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Underwater photos of the year capture seals' frozen playground, tuna's last gasp

French photographer's image, out of 5,500 entries, wins top prize.

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Greg Lecouer snapped his winning photograph, titled Frozen Mobile Home, after traveling to Antarctica on a small yacht to document ocean life around icebergs.

© Greg Lecouer/UPY2020

A photograph of crabeater seals swirling around an iceberg won French photographer Greg Lecoeur the title of Underwater Photographer of the Year for 2020 in an annual UK-based competition. Lecoeur took the photograph, titled Frozen Mobile Home, in the waters off Antarctica. He'd traveled there to photograph marine life in and around icebergs, which he dubbed "mobile homes."

"Icebergs fertilize the oceans by carrying nutrients from land that spark blooms of marine life and also provide homes for larger animals, like these crabeater seals," Lecoeur, of Nice, France, said in a statement.

Lecoeur's image was tops among the 5,500 photographs submitted by underwater photographers from 70 countries.

Pasquale Vassallo was named Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year in the same contest for his photo Last Dawn, Last Gasp, showing a tuna being hauled into a fishing boat in the Mediterranean Sea, near his hometown of Naples, Italy.

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A tuna's last moments were captured in the image Last Dawn, Last Gasp, taken by Pasquale Vassallo.

© Pasquale Vassallo/UPY2020

"The ocean faces many threats, including climate change, overfishing and plastic pollution," Alexander Mustard, chair of the competition, said in a statement. "The conservation section of the Underwater Photographer of the Year gives a platform for the photographers, who are our eyes in and on the ocean seeing these issues first-hand."

Austrian photographer Anita Kainrath was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year for Shark Nursery, which shows baby lemon sharks swimming in a mangrove in the Bahamas.

"I was standing in knee-high water, trying to hold my camera still, waiting for the sharks, while mosquitoes and sand-flies were feasting on me!" Kainrath said in a statement. "After about an hour, the lemon shark pups finally came into photographic range and I was able to make this image."

More than 100 of the winning images can be viewed at the contest site.