The Marine Conservation Society have released a selection of incredible ocean photography from some of its members, to celebrate sealife in the seas around the United Kingdom.


While the images we are featuring here show the colourful and curious world under the surface of the UK’s seas, they also illustrate the fragile ecosystems that are in urgent need of protection and restoration.

The Marine Conservation Society campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, the charity raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. The Marine Conservation Society provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the Good Fish Guide as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys.

Painted goby in shell

This small painted goby (Pomatoschistus pictus) is among many species of fish who prefer to make a nest to lay and look after their eggs. A favoured nesting site is within the hard shell of a dead sea urchin. This provides an excellent haven for the eggs and an easily defended entrance from the claws of hungry crabs. The still-vibrant colours of this shell prove it was not long deceased before this goby moved in. Photo by Dan Bolt

Humpback Whale

Photo by Richard Shucksmith
An amazing encounter with a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) photographed on a calm and sunny mid-winter's day in Shetland, United Kingdom. Photo by Richard Shucksmith


A Catshark swims amongst the kelp off the coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom. Photo by Sam Mansfield
A catshark swims amongst the kelp off the coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom. Catsharks are bottom feeders, eating smaller fish, crabs and molluscs. Photo by Sam Mansfield

Bobtail squid

Photo by Saeed Rashid
Bobtail squid (order Sepiolida) are one of the smaller squid species, growing to just a few centimetres in length. Living in the shallow waters around the UK all year round, they often bury themselves in sand only showing their eyes. They do this to hide from both their predators and their prey. Like their larger cousins, octopus and cuttlefish, they have the ability to change their colour. They can also sometimes change the texture of their skin to help camouflage into their surroundings. This makes them incredibly hard to spot but, at night, they’re often attracted by diver’s lights. Photo by Saeed Rashid

Anemone in mussels

Photo by K Andrews
These mussels are jostling for a favourable spot at the entrance to an underwater arch, in the waters around the Farne Islands in Northumberland, United Kingdom. The strong current and the relatively small opening creates a ‘high-energy’ hotspot where fields of tiny mussels are poised to feed on the nutrients travelling past at high speed. The mussel bed extends as far as the eye can see, only broken up by the occasional hardy anemone. To the naked eye the mussels look brown-black, but torchlight brings out their enticing colour. Photo by Kirsty Andrews

Crabs fighting

Crabs fighting UK seas
Spider crabs (Hyas araneus) like these are common in the summer waters around Cornwall, United Kingdom. These two crabs began vigorously fighting in the shallow waters, before one gave up and scurried off. Photo by Martin Stevens

Sea Angel

Photo by Kirsty Andrews
The sea angel is the rather romantic sounding common name for what is actually a free-swimming sea slug. Sea angels patrol the open ocean, feeding on sea butterflies, which themselves have an overly pretty name, being tiny swimming sea snails. The ‘wings’ of the sea angel are actually its feet which have developed to propel the sea angel through the water. This individual was photographed during a night-dive off the coast of North West Scotland, United Kingdom. Photo by Kirsty Andrews

Life in a diver's torch

Photo by Dan Bolt
This old diver’s torch is now a shelter for various species, including a lobster, anemones, urchins, starfish and worms, slowly becoming part of the marine environment itself. Photo by Dan Bolt

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Sea squirt

Sea squirt UK
In this wonderful habitat, sea squirts, sponges and red seaweeds all live side by side on a mooring rope in relatively shallow water in the Orkney Islands, United Kingdom. The transparent sea squirt Diplosoma listerianum seen here, is actually a colony of animal called zooids. Colonial sea squirts can form beautiful and very individual patterns, some of which form star and flower shapes, which makes looking at these relatively common creatures such a delight. Photo by Alison Moore


Cuttlefish UK
Common cuttlefish like this one can grow to 50cm in length. They’re the largest species of cuttlefish found in UK seas and are often spotted by snorkelers and divers. They are much more likely to be spotted in spring, when they venture up from much deeper water to breed in the warmer shallows. This individual was photographed underneath Swanage Pier in Dorset, United Kingdom. Cuttlefish, like octopus and squid, are known to be incredibly intelligent, often outwitting human scientists in their own experiments. Photo by Saeed Rashid


Photo by Billy Arthur
This image of a common sunstar (Crossaster papposus) was taken during a night dive at the wreck of the Queen of Sweden, which lies at depth of around 16 meters of water in Lerwick harbour, Shetland, United Kingdom. Photo by Billy Arthur

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James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs