Can an Instagram account help save the oceans, or is it just slacktivism?

Follow this Instagram account and you'll find marine-life photos from around the world that will inspire and amaze. But can you really save the oceans by liking pictures of seals and narwhals? SeaLegacy, a conservation photography project, is counting on it.

SeaLegacy, co-founded by Canadian Paul Nicklen, aims to preserve 20 per cent of the oceans by 2020.

Canadian wildlife photographer and Sea Legacy co-founder Paul Nicklen captured this photo of a Polar Bear swimming near Baffin Island. (Instagram/@sea_legacy)

Name: SeaLegacy

Handle: @sea_legacy

Follow this Instagram account and you'll be inspired and amazed by marine-life photos from around the world. But can you really save the oceans by liking pictures of seals and narwhals? This conservation photography project is counting on it.

It's called SeaLegacy, and it was launched by acclaimed National Geographic photojournalists Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen in advance of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The non-profit aims to sustain public debate long after COP21 wraps December 11, and their shareable photographs are part of the plan.

Roughly 2 per cent of the world's oceans are protected, and SeaLegacy wants that figure increased to 20 per cent by 2020. Through images which document conservation efforts as well as the effects of climate change, the non-profit aims to show what, exactly, is at stake — for both the animal and human communities that are vitally connected to the sea.

"If we're ever going to change people's behaviours, if we're ever going to be able to change people's perceptions, it's only going to start with an emotional connection," Nicklen says on the organization's website. "And that's going to happen with photography."

Underwater habitats are unknown, and unreachable, to most of us, even though many of the places SeaLegacy photographs are within Canada's borders.

Nicklen was born in Saskatchewan and raised on Baffin Island, and images of the Canadian Arctic figure prominently on the SeaLegacy feed so far, including these stunning photos of narwhals...


...And Polar bears.

Off the coast of B.C., they captured sea lions...

...Northern Right Whale Dolphins


...and leather starfish.

Further inland, the photographers found wolves catching salmon...

And on Fishing Branch River, Yukon, they joined another fishing expedition with this local grizzly bear.

To fully document the world's oceans, SeaLegacy has plans for 50 international expeditions over 10 years, and their map includes Canadian destinations such as Baffin Island, Great Bear Rainforest and the Magdalen Islands.

How do you connect the dots between one SeaLegacy Instagram post and an updated fishing policy? Or a new Marine Protected Area? That's still to be determined. But, says Nicklen, "we need to show people what's at stake."

Social media can be so much more than selfies and viral videos — it's increasingly becoming a scratch pad for emerging artists and other creative minds to show off their latest work. Artstagram curates the best visual talent on Instagram, helping bring a little more art into your daily feed.​


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