It’s been said that there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. If you’re having a hard time imagining how that looks like, here’s a devastating teaser.
California-based photographer Justin Hofman’s finalist entry at the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards has everyone talking – and hopefully taking action.
The tragic image shows a seahorse trying to carry a cotton bud with its tail. The photo was taken along the coast of Sumbawa in Indonesia, one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, yet also the second biggest marine polluter just behind China.
Hofman recalls the story behind the powerful picture:
“At first the sea horse was on its own but then some sea grass came into the area. The tiny fish would move from one blade of sea grass to the next, almost like it was hopping along in the choppy water. Eventually larger pieces of debris drifted over the reef and with it came trash and pollutants.
“The sea horse grabbed onto a wispy piece of plastic, which actually made for a better photo, for a short while before deciding on this water-logged cotton swab. It was the most important wildlife scene I’ve ever documented and one that I had hoped would resonate with people.”
He added: “It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage.
“This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?”
Right now, this photo might be one-of-a-kind, but in the near future, it might be a common sight. And it’s not just happening in Indonesia, it’s happening everywhere.
“I was just in the Arctic a couple weeks ago and we watched a polar bear dig through trash and eat plastic. It was pretty heartbreaking stuff,” Hofman told Mic. “I’ve seen dynamite fishing, shark fishing, starving polar bears, whales caught in nets… a lot of depressing shit.”
Even though the entry didn’t win Hofman the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, his photo has definitely hit its mark. He’s hoping this will be a catalyst for people to finally wake up and make a change.
“I’ve gotten some incredible messages from people all over the world and the response has been incredible. I just hope everybody’s attention span is long enough to make [real change] happen,” he said.
“I hope so, I hope this resonates with people. It definitely resonates with me: I have been thinking about this photo ever since I took it, and that was last December.”