Paul Nicklen@paulnicklen

Co-founder of @Sea_Legacy and contributing photographer to National Geographic.

Capturing wildlife in action is incredibly rewarding but it is hard to top the moments when you share a serene encounter with an apex predator like this and stare deep into its eyes with a long lens. During a moment like this, all I feel is humility and gratitude.


The stunning beauty of Cuba’s Gardens of the Queens is one of those places I can still see and feel when I close my eyes. On each dive, we descended into a world of coral teeming with life, where schools of French grunts worked effortlessly together, moving in and out of flourishing elkhorn coral, and sea fan upon sea fan swayed rhythmically in the current. This well-protected marine ecosystem has proven resilient to coral bleaching, but it faces the same threat that other reefs do as the ocean warms and acidifies. During this #CoralReefAwarenessWeek, help @Sea_Legacy in our mission to create healthy and abundant oceans through the link in my bio.


Photograph by my good buddy @goranehlme. Of course I was a bit nervous as this large leopard seal drifted towards me on a pan of sea ice in Antarctica. She was extremely beautiful and I wanted to capture both her and her world in a single frame. The image that @natgeo finally published from this encounter was a half and half split, where half of the image was above water and the other half was below water. I want the viewer to realize that this moment is as much about climate change and the importance of sea ice as it is about the seal. The seal is simply a conduit to that conversation. #nature #gratitude #leopardseal #instagood #adventure #explore #onassignment


The Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the central Pacific Ocean is one of the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage site on Earth. Commercial fishing is banned in the waters around the eight atolls and two reefs here, making this a safe haven for tropical marine life, including sea anemones and over 120 different species of coral. Back in 2004, I did a @NatGeo story on this rich ecosystem, which represents one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems. Today, this area is the focus of a study on the resilience, resistance and recovery of reef systems in the face of rising ocean temperatures and acidification. As oceans continue to absorb the impacts of human activities and of climate change, we’ll need more protected areas like this to sustain the overall health of our planet.


Sometimes I am simply overwhelmed by the beauty of the world. Diving the Jardines de la Reina, Cuba is like stepping back in time - to a time when coral reefs were not a barren wasteland with small remnants of a life that once was, but were full of life and bursting with colour. The Cuban government established a 590-square-kilometre marine preserve here in 1996 and continues to use science as a guiding principle in policy-making. Today, the ecosystem here is thriving with species like this brain coral, home to a couple of picturesque tube worms. I spent a full-day under water on this shoot and loved every minute.


Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir announced that her government will launch a full review of the whaling industry this fall. This news comes at the heels of news that Hvalur hf, the sole fin whaling company in Iceland, illegally slaughtered an endangered blue whale - the first in half a century. In addition to this atrocious event, twenty-six endangered fin whales have been killed this season in this archaic industry. We must continue to keep the pressure on the Icelandic Government in the wake of this latest news; your voices are being heard. Click the link in my bio to keep telling the Icelandic government to #StopIcelandWhaling.
Photograph by @cristinamittermeier.

@Sea_Legacy @bluespherefoundation @oceanicpreservationsociety
This photographic work was performed under the authorization n.0 XX-ORAC-2018 issued by the Government, on February 22, 2018.


In a lifetime beneath the waves, there have been a handful of moments that are truly indescribable. Perhaps the most memorable was when an 80 foot-long blue whale approached me off the coast of the Azores while on assignment for @Sea_Legacy. The encounter left me feeling humbled and with a deep sense of gratitude. Now, when I contrast that feeling and experience with the emotion I felt after finding out that Iceland just illegally killed a blue whale off the coast, I am driven to act. Blue whales were abundant until the beginning of the twentieth century when they were hunted to near extinction by whalers. Since 1966, under the protection of the international community, their numbers have slowly risen, but they are still endangered. This unsanctioned kill was part of the 2018 slaughter of 191 fin whales, also endangered, which has been approved by the Icelandic government. I'm enraged to think that these hunters might have butchered the very same blue whale that graced me with a quick glimpse of its majestic fluke in the Azores. We are launching a major campaign to shut down this archaic, barbaric and pointless slaughter. Very soon, I will be reaching out to you with a call to action; I hope you will lend me your voice! #StopIcelandWhaling

This photographic work was performed under the authorization n.0 XX-ORAC-2018 issued by the Government, on February 22, 2018.


Free diver Ocean Ramsey (@oceanramsey) and I spent an hour with this inquisitive tiger shark off the coast of Hawaii. I found incredible peace and gratitude while being in the presence of this impressive animal who plays a vital role in a healthy marine ecosystem. Many Hawaiians believe that sharks, like this one, could be their Aumakua, a family God or deified ancestor returning to visit them in the sea. There are many stories of nā ʻaumākua (in animal form) intervening to save their descendants from harm. #SharkAwarenessDay


I can tell you from personal experience that moments like this can change your life. These orcas were taking part in a cooperative hunting technique named carousel feeding. This practice is unique to the orca population of Northern Norway and is only used on wintering herring. The orca will herd the fish into a tight “bait ball” by releasing bursts of bubbles and flashing their white undersides. Then, they push them to the surface and stun them with the slap of a tail. When an animal lets you into its world like this, something inside you changes. Not only do you feel deep humility and gratitude, but you also become incredibly connected to that animal and ecosystem. This is why I am so driven to bring about change for the future of our oceans. When have you felt a deep connection to nature?


Adélie penguins get ready to take a leap of faith into the dark, depths of the sea to fish. In the last few decades, it has become increasingly difficult for these penguins to survive, as climate change in the western Antarctic Peninsula has seriously affected the stability of the food chain here. Scientists and marine advocates also worry that the global krill fishery could be a source of additional stress on wildlife. Today, I’m happy to share the news that on Monday, a majority of krill fishing operators voluntarily agreed to stop fishing in areas around these struggling penguin colonies. This new agreement is the first commitment of its kind and is another piece in the on-going, collaborative effort to ensure the survival of polar wildlife. However, as with so many conservation efforts, follow-through is key. Your voices are a vital part of this collaborative effort. Stay tuned as @CristinaMittermier, @Sea_Legacy, and I release images and from my @NatGeo expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula last January in the pursuit of establishing marine protected networks.
#TurningTheTide with @andy_mann @ladzinski @craigwelch @rodolfowerner


Anytime I come across polar bears in the wild, they have shown me something amazing. Whether it is a brilliant display of their intelligence or power or a playfulness - like this one who surprised me by falling asleep clutching a piece of ice - bears are individuals and real characters. Polar regions are at our mercy, as sea ice rapidly disappears due to warming temperatures. These polar ecosystems will be the first to experience massive change, but every other biome on Earth will follow. We need to take action today.


Like many remote icy domains, Svalbard’s beauty and remarkably diverse wildlife are close to my heart. I have seen thousands of Atlantic walrus but I have never seen a set of tusks as large as the ones on this huge male. They must have been close to 3 feet long. The strongest males with the largest tusks typically dominate social groups. Since the end of hunting in 1956, walrus numbers have steadily increased - but a larger threat still looms. Like polar bears, walrus rely on ice in order to survive in the Arctic. Ice is where they give birth to their pups, where they rest between clam feeding forays and where they socialize with other walrus. While we may be the cause, we are also the cure. #TurningTheTide with @Sea_Legacy