Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 19th 2013 Contents B2
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt May 19, 2013
To date, about 1,000 leatherbacks have returned
to these shores for the nesting season and there
have been no instances of poaching or abuse, says
a forestry official. The nesting season started from
March 1 and ends around September 30. Among
the species that frequent here are leatherbacks,
hawksbill, green, olive ridley and loggerhead.
Johnny Seepersad, acting Conservator of Forests,
said, "About 1,000 came to nest. We are in the middle
of the nesting season. They are coming back in abun-
dance to various beaches like Matelot and the east
coast. They like long beachfronts with sand. It s one
of the reasons why they are heading as far as Mayaro."
Traditionally, Grande Riviere had the highest pop-
ulation. Now they are spreading out to Manzanilla,
to a place called Indian Bay (Guayaguayare), he said.
"This is good news."
Don't ride turtles
To protect the turtles, they have stepped up night
patrols. "So far we have not gotten any incidences
of poaching and abuse. Forestry Division has stepped
up patrols in non-traditional areas like Fishing Pond.
By July, the hatchlings would be coming out. They
would be disoriented and rather than head to the
beach they head to the land. We need to capture
them and lead them back to the water. The rate of
survival is better because there is the natural habi-
Seepersad appealed to people to refrain from riding
the leatherbacks and even posting pictures on social
media. "That is a no-no. Do not ride the turtles. It
is a harmful practice. Don t put the pictures on Face-
book. We don t encourage that. We have to keep
educating people and hope law enforcement would
do the rest."
Alternative fishing equipment in 2014
Meanwhile, fishermen from Matura to Matelot are
being offered alternative fishing equipment like
trolling, live bait fishing and palang hooks to replace
nets from next year during the period February to
May, to protect the turtles.
Managing director of Nature Seekers Dennis Sammy
said the bycatch (fish caught unintentionally) from
using the nets continued to pose a problem for turtles
during the nesting season.
Sammy said it was a pilot project. "Next year, we
are seeking to move the project forward. We are
hoping to have all the equipment in the country.
Nature Seekers is seeking to support fishermen with
alternative pieces of equipment. It is a draft proposal
towards providing fishermen with alternative fishing
He said they were having ongoing dialogue with
Agriculture and Fisheries Division.
"You can have a perfect act but if there is bycatch,
there would be a problem. Bycatch was not dealt
with in the last amendment (2011) of the Fisheries
Act. It did not take into consideration bycatch and
leatherbacks being caught in fishermen s nets. There
was an opening by which you could have hunted
turtles October to September and even sell meat in
the markets. But that is now illegal since the amend-
Fisheries and Conservation acts insufficient
Sammy said two pieces of legislation---Fisheries
Act and Conservation of Wildlife Act---deal with
the conservation and management of turtles. He
said, however, it was a little difficult as the Fisheries
Act only deals with hunting or the killing of wildlife.
"So the Conservation of Wildlife Act is still nec-
essary right now because of the harassment factor.
Both acts are insufficient for properly managing
the leatherback population," Sammy added.
Sammy said there was insufficient information
to guide the active management of the turtle pop-
ulation. "The lack of information for ecotourism
is where the gap exists. Data collection
which is the carrying capacity that is nec-
essary for a nesting beach has not been sci-
Without such valuable information our
ability to create valuable legislation and
management plans is going to be limited,
Sammy said. "Because T&T has the largest
population in the Caribbean a much more
collaborative approach to legislation devel-
ers and Institute
Affairs (IMA) to
Fines, possession of turtle parts
Seepersad, meanwhile, said fines and
phrasing related to the gender and turtles
parts are two grey areas which need to be
amended by the Fisheries Act. Fisheries
covers turtles because it is a marine crea-
Seepersad said, "It should not be female
or male turtle. It should be any turtle. It
should not be about specific parts like carcass
or meat." The fine for killing a turtle is
$2,000 and being on the beach without a
permit can lead to a maximum fine of about
$20,000. From March to August (prohibited
period) a permit is required to visit beaches
like Grande Riviere.
"It is inadequate to act as a deterrent.
And while we have seen a reduction in the
poaching, $2,000 is too little. It should be
about $20,000 for both killing and being
on the beach illegally."
No poaching, abuse of leatherbacks
• Keep movement to a minimum so as
not to disturb turtles
• Keep a safe distance away as indicated
by tour guide
• If the turtle shows signs of distress,
move away at once
• No use of flashlights or flash
• Allow hatchlings to make it to the
• Wear warm clothing and comfortable
• Don't light campfires, smoke or litter
• Don't drive on nesting beaches
• Don't stake umbrellas or other objects
on nesting beaches
• Avoid disturbing the eggs or nests
• Control dogs on the beach because
they dig up nests
"So far we have not
poaching and abuse.
Forestry Division has
stepped up patrols in
like Fishing Pond. By
July, the hatchlings
would be coming out.
They would be
rather than head to
the beach they head
to the land. We need
to capture them and
lead them back to
the water. The rate
of survival is better
because there is the
ACTING CONSERVATOR OF
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