Dave Valencia (Revillagigedo Archipelago, Roca Partida, Mexico)

Clean our Ocean

Deep red blood disperses over the sandy beach with the incoming tide, while a team of aquatic veterinarians inspect this 12 metre-long Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). The official necropsy results reveal that the primary cause of death of this pelagic cetacean is likely from organ failure due to illness.

Photo by Sirachai Arunrugstichai (Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Krabi Province, Thailand)

This shark was well known to the dive guides in the area and had been entangled for well over a year. The regulator holder slipped over the shark's head when it was much smaller, breaking the skin and damaging its gills. Fortunately, it was possible to catch the shark and cut it free.

Photo by Joe Daniels (Red Sea)

Digital Ocean Photo Art

The original image is a portrait of a Serranus cabrilla grouper. The United Nations 2019 report about global biodiversity states that extinction rates are accelerating. The aim of this image is to represent how biodiversity is shrinking.

Photo by Francisco Sedano Vera (Almuñecar, Granada, Spain)

Mirror image of a wonderpuss larvae. Image shot in Lembeh, Indonesia, during a blackwater dive.

Photo by Galice Hoarau (Lembeh, Indonesia)


17-year-old Kyla took this photograph while on a boat with her family. The water was perfectly glossy when they were joined by a pod of common dolphin. She quickly grabbed her camera and leaned over the railing of the bow.

Photo by Kyla McLay (Catalina Islands, California, USA)

Stalks of kelp reach up to the surface of the water, its leaves turning orange as the light passes through them. Point Lobos, California, is renowned for its cold waters. While it may appear green, the water is actually close to a turquoise.

Photo by Ankit Kumar (Point Lobos, California, USA)

Science in Action: Ocean Decade 2021-2030

This shot was taken as part of documenting a project. The Sharklab set a deep, vertical line of hooks to see what kind of sharks would be patrolling this deep wall. They caught this large almost 4 m (12 foot) tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) at a depth of over 1000 feet.

Photo by Matthew Potenski (Bimini Island, Bahamas)

In this image, saturation divers are working on a fish counting exercise on the outer reef of Moorea. The Capsule (background) is the divers’ shelter to allow them to immerse for several days/nights at a time.

Photo by Frank Gazzola (French Polynesia, France)