Grant permission for night patrols as a matter of urgency to protect sea turtles in T&T

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Grant permission for night patrols as a matter of urgency to protect sea turtles in T&T

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Council of Presidents of the Environment started this petition to Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. The Honourable Keith Rowley and

Dear Honourable Prime Minister,

Re: Request to permit Night Patrols for the Protection of Nesting Turtles.

Council of Presidents of the Environment, as a responsible environmental umbrella organisation, wishes to appeal to the Minister of Health and the Political Directorate to reconsider the decision to not grant the Turtle Patrol groups access to the beaches at night during the turtle nesting season.

Five turtle species, the Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, Green Turtle, Hawksbill, and the Leatherback turtle, are all designated as Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) in Trinidad and Tobago and are globally listed as threatened. They come ashore at night during their annual nesting season to lay their eggs and during that process are totally helpless and vulnerable. This makes them an attractive target for poachers.

Despite their legal protection, poaching of these species at sea and on their nesting beaches has continued. The presence of patrollers from numerous CBOs on the beaches throughout the nesting season each year, has played a significant role in deterring poachers. However, poaching continues annually, particularly at those beaches that are more remote ·and are not regularly patrolled. The main target of the poachers on our nesting beaches in recent years has been the Critically Endangered Hawksbill turtle.

There is no reason to believe that the Covid-19 regulations will deter poachers who dare to risk a $100,000 fine under the Environmentally Sensitive Species Rules, and we have evidence from Tobago in 2020 that this was not the case. In 2020 with the closure of beaches to the public and a lack of patrols on the nesting beaches in Tobago, the incidents of poaching notably increased.

Under normal circumstances, these turtles are a very popular tourist attraction and as such are a valuable natural resource for T&T. For example, in 2014, 14,291 visitors were recorded at Matura beach, and tour fees in total were US$45,759 (personal comment, Dennis Sammy, cited by Cazabon-Mannette et al. 2017).

The Government of Trinidad ant Tobago has taken a number of steps over the years towards the protection of turtles, including i) co-management arrangements with various CBOs to ensure patrols of the nesting beaches, ii) the designation of approximately 20km of important leatherback nesting beaches as Prohibited Areas, iii) the closure of the sea turtle fishery in 2011, iv) their designation as Environmentally Sensitive Species in 2014, and v) the recent appointment of the National Sea Turtle Task Force. Trinidad and Tobago have also committed to the following international conventions calling for the protection of these species and their habitats: Convention on Nature Protection and ,Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere, Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Cartagena Convention, Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW).

COPE urges the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to reconsider their position and make the necessary exemptions to enable turtle patrollers identified by the various CBOs, Game Wardens and other enforcement officers to operate on the nesting beaches at night to deter poaching.


Yours faithfully,
Patricia A, McGaw
Hon. Secretary


CC Honourable Faris Al-Rawi M.P., Attorney General; Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Mr. Denny Dipchansingh, Conservator of Forests; Mr. David Mahabir, Head of Wildlife Section; Mr. Darren Henry, Assistant Conservator of Forests.

On behalf of the Citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Council of Presidents of the Environment

  • Aquaculture Association of Trinidad and Tobago·
  • Asa Wright Nature Centre
  • Environmental Research Institute Charlottesville
  • Environment Tobago
  • Caribbean Youth Environmental Network Trinidad and Tobago
  • Fishermen and Friends of the Sea
  • Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project
  • Friends of Botanic Gardens of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust
  • SpeSeas
  • Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalists' Club
  • Trinidad & Tobago Orchid Society
  • UWI Biological Society
  • Wildlife Orphanage and Rescue Centre
  • Wildlife and Environmental Protection of Trinidad and Tobago (WEPTT).

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