Leatherback turtle heading back to sea. Photo: Nature Seekers
ANOTHER year without Community Based Organisations (CBOs) patrolling marine turtle nesting areas could reverse positive steps already taken by Government to protect the endangered species.
This is according to Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) who has written to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh appealing to him to reconsider his decision to refuse the CBO’s permission to patrol during the 2021 turtle nesting season which officially began on March 1.
“This decision is devoid of any sound logic and contrary to the promotion of a sustainable eco-tourism industry and the protection of our environmentally sensitive marine turtles,” FFOS stated in a press release on Tuesday.
FFOS added that it will encourage an escalation of illegal poaching.
Speaking at the virtual presser of his ministry on Monday, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said, “Now should be the safest time for turtles because no one is allowed in the beach to pouch eggs or to kill the turtles or ride on their backs.”
For decades, CBOs have patrolled the beaches and FFOS stated that there was confirmation in 2020 that as a result of the implementation of Covid-19 regulations and the lack of patrolling by CBOs there was an upsurge in poaching and marine turtle destruction.
FFOS stated, “The obligations of our authorities along with their minimal resources limits their efforts to protect these vulnerable and voiceless Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) which depend on our CBOs for their continued survival. The surveillance groups are not frolicking or casually visiting the beach. Their work is critical and commendable, and will pose no threat to public health.”
FFOS is urging Deyalsingh to reconsider his position adding that that in addition to the marine turtles being protected internationally and locally, rural communities all across Trinidad and Tobago, depended on turtle nesting and the eco-tourism industry as their source of income.
“These communities have voluntarily engaged in nightly patrols to deter poachers and protect these ESS. These patrols are important aspect of our national development and have safeguarded and protected these vulnerable species while protecting our country’s million dollar eco-tourism industry,” FFOS stated.
FFOS stated that conservation efforts by Nature Seekers and other CBOs over the past 30 years have led to the Leatherback turtle being downgraded from a “critically endangered” to “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of species.
“Must we lose this progress now?” FFOS asked.