An old plas­tic fishing net snares a log­ger­head tur­tle in the Mediter­ranean off Spain.

Campaspe News - - FRONT PAGE - By Tyla Har­ring­ton

The tur­tle could stretch its neck above wa­ter to breathe but would have died had the pho­tog­ra­pher not freed it. ‘‘Ghost fishing’’ by derelict gear is a big threat to sea tur­tles.

It’s a pho­to­graph Justin Hof­man wishes didn’t ex­ist — a sea­horse latched to a plas­tic cot­ton bud cap­tured off the In­done­sian is­land of Sum­bawa.

The 34-year-old dreams of a world where an­i­mals, un­der the wa­ter and above it, are not threat­ened by pol­lu­tion.

But that world is a long way away from re­al­ity which is why Mr Hof­man is grate­ful his im­age can tell a story so many of us, too many, need to see and hear.

The photo has been seen by tens of mil­lions of peo­ple and has been pub­lished in about 20 dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

Nat­u­rally, sea­horses clutch onto drift­ing sea­grass or other nat­u­ral de­bris so to see it hold­ing onto a cot­ton bud was con­fronting, Mr Hof­man said.

‘‘If I come across this ran­domly, by hap­pen­stance, it must be hap­pen­ing all over the world, all the time,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m glad that it ex­ists so peo­ple can see it so they can make a change and help push peo­ple in a cer­tain di­rec­tion.

‘‘Re­gard­less, it’s still hap­pen­ing right now. Peo­ple can do all the likes (on so­cial me­dia) and write all the com­ments they want but they have to change what they are do­ing at home if they want to make a dif­fer­ence.

‘‘You can have a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive im­pact on the ocean and it’s up to you which way it goes.

‘‘And even if you live in­land your ac­tions do af­fect what hap­pens in the ocean and we need the oceans for our health ... peo­ple need to un­der­stand their ac­tions have ram­i­fi­ca­tions.’’

Mr Hof­man took the photo at the end of No­vem­ber, 2016 but it wasn’t re­leased to the world un­til Septem­ber, 2017.

‘‘I was feel­ing mixed emo­tions. I knew I had a pow­er­ful im­age but I didn’t know it would make this much of an im­pact,’’ he said.

‘‘But it was also a re­ally de­press­ing scene to come across.

‘‘When I took the photo I knew it was a pow­er­ful photo so I en­tered it into a com­pe­ti­tion. If it is ac­cepted into that there is an em­bargo un­til they re­lease it.

‘‘Sub­mit­ting it to them was go­ing to po­ten­tially give it to the big­gest au­di­ence.’’

Mr Hof­man was in the mid­dle of an ex­hi­bi­tion trav­el­ling the east coast of Bor­neo.

‘‘We were is­land hop­ping, most of the clients had gone to shore to see a cul­tural show,’’ he said.

‘‘A few of the folks wanted to go snorkelling. I told them it wouldn’t be great be­cause it’s too close to a vil­lage and lo and be­hold it wasn’t.

‘‘The reef we were on was in de­cent shape but there were al­most no big fish.

‘‘It started out fine but then the tide switched and started to blow in de­bris, a bunch of sewage and trash.

‘‘It started off nice and pleas­ant and then it be­came very un­pleas­ant. It started with grass and nat­u­ral de­bris at the be­gin­ning of the flow and then pieces of plas­tic, plas­tic bags and this scene came be­fore us.’’

Based in Cal­i­for­nia, Mr Hof­man was on an ex­hi­bi­tion in Alaska when he spoke to the Be­nalla

En­sign this week. ‘‘I’ve been talk­ing about ma­rine con­ser­va­tion for a long time, that’s my liv­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve been do­ing that sort of work for about 10 years — ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about ma­rine is­sues and tak­ing peo­ple on trips around the world.

‘‘This is just a photo that en­cap­su­lates the whole thing.’’

Photo: Jordi Chias/Na­tional Geo­graphic

Photo: John Cancalosi/Na­tional Geo­graphic

THE PLAS­TIC PERIL The pho­tog­ra­pher freed this stork from a plas­tic bag at a land­fill in Spain. One bag can kill more than once as car­cases de­cay, but plas­tic lasts and can kill again.

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