These unique photographs of hermit crabs shows the impact of plastic on Okinawa Island.
'Crabs with beach trash homes' with an white background. (Shawn Miller)
Wildlife photographer and naturalist Shawn Miller specialises in capturing the flora and fauna of Okinawa, Japan. Equally at home on land and underwater, Shawn has documented rare and endemic species from birds and reptiles to nudibranchs and shells. Shawn specialises in creating motion in still photographs, fluorescence photography, environmental awareness and the protection of endangered species. Along with publications in scientific papers and magazines, his images were recently on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as part of “Portraits of Planet Ocean.” His work has been featured in National Geographic Magazine and Blue Planet ll. Shawn has contributed images to the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Shawn Miller is a long term resident of Okinawa. He has been diving and exploring the Ryukyu Islands for over twenty years
At a young age I was fascinated with the behaviour of wild animals. I have always appreciated photography, growing up admiring the beautiful animal photographs in nature field guidebooks. In high school and college I took a few basic photography courses. With the purchase of my first DSLR in 2008 I started taking up photography again. In 2010, I decided to get serious in wildlife photography. I wanted to make an impact with my images and bring awareness to the endangered animals of Okinawa Japan.
A hermit crab hides in the trash (Shawn Miller)
Crabs with beach trash homes
Crabs with beach trash homes is a series I am currently working on. I photograph Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus) that have begun to use beach trash as their home. The crabs are photographed in their nature environment and also on white for the Meet Your Neighbours global biodiversity project. The images are used for environmental awareness and educational purposes.
The first hermit crab adapting with a pet bottle cap was found and photographed in 2010. But it wasn't until 2014 when I started photographing the animals on our Coastal forest/coastline at night that I started finding a good amount of these hermit crabs found naturally adapting with our waste. So this is when I decided to start the project “Crabs with beach trash homes”
Hermit crab in the foreground with buildings in the background in Okinawa (Shawn Miller)
It’s becoming more common to find crabs with beach trash homes. While these are cute images, our trash is becoming a serious problem to the ocean and the animals that call the shoreline home. I often find hermit crabs using a variety of plastic caps from twist top pet bottles, laundry detergent containers, small propane tanks, sports water bottles and beauty supplies. With the help of family and friends, I have photographed over 60 hermit crabs found naturally adapting with our waste.
In the beginning I was absolutely fascinated with the crabs ability to adapt to their changing environment that was drastically affected by humans. The more I photographed these crabs on our beaches, the more I was concerned with the amount of trash building on our beautiful shorelines. I believe the purpose of photography in conservation is to effect some form of positive change in the environment, to shoot with a purpose and make a global difference with the your photographs.
With an increase in tourism people continue to take more seashells off the shorelines as a souvenir. The hermit crabs depend on the empty shells as they grow larger to protect their sensitive abdomen. Note - I believe this trash (marine debris) is possible allowing the population of the hermit crabs to increase, because it gives them another option in the survival chain.
What we do know - They molt, grow, get bigger and eventually need to replace their current mobile home. Crabs fight over shells constantly in search for the perfect real estate. With enough persistence and bullying eventually the weak will abandon their home in hope finding another one quickly. If they cant find a shell, they will adapt with the an available option which could be a plastic cap. They do not prefer plastic homes, they are just making due until they find a better option.
Shawn Miller with a hermit crab in Okinawa from the Crabs with beach trash homes' project.'
I hope these images will inspire people to care more about nature and make a positive difference in the environment.