Photographer who took viral shot of 'sewage surfer' seahorse in Indonesia's waters wishes it didn't exist

American nature photographer Justin Hofman took a photograph of a tiny seahorse grasping onto a pink ear bud in murky water. The shot was taken at a reef near Indonesia's Sumbawa Island.
American nature photographer Justin Hofman took a photograph of a tiny seahorse grasping onto a pink ear bud in murky water. The shot was taken at a reef near Indonesia's Sumbawa Island.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ JUSTINHOFMAN

A tiny seahorse grasping onto a pink ear bud in murky water - this is the image captured by American nature photographer Justin Hofman, which has placed the spotlight on ocean pollution after going viral this week.

The image, titled Sewage Surfer, is part of the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Exhibition by London's Natural History Museum.

Hofman is one of the finalists for the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition.

The shot was taken at a reef near Indonesia's Sumbawa Island.

Hofman wrote on Instagram on Tuesday (Sept 12) saying that "it's a photo that I wish didn't exist but that now that it does I want everyone to see it".

"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," he wrote.

He added that the photo is 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?"

He said the seahorse "drifts along with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago".

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?
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thanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick

Indonesia is the world's second-largest producer of marine pollution, dumping 3.22 million metric tonnes of plastic debris per year, the Washington Post reported on Friday (Sept 15), citing data published in 2015 by Environmental Health Perspectives.

The country has vowed to reduce such waste by 70 per cent by the end of 2025, according to the United Nations.

Hofman, 33, told the Post that his photo, and others like it, can be catalysts to create change.

"We are really affecting our oceans with our negligence and our ignorance," he said.