Recently, wildlife photographer Justin Hofman took a photo that gave him international attention. But he wishes that photo did not exist at all!

Hofman was wandering off on the island south of Borneo, Indonesia when he saw a tiny orange seahorse drifting with the tide. However, upon looking closer, his pleasant encounter took a heartbreaking turn. The poor seahorse was stuck inescapably upon the pollution left by humans.

“It was literally sewage; you could smell the water change. It was disgusting,” Hofman said. “Eventually, this little scene unfolded in front of me.”

The seahorse was drenched in a floating litter, moving from one piece of debris to the next. Eventually, she clung to a plastic cotton swab that had somehow broken into her habitat.

“To see this little seahorse — it’s heartbreaking,” Hofman said.

Justin Hofman/Natural History Museum

“It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” Hofman later wrote on Instagram. “What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little seahorse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage.”

The dominant photo has gone viral now. It was also selected as a finalist in the London National History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

However, Hofman doesn’t want to acclaim for himself. Instead, he wants the photograph to encourage people to change their behaviour and protect the ocean and the lives that exist in it.

“I hope it helps people think about what they consume, choosing things that are paper instead of plastic,” he said. “People might look at the picture and think, ‘We’re doomed.’ But if every person did their part, it would add up to a huge impact. We can all not let our trash go down the drain. We can all put things in a trash bin and recycle. It’s easy.”

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