Cayman Islands photographer Ellen Cuylaerts spoke about the importance of healthy oceans to the survival of the planet during the United Nations Oceans Conference last week.

Ms. Cuylaerts, originally from Belgium but a longtime Cayman Islands resident, was invited to announce the winners of the World Oceans Day photo competition.

She shared the stage with luminaries of the environmental world, including Sir Richard Branson, Dr. Sylvia Earle and National Geographic’s Brian Skerry, during the four-day event at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Actor Leanardo DiCaprio, who narrates a new film about climate change, “Before the Flood,” also presented a message via video at the conference.

Ms. Cuylaerts, a previous winner of the photo competition, said photographers have an important role to play in bringing the beauty of the oceans to life.

“Our goal is to capture the essence and the soul of the ocean,” she said.

She added she is hopeful that “we all care to preserve life on this planet, grateful for oceans that keep us healthy, balanced and bring us peace in turbulent times.”

She told the Cayman Compass it was an honor to be asked to speak in front of such a distinguished crowd.

“To be able to convey our message to such an audience makes you think twice of what you want to say, [so] instead of numbers and sad facts I wanted to simplify and talk from my heart, and give hope that everybody can make a difference,” she said, “and that especially photographers and filmmakers have a privilege to be able to witness so much beauty and they can show the source of life from our planet to an audience with no direct connection.”

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