Small Fish, Big Problems

As I stood on the beach and looked upon the Ocean surface, watching the layer of mixed floating trash, palm leaves, domestic waste and seaweed, I remember discussing with myself, weather it was a good idea to enter the Ocean to examine the varied lot.
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

It was the rainy season in Indonesia, and the prior days had been rather wet.


This combined with articles I had read, on people getting sick, due to inland pollution entering the Ocean, especially after heavy rain, since this washes out a lot of contaminated water from lakes and sewages, made me consider the risks vs. outcome before leaping into the sea.

However, - I zipped up my wetsuit and plunged in.


The surface layer was oily. And the closer I got to the floating mixed stream, the oily layer changed color and became more yellowish.

"I was so alerted to the fact, that I did not want any of that water to enter my mouth, since that could cause various diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, if I was extremely unlucky. Though this worry ment, that the journey to reach the stream felt short."

And all of a sudden, slurred shapes that were hidden in the thermal layer, resembling the heat from burning asphalt on a hot summer day, slowly emerged as I got closer.

Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

And there it was. A messy mixture of single use plastic, faeces, palm leaves, sanitary products, polyethylene rice bags, old destroyed fishnet, coconuts and more. Also fish.

Small fish species as well as juveniles seeking refuge and hideout in items, not belonging in the Ocean.


I followed them around. Some of them hid in seaweed floating alongside single use plastic bags, others had found shelter in a used diaper.


Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

All of a sudden my eye caught a tiny juvenile Major Damsel Fish. The tiny individual was at a cross road. It could not decide weather to take cover in a used plastic bag, or in a coconut shell, where many other Juvenile Major Damsels were also staying protected. But as I approached - it decided to join the others by the coconut.

A good choice.




"Cause the protection, that the small fish was granted by the plastic, could also be lethal."
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

Further into the mixed stream I came across a dishevelled floating bundle of plastic bags, nylon wire, decaying plants and seaweed. Fish were also following this bundle and hiding in between the mess, - but some of the fish were stock. Trapped and fighting inside a nearly transparent plastic bag, with no escape route, since the current had knotted the opening of the plastic bag with other bags and nylon. The fishes gills were pumping desperately, - revealing how these small animals were severely under pressure.


“They were far from the only trapped fish in the stream. No matter where I looked, fish were stuck, dead or half eaten by the others. Unfortunately, I was not surprised. The waste made it almost impossible to imagine, how a fish could stay alive in these conditions.”
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

While swimming around, I shot as many pictures as possible.


I found a Frog Fish in a plastic ice cream wrapper, tiny fish hiding in plastic lids, and a small fish inside a single use plastic cup.

"A single use plastic cup identical to any other single use plastic cup used around the world. The small fish hid behind a bend in the cup, and looked straight at me. "
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen

It is hard for me to say why this specific fish struck me so.


"But one thing is for certain, - this fish visualized how we as individuals, as consumers, have a say and a direct impact, concerning the future of the Oceans."

At some point, the steam had carried me along with the mixed mess far out at sea, and I decided to head back to shore.


The following days and weeks, streams like this occurred frequently.