The Beautiful but Heartbreaking Photo That Illustrates Our Marine Crisis

The Beautiful but Heartbreaking Photo That Illustrates Our Marine Crisis

“It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it.” That is how the Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist behind this photo describes his image, which illustrates the threat facing our seas.

Taken while snorkeling off the coast of Indonesian island Sumbawa last year, Nature Photographer Justin Hofman managed to catch the intricate moment a tiny seahorse clung to a cosmetic swab. It’s a stark reminder of the crisis facing much of our wildlife. “If you look at the picture, there are actually some white blobs in the background,” Hofman said. “And those white blobs are actually plastic bags.”

Speaking to The Verge, he summarized his thoughts on the photo:

I wish that this scene didn’t happen every day, that’s the thing. I spend a lot of time underwater all over the world, and I see trash and debris and human waste all over the place.

Having given tours in the wild for years, Hofman cites being part of the competition as a way to bring a much larger audience into the conversation he says he’s been having for years. The plastic that now pollutes our seas is dangerous for sealife; many fish die from ingesting too much plastic, or by becoming entangled in trash. This Washington Post article claims that by 2050, there will be a greater mass of plastic than fish in the ocean.

Winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest will be announced on October 17, and the exhibition starts October 20 in London at the Natural History Museum. You can see more of Hofman's work on his Instagram.

For more information about what you can do to help our world's oceans, visit SeaLegacy.

Photo used with permission.

[via The Verge]

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11 Comments

William Howell's picture

Silly fish, Q-Tips are for human ears, not Sea Horses!

The traditional paper stemmed version of the Q-Tip would have been just fine. There's no need to make them out of plastic. As a child decades ago I remember paper being the norm. Nearly everything was packaged in paper boxes. There's no reason why we can't go back to that. There's also no reason why we can't go back to glass soda and milk bottles. Of course this needs to happen through legislation.

From some perspectives every good thing, "... needs to happen through legislation." Legislation is unfortunately the child of politics which; varies like the weather, is both complex to get right, & limited by locality. You can have a national standard for seat belts only because highways are interstate projects. A Q-tip or milk carton is not a thing that is subject to national legal standardization. In fact the opposite is true, it is subject to endless innovation pushed by the profit motive.

Fortunately against your presumptive "of course," another method exists: individual/collective action. Packaging is subject to consumer choice, consumer choice is subject to force of education, activism, and social pressure. Ie check out the seahorse - don't buy plastic Q-tips!

The sort of petty tyrant thinking that sees everything as adjustable under law is understood as very dangerous, and hence very unpopular. As it is less useful to legislate against popular choice than to reform what is popular so that legislation is not required, that road should always be first consideration, or at least held as a good option.

"Legislation is unfortunately the child of politics which; varies like the weather, is both complex to get right, & limited by locality. You can have a national standard for seat belts only because highways are interstate projects. A Q-tip or milk carton is not a thing that is subject to full standardization"

I'm not a fan of big government but plastics are for the most part unnecessary environmental pollutants and their effect is not "limited by locality," so yes the usage of plastics in such products are reasonably "subject to" "standardization" that prohibits their use wherever possible.

"Fortunately against your presumptive "of course," another method exists: individual/collective action. Packaging is subject to consumer choice, consumer choice is subject to force of education, activism, and social pressure. Ie check out the seahorse - don't buy plastic Q-tips!"

That kind of thinking never worked for plastic bags, did it?

"The sort of petty tyrant thinking that sees everything as adjustable under law..."

Clearly you haven't read many of my posts. As I said, I'm not a fan of big government (a huge understatement) but even I recognize that legislation is still required for some things. This happens to be one of them.

The sentence says: LEGISLATION is ... limited by locality. This perfectly clear subject predicate pair is then reinforced by an example of non-local product legislation: seatbelts. This is what is known as offering a clear example as a courtesy to the reader. Outlawing plastic packaging would require every state legislature to do so because the Federal government does not have that power. It would therefore have to be done on the local level. It would NOT be reasonable, it would be impossible. Go visit Alabama!

Your tortured misinterpretation of what was perfectly clear then devolves to you talking about you. I don't care about you, I care about facts and language.

We cannot nationally legislate paper milk cartons, because it would be unconstitutional. Please don't bother with an inane reply about yourself. And poo on your juvenile thumb down, it's as inane as your confused reply.

"Your tortured misinterpretation of what was perfectly clear then devolves to you talking about you. I don't care about you, I care about facts and language."

"Please don't bother with an inane reply about yourself. And poo on your juvenile thumb down, it's as inane as your confused reply."

You had remarked in response to my post by saying "the sort of petty tyrant thinking that sees everything as adjustable under law..." and I started my response with "clearly you haven't read many of my posts." It was a reasonable and courteous response, unlike you likening my comment to that of a "tyrant."

Oh, and your snarky remarks above are making it clear that you do want to talk about me.

Now that that part of your post is out of the way, I'll get back to the subject. You remember that, right?

I didn't misinterpret anything. The only way for you to think that possible is for you to somehow believe that I don't think the federal government has the jurisdiction to protect America's (the whole of it) environment. Based on what I wrote, the reasonable, and obvious, assumption should be that I do believe it does. Clearly it does, because the federal government does in fact regulate for the protection of the environment through the EPA. You say you are only concerned with facts and language, well there's an important fact for you. As for language, you could start with not likening someone's opinion, someone that you clearly know little or nothing about, to that of a "tyrant."

I'm not interested in your pissing contest, thanks.

No, no, no, you are the one that started pissing on the discussion.

Mark Niebauer's picture

He needed to clean his ears! lol

Anonymous's picture

Sad indeed..but not necessarily for the seahorse. Old offshore platforms and shipwrecks can be good habitats for sea creatures. However the plight of the seas is severe. So much for rules of the commons. Dumping, overfishing are the norm.

Most lens and camwras are made of plastics, isn't it! Even film...or the Computef or phone we are using.... LOL