$100,000 fine for Poaching Sea Turtles

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

GIVEN that the turtle nesting season in Trinidad and Tobago officially opened on March 1, acting Planning Development Minister Allyson West is encouraging citizens to be protectors of the turtles and the environment by extension.

The turtle nesting season continues till September.

In  a press release on Tuesday, West reminded the public there was a penalty of $100,000 and imprisonment for two years for poaching environmentally sensitive species such as sea turtles.

But Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has refused permission for the conservationists groups to continue their tours since all beaches are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asked about his ministry’s virtual presser on Monday, Deyalsingh said he has had many requests for exemptions but will not make any policy decision at a press conference.

Five species of sea turtles visit local shores, namely:

  • Leatherback;
  • Loggerhead;
  • Hawksbill;
  • Green; and
  • Olive Ridley.

They all have the designation of Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).

The Leatherback and Olive Ridley are all listed as vulnerable while the Hawksbill is critically endangered and the Green turtle is endangered.

The ministry is also calling on the protective services to help monitor the nation’s beaches to ensure that poaching does not occur, especially since volunteers have not been allowed due to the Covid-19 rules in place.

In November 2020, a National Sea Turtle Task Force was appointed to aid in further protection of the turtles.

Secretary of Turtle Village Trust Suzan Lakhan stated that the use of beaches for events and parties while disregarding the nesting sites hampered the nesting process.

While groups such as Nature Seekers are were able to go out to collect data during the morning and afternoon periods, the situations brought about by the pandemic prevented data collection and beach patrolling during the night, which is the time the turtles are most active.


She  also called on citizens to be responsible during this time and to show consideration for the country’s turtle nesting sites.

In addition to the traditional threats to  sea turtle populations such as by catch, illegal poaching, pollution, habitat loss due to coastal development, the Task Force will  investigate and provide solutions for other threats to these creatures brought about by climate change.

Executive Director of the Turtle Village Trust  Dr Allan Bachan also mentioned climate change as a major factor affecting turtle numbers as the warmer ocean waters cause more females than males to be born,  creating an imbalance.


From 2013 to 2019, over $30 million was granted from the Green Fund for research and conservation activities by community organisations in Trinidad and Tobago such as the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC), the Institute of Marine Affairs, and the Turtle Village Trust among others.


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