In July, off the Turkish port city of Bodrum, Kerim Sabuncuoğlu stepped from the edge of a boat into the azure Aegean Sea and began to descend. A scuba diver with more than 30 years’ experience, he took up underwater photography in 2002 and has since devoted considerable amounts of time and money to his “out-of-control hobby” – capturing the wonders of the ocean on camera so that “the less fortunate people above” can also marvel at them.
Sabuncuoğlu has travelled the world, photographing marine life in Palau, Cuba and the Galápagos islands and winning several awards for his work. Closer to home in Bodrum, he was embarking on a standard dive with a group of friends, equipped with a Nikon D800 camera. The camera had an 85mm micro Nikkor lens and was clad in Nexus underwater housing, with a single Backscatter snoot to train light on the subject.A lizardfish attempts to eat a cigarette end. ‘This image illustrates the environmental issue of people carelessly disposing of trash and the harm it does to wildlife,’ says photographer Steven Kovacs. Photograph: Steven Kovacs
Soon after reaching the sandy bottom and making a right turn towards a cluster of rocks, he spotted a broken fishing line on the sea floor. A grouper was caught on one of the hooks, still alive, so he took it to the surface, removed the hook and set it free.
“I went back to see what else was there, with the pliers,” says Sabuncuoğlu from his home in Istanbul, where he runs an event management company, “and that’s when I found this poor animal: a moray eel. Its favourite food is octopus, and of course when it found the arm of an octopus on the floor, it took a great bite.” A hook concealed in the octopus arm went straight through the moray’s jaw. It spun its body frantically to free itself, but succeeded only in entangling itself in the fishing line. Eventually the eel suffocated and died.A female paper nautilus drifts along on a piece of rubbish, Anilao, the Philippines. Photographer Steven Kovacs notes that they normally hitch a ride on jellyfish for protection and to preserve energy. Photograph: Steven Kovacs
Sabuncuoğlu had witnessed the result of what’s known as ghost fishing. “When a fisherman leaves his equipment under the water, like a fishing net or line, it keeps on killing fish for many years to come,” he explains. “If I had left this moray eel, some other fish would have eaten the hook, and died as well.”