Underwater Photography Competition Winners


Ever wondered what marine life we have in Dublin Bay? While many can enjoy the wildlife in the Dublin Bay area only a few have experienced the life underwater. Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership and Diving Ireland want to raise awareness of our marine life and ran an underwater photography competition to encourage photographers to share their Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater images.

Images varied from commonly recognised species such as lobster, seal and jellyfish to the more unusual dahlia anemones, nudibranchs and skeleton shrimp.


Speaking about the competition, Leslie Moore, Chairman of the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership said

“We’re delighted to be working with Diving Ireland to promote awareness of the marine environment and its biodiversity. We were very impressed with all the entrants and the very high standards that the underwater photographers have produced of the diverse range of life exhibited in the UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere. This is especially remarkable in the current climate when getting out to explore the underwater environment of the biosphere and capturing these remarkable images has been very difficult”.

Ray Yeates, Honorary President of Diving Ireland said “Diving Ireland are delighted to be associated with a project of this nature which showcases the amazing and diverse life off Dublin’s coast. We will continue to work with the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership to raise awareness of this unique area and to protect it for future generations.”

Here are the category 1 (crustacean/echinoderm) winning entries in the 2021 Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater Photography competition.


1st place Zac Campbell showing a velvet crab with coral

Velvet Crab or Swimming Velvet Crab

The velvet swimming crab’s body is covered in short hairs that give a velvet appearance and are soft to the touch, just like velvet. Like all swimming crabs, their rear-most legs are flattened like paddles, helping them swim effectively. They are speedy underwater and will catch swimming prey like fish, they also eat worms, clams and sea snails.

Occasionally you may spot crabs with a big orange mass on their underside, these are the females who carry their fertilised eggs around with them, protecting the eggs from hungry predators. An egg-carrying female is referred to as "berried". They live in rockpools on the shore and in shallow waters below the tideline.

Coldwater Coral

The coldwater reefs in Irelan don’t need sunlight like their warmer counterparts and are often found in much deeper water. Coldwater reefs survive by trapping plankton (small sea animals) and other tiny food particles in the water.


2nd place Maja Stankovski showing a skeleton shrimp

Skeleton Shrimp

Also known as ghost shrimps are from the caprellidae family of amphipods. Their common name denotes the threadlike slender body which allows them to virtually disappear among the fine filaments of seaweed, hydroids and bryozoans.


3rd place Nigel Motyer showing a lobster in Bullock Harbour


Lobsters have long bodies with muscular tails, and live in crevices or burrows on the sea floor. Three of their five pairs of legs have claws, including the first pair, which are usually much larger than the others. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important.

Lobsters are invertebrates with a hard protective exoskeleton and like most arthrpods they must shed to grow.


Here are the category 2 (sponge/cnidarian/sea squirt) winning entries in the 2021 Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater Photography competition.

1st place Nigel Motyer 'Moon Jellyfish'

The moon jellyfish, or moon jelly, is found throughout the world's oceans and is common to Ireland. They’re about the size of a dinner plate and is recognisable by the four circles visible through the translucent white bell. These four circles are gonads, the reproductive organs and are located at the bottom of the stomach.

They have delicate tentacles that hang down from the sides of the bell. They catch their plankton prey using a layer of mucus over their bells before passing the microscopic meals into their mouth parts using special tentacles.

Interestingly Jellyfish are 95% water and have no brain, blood or heart.


Joint 2nd place Maja Stankovski 'Compass Jellyfish'

A translucent yellowish-white jellyfish with brown markings around the fringe and on the top of the bell. Those atop the bell resemble a compass, with V shapes radiating out from a central point. They have a bunch of frilled oral arms below the bell and long thin marginal tentacles around the fringe of the bell.
Don't get too close to those tentacles though, they give a nasty sting.


Joint 2nd place Zac_Campbell 'Reflections'

Blue Jellyfish

Blue jellyfish age can be identified by color of their bell. They tend to be pale in appearance when young, but mature to have a brightly purple-blue (some yellow) colored bell. They are similar to the lion’s mane jellyfish but are not as large and have a translucent bell.]

These jellyfish drift closer to the shore to catch plankton with their tentacles, which can sting.


3rd place Annegret Pfuetzne 'Anemone'

The bottom of the sea anemones is fixed to a hard surface such as a rock, while the other end is an open mouth surrounded by tentacles. Each tentacle is usually lined with specialised “stinging cells” capable of injecting anything that touches them with a paralysing poison. The tentacles then take hold of their prey and drag it into the mouth, where it is digested over time and any inedible parts simply spat back out.

In Ireland , there are no sea anemones with stinging cells capable of piercing human skin, however they do have a protective coating which feels sticky when touched and which is used to help prevent them from drying out.

They are mainly found on the lower shore and in rock pools.


Here are the Category 3 (worm/mollusc) winning entries in the 2021 Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater Photography Competition.

1st place Octopus by Nigel Motyer

The common octopus is an extraordinary creature. It’s a molluscs – a relative of the slugs and snails you find in your garden, and along with the cuttlefish, squid and nautilus, belongs to a group of marine molluscs known as cephalopods. Literally translated the name means “head-footed”, and the bizarre-looking cephalopods certainly look as if their tentacle-like arms sprout straight from their large heads. (www.irelandwildlife.com/)


2nd Maja Stankovski


Nudibranchs, also known as sea slugs, are much like their land-based relatives that you may spot in your garden. But, unlike your regular garden slug, the nudibranch can incorporate the stinging cells from their prey into their own bodies – giving them a defence against predators!

They are a soft-bodied marine molluscs that lack external shells and feed on seaweeds, sea mats, sponges, anemones and other nudibranchs. (www.wildlifetrust.org)


3rd Katrin Schertenleib


The common octopus has a worldwide distribution in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate seas. Here in Ireland it is approaching the north-eastern limits of it’s Atlantic range, and occures off the south and south-west coasts, and up the east coast as far north as Dublin Bay. The species may be extending its range northward as water temperatures rise through the effects of climate change.

Common octopuses live in coastal waters and the upper part of the continental shelf up to a maximum depth of about 150 metres (492 foot). Small specimens are sometimes found in deep rock-pools on the extreme low-shore, although they can be very difficult to spot given their exceptional ability to blend in with their surroundings. (www.irelandswildlife.com/)


Here are the Category 4 (Fish/mammal) winning entries in the 2021 Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater Photography Competition.

1st place 'Tompot Blenny' by Ivan Donoghue

The tompot blenny is a medium-sized, elongated fish with a large head and big eyes. It has distinctive frilly tentacles on the top of its head - for which it has been given the nickname "the fish with antlers"! They live in crevices in rocky reefs and are highly territorial - if you return to the same spot, you'll see the same fish in its hidey-hole. They live in shallow seas, but small tompot blennies are occasionally spotted in rockpools. They have sharp teeth and feed on animals on the seabed like sea anemones. (www.wildlifetrust.org)


2nd place 'Will you play with me?' by Maja Stankovski

The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) is one of two seal species found in Ireland. It is found on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean although the greatest proportion of the population is found in UK waters. It occurs in greatest numbers on the western seaboard of Ireland although significant numbers also occur on the east and southeast coasts.

This seal is quite large with males, or bulls, reaching 2.5–3.3 metres long and weighing up to 300 kilograms; the cows are much smaller, typically 1.6–2.0 metres long and 100–150 kilograms weight. The colour of this species ranges from grey to brown and normally has blotches of lighter or darker fur over its body. The colour of the body tends to be darker over the dorsal (back) than the ventral (belly) surface. The body is streamlined to allow easy swimming and both the fore and hind limbs have been modified into flippers used to propel the seal through the water. These seals, whilst quite large, are very well adapted to swimming and the marine environment. This seal can be distinguished from common (harbour seals) by the parallel arrangement of the nostrils, large dog-like snout and much larger size. (www.npws.ie/)


3rd place 'Dalkey Island Seal Pup' by Nigel Motyer

The Grey Seal generally breed in Irish Waters from September to December on remote and generally undisturbed areas, in particular offshore islands. Pups are born with a white coat that they shed before they can take to the water, usually after about six weeks. The mother stays with the pups whilst they remain on the shore. The seals shed their fur during the spring months and remain ashore for the majority of this time. Counts of seals are undertaken during the pupping and moulting period to allow an estimate on the national population to be generated.



Here are the Category 7 (Best compact/action camera) winning entries in the 2021 Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater Photography Competition.

1st place - Aoife Hester

Compass Jellyfish

Compass jellyfish are yellowish-white in colour and can be found around the coasts from July to September. Easily identified by their reddish-brown V-shaped markings, compass jellyfish are very common around the South and West coasts in the summer months. They can deliver a painful sting on par with lion’s manes and should be treated with salt water immediately. It is advised not to approach them if washed ashore. If a sting does occur, immediate treatment with seawater is advised to keep swelling to a minimum. (www.irishexaminer.ie/)


2nd place - Zac Campbell

Zac’s image highlights the abundance of fish in our seas, but did you know Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) works closely with the fishing sector to develop applied technical solutions which meet environmental challenges and improve fisheries sustainability.

Working in collaboration with Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, they also publish key studies and new analytical methods in peer reviewed journals which contributes towards the science which underpins sustainable fisheries.


Here are the Biosphere Staff awards for special interest in the 2021 Dublin Bay Biosphere Underwater Photography Competition.

Annegret Pfuetzner


The sunstar is reddish on top with concentric bands of white, pink, yellow, or dark red, and it is white on the underside. It is covered on top with brushlike spines, with the marginal spines somewhat larger. The thick, central disc is fairly large. This central disc has a netlike pattern of raised ridges. The mouth area is bare. It has relatively short arms which usually number eight to fourteen. Its radius can be up to 15 cm (6 inches).


Aidan Gray

Aidan’s image captures one of the many wreck dives available to visit around our coasts. To learn more you might like to vsit the Diving Ireland website.

Diving Ireland is the national governing body for recreational underwater sports in Ireland. We were founded in 1963 to organise and promote sport scuba diving and snorkelling. Diving Ireland has grown since then to incorporate over 63 clubs around the Country. Diving Ireland courses are ISO accredited and use the CMAS standards. The Diving Ireland  instructor training programme  is integrated with the Sport Ireland adventure sport instructor framework. Diving Ireland is the only diver training organisation integrated with the Sport Ireland instructor training programme.

If you are interested in learning to Scuba Dive or Snorkel our doors are always open to the complete beginner as well as the more experienced Diver. Our objectives are to allow you to develop the skills required to excel at this amazing activity within a friendly, safe, professional and continually developing environment.

Huge thanks to Diving Ireland for helping to publish this competition. We couldn’t have been able to showcase so many wonderful images without them.