A photograph of a tiny seahorse clinging to a discarded Q-tip is a powerful statement on the pollution in our oceans and has a California-based photographer nominated for Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
"It's a photo that I wish didn't exist, but now that it does, I want everyone to see it," Justin Hofman wrote in an Instagram post.
Hofman was snorkeling off Sumbawa Island in Indonesia when a friend pointed out the seahorse clinging to a piece of seaweed drifting in the current. With camera in hand, he kept a watchful eye on the tiny sea creature.
"When the tide came in, the debris came in with it, and the seahorse hopped from the seaweed to a little piece of plastic and then a Q-tip," Hofman told USA Today, adding that his "blood was boiling" as he took photos.
"I wish we didn't have to see this beautiful wildlife mixed in with all of our waste," he told USA Today. "I travel all over the world, and I can't think of a single place where people haven't impacted the environment."
Indonesia is "second only to China in its contribution to marine plastic, fueling the growing concern that unnatural ocean waste could outweigh fish by 2050," reads the description of the photograph on the entries for London's Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year, for which Hofman is nominated.
"What started out as an opportunity to photograph a cute little seahorse, turned into frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage," Hofman wrote. "This seahorse drifts along with 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 do your actions shape our planet?"
Hofman's photograph is aptly entitled "Sewage surfer." Winners will be announced Oct. 17.
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