2023 Edition

Simon Biddie

My Kingdom, 2022

Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo National Park, Mexico

Category - Ocean Worlds

Category Winner
My Kingdom, 2022

Male California sea lions are distinct from female sea lions; they are larger in size, have thick necks and possess a protruding, grey sagittal crest. During mating season the dominant males become territorial and protect their harem, which can count up to 30 females. On this dive, this particular male was curious about our presence which allowed us to stay for an extended period, whilst occasionally coming closer to inspect us. At Los Islotes, in the Espiritu Santo National Park, Mexico, the California sea lion has been protected under Mexican law since 1994. As part of the Islas del Golfo de California Flora and Fauna Protection Area (APFF-IGC), the area is a no-take zone enforced by La Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP), which positively impacts predators’ food sources such as sardine shoals. Espiritu Santo Island is also a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005 and was declared a National Marine Park in 2007. Thanks to these efforts, the sea lion colony at Los Islotes has expanded and is estimated at 400 - 800 individuals, making it now one of the most stable colonies in the area. While restricting direct human activity has hugely benefited the California sea lion population in Espiritu Santo, their numbers continue to be threatened by climate change.

8-15 mm f/3.5-4.5 Lens - 1/250 sec at f/11 ISO 1250