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Photographer snaps eye-opening photo he wishes 'didn't exist'

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5 days ago Mary Bowerman
Sergey Gorshkov took this photo of an Arctic fox on Russia's Wrangel Island. 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A California-based nature photographer, nominated for wildlife photographer of year, wishes the photo he's nominated for "didn't exist." 

Justin Hofman's photo of a tiny seahorse clinging to a pink plastic cotton swab highlights how plastic pollution has left virtually no corner of our world untouched. 

“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.”

More than 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and some estimates show that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish. Hofman, who is nominated for London's Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year, snapped the photo while snorkeling near Subawa Island, Indonesia last year. 

He said his friend pointed out the sea horse, which was holding onto a piece of seaweed and drifting with the current. 

"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," he said. 

Hofman said his "blood was boiling," but he continued to snap pictures. 

"I took the photo in Indonesia, but this is happening everywhere in the world," he said. 

He said that many people in Indonesia are horrified by the pollution, but do not have the resources to recycle. He points out that it's hard to tell where the plastic came from because of the oceans currents.

The competition's winners will be announced on October 17. 

Hofman said he hopes his photo will prompt people to think about making more environmentally friendly decisions. 

"At night when I am laying in bed, I don't feel very optimistic, but I have to be, or otherwise there would be no reason to keep doing what I do," he said. 

Justin Hofman snapped a photo of a small sea horse clinging to garbage in Indonesia. © Justin Hofman via Natural History Museum Justin Hofman snapped a photo of a small sea horse clinging to garbage in Indonesia.

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