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Introducing new Prevented Ocean Plastic ambassador, Dr. Vanessa Bézy

By June 26, 2023June 29th, 2023No Comments

Prevented Ocean Plastic is proud to announce a new ambassador!

Vanessa Bézy is an experienced wildlife conservationist. She has worked with the BBC, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and was selected to participate in National Geographic’s Early Career Leadership Program. Currently, Vanessa works as a sea turtle marine biologist and conservationist at the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica.

Dr. Bézy joined Prevented Ocean Plastic™ in May 2023 and will be providing us with expertise on clean ocean and marine life topics while helping to highlight the impact of our work. Vanessa is incredibly passionate about the marine environment, which makes her a perfect ambassador for our mission.  

• Hi Vanessa, please could you tell me about your background and the mission that you’re on?

“I am a marine biologist who specialises in sea turtle biology and conservation, animal behaviour, and wildlife conservation. I first came to Costa Rica for a study abroad program when I was 16 years old. I kept returning, eventually getting experience in sea turtle conservation which ultimately led me to do my Masters and PhD research at the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, where a special mass-nesting phenomenon of sea turtles occurs. My experience witnessing this incredible phenomenon first-hand and the environmental impact of tourism and development in this area motivated me to relocate here full-time and dedicate myself to promoting the protection of this important nesting site for turtles.

I founded an environmental non-profit organization, Wildlife Conservation Association, to focus on a more holistic approach to wildlife conservation in the area- for example, I could easily focus only on sea turtle conservation but, when there are serious issues with water quality that also affect sea turtles, there is a need to address multiple issues that are all interrelated. We tend to put things into boxes to help us manage more easily, but we are facing so many greater environmental issues that this approach is no longer effective. We need to address the entire system as a whole.”

• What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while working in conservation?

“The biggest challenge in conservation is that it usually requires people to change their behaviour and cultural changes take time. I always tell people I would much rather work only with animals because humans are complicated and difficult to work with! But, in the end, conservation requires human action so this is an important part of our work. The next biggest challenge is witnessing the impact we are having on the environment on a day-to-day basis and dealing with this emotionally.”

• Can you talk about the importance of Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, how it’s changed in your time there, and your hopes for its future?

“The Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most important nesting sites in the world for the olive ridley sea turtle and hosts the highest density of sea turtles on Earth. It is one of few sites in the world to host mass-nesting events of sea turtles, where hundreds of thousands of individuals nest simultaneously on a small stretch of beach. In addition to providing important reproductive habitat for this and other protected sea turtle species, the Refuge hosts a diversity of other ecologically important flora and fauna. The area surrounding the Refuge, has experienced explosive growth since I first came here in 2010. Unfortunately this fast-paced development is having huge environmental impacts which threaten the sea turtles and local environment, as well as human health and the local economy. My hope for the future of the Refuge is that this protected area and it’s surrounding communities can become a global model for sustainability and living in balance with nature, where local tourism and development contribute to the protection of the environment.”

• Why did you choose to become a new ambassador for Prevented Ocean Plastic™?

“I believe in Prevented Ocean Plastic’s approach to stop plastic pollution closer to the source. I think it is so important for us as conservationists to approach issues from a cost-benefit analysis, to understand what actions we can take that will have the biggest impact and to be realistic with our approach. I always try to approach issues as close to the source of the problem as possible, rather than using a ‘band-aid’

• Everyone knows there’s an ocean plastic problem. How would you categorise the issue where you work? Has the issue changed since you started?

Here in Costa Rica, there is little infrastructure for waste management and very little recycling occurs within the country. This means that a lot of plastic is entering the ocean from land sources. There is also a lot of plastic that ends up on beaches because it is brought there by ocean currents and tides from far away sources. In Nosara, we are fortunate to have an active community that carries out beach cleanups regularly to keep our beaches clean. If it weren’t for these efforts, our beaches would be covered in plastic. I definitely feel this issue is continuously getting worse, as plastic continues to pile up in the ocean.

• How important is a clean beach, and a clean ocean for the animals you protect?

“Plastic in the ocean is one of the biggest threats to the survival of sea turtles. Recent studies suggest at least half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic, which blocks their intestines and leads to death. Sea turtles can also get entangled in plastic debris, which can result in injuries or drowning. Not to mention all of the other impacts plastics have on the marine ecosystem, which also needs to be healthy for sea turtle survival.”

Prevented Ocean Plastic Research Centre Programme Lead, Maxine van Bommel, is thrilled to learn from our new ambassador. “We are really excited for the opportunity to learn from Vanessa who, through her research and conservation work in Costa Rica, continues to witness first-hand the extent to which our ocean and marine life is under threat from human activity. I hope that through our collaboration, we can further our cause and protect the ocean.”  

Prevented Ocean Plastic™ is a pioneering plastic recycling company developing locally customized sorting and collection infrastructure to underserved communities across the world. We are committed to strengthening the supply chain and scaling solutions for the management of plastic waste in the country. We provide high quality traceable recycled plastic to global markets to drive environmental, social and economic value from the bottle collector to the end consumer.