The whale, constructed out of plastic bottles!
The Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor connects several protected wilderness areas, one of which is the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena – or, as it is called in English, the Marino Ballena (“Marine-Whale”) National Park. The Park encompassing 270 acres of land and 13,300 acres of ocean and was established in 1990. It contains the largest coral reef on the Pacific side of Central America and its waters are the best place to view humpback whales as they migrate (Dec. to April) from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii down to Cano Island, just off of the Osa Peninsula, to calve. This park is thus a major Costa Rican tourist attraction and represents a significant source of employment for local residents. Many community members dedicate themselves to the whale watching ecotourism industry.
Human activity causes significant environmental impacts on the various ecosystems inside and outside the park. One of these is the ever growing global problem of plastics pollution. Local communities around the national park concerned about the negative impacts of plastics organized themselves and proposed cutting down on plastic pollution by limiting the use of disposable plastic water bottles by ecotourism operators in the region. This effort expanded to include all single-use plastics – including straws, cups, plates and, utensils.
ASANA, in collaboration with another non-profit, Geoporter Costa Rica, and a local business, Bodhi Surf and Yoga, supported this grassroots movement by creating the Plastic-Free Whale Bay campaign. This campaign focuses on businesses and consumers, promoting the curtailment of plastic use associated with food consumption.
One of the impactful (and fun!) activities the group has done recently is the construction of an almost life-size humpback whale solely from discarded water bottles collected from in and around the National Park! (See accompanying photos.) Artist Alban Corrales, from the artistic group Trincheras de San Isidro Pérez Zeledón, was hired to design and build the whale. Construction took about 10 days with the support of more than 100 local community members and tourists. In the end, the whale is 30’ long and 16’ wide – and took almost 3500 discarded plastic water bottles to build!
Some Interesting Facts…
- In 2016, 5000 people attended the National Whale Festival in Whale Bay. If each tourist bought just two bottles of water during their visit (and most probably bought more since it was so hot!), then 3 plastic water bottle whales – similar to the one we constructed – could have been built from that one event alone!
- In less than 7 months, a single whale-watching tourism boat (which used to provide tourist with free bottles of water) produced enough plastic to build a plastic bottle humpback whale like ours!
- One liter of bottled water is more expensive than one liter of gasoline or diesel in Costa Rica.
- It is estimated that by 2050 the seas will contain more plastic than fish by weight.
- 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die annually from ingesting or becoming trapped in the plastic we produce and dump.
- All the plastic that has been produced in the world still exists in some form.
- The plastic industry is Costa Rica’s third largest industrial economic activity.
Please let me take this opportunity to thank you sincerely for all your support of ASANA. We hope you continue to help us conserve the beautiful “Whale Coast” – including the Marino Ballena National Park – that runs the full length of the Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor.
Building the whale
The whale's backside!
Poster for local businesses to reduce plastic use