Featured Image Credit: Justin Hofman / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
By: Kira Krall
Justin Hofman was snorkeling in the marine waters of Indonesia when he and his friend spotted a tiny seahorse gently swaying as it held on to a blade of seagrass. Seahorses rely mostly on currents to take them where they want to go and use their small fins for stabilization. Their tail keeps them in place once they find a great spot to hang, but strong currents can whisk them away to a new location.
The little seahorse got swept up when the wind and incoming tide worked up a hefty current. Rather than careen around the water column, the seahorse started hitching rides on what the tide had brought with it: plastic. Hofman watched in despair as the fish clung to some plastic wrap before it made its way to the Q-tip. The photo got so much attention that Hofman is now in the running for the London Museum of Natural History’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.
While Indonesia has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, it’s also considered one of five countries that produce over 50% of the worldwide marine debris. Part of the reason why is due to Indonesia’s rapidly expanding economy. A boom in economic growth often correlates with a desire for disposable plastics. Indonesia’s currents also pull water from a gyre known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which may contribute to the amount of plastic found in the country’s waters.
Plastic pollution does more than alter an animal’s natural environment. Entanglement in and ingestion of plastic are unfortunately increasing. 267 species have been documented interacting with marine pollution of all shapes and sizes, from miles-long ghost nets to plastic that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Marine debris is a worldwide problem that requires both an individual effort and a global one. Maintaining a plastic-free lifestyle is tough, but you can go to this website for tips on how to start.