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Turtles of Trinidad
Trini Eco Warriors (www.facebook.com/Trini-Eco-Warriors); Michael Carey (Journey of the Turtle Photographer)
Despite protective legislation for nesting females on Trinidad, up until 2011, it was one of several countries around the world where legal hunting of sea turtles still continued. Around 15,000 endangered sea turtles were killed there during the annual hunting season that ran from October to February. Left on their backs in the sun to die, they sold for around $1.50 a lb.
Poaching remains a concern, particularly in Tobago; and large numbers of adult leatherback sea turtles – up to 1,000 each year - are being incidentally killed in artisanal nets Given that the most recent estimates show that fewer than 7,000 leatherbacks visit the country, it is easy to recognise the urgency of this mission.
Adoption of new laws and regulations for a complete moratorium on turtle hunting, to minimise the immediate impact on sea turtles, propose amendments to the turtle and turtle eggs regulations, propose time/area/gear prohibited area and assist in government adoption of increased fines, penalties for illegal turtle hunting and buying and releasing of caught sea turtles, propose enforcement of the closed hunting season and establish more fisheries offices and trained citizen patrols.
In February 2011, working with a Trinidad-based environmental group, Trini Eco Warriors (TEW), Pete Bethune paid a visit to their country to meet with local people, as well as Government Ministers, all of whom we would like to thank for their hospitality and welcome to Pete.
Pete and the boys from TEW talked to Vasant Bharath, Minster for Agriculture and Fisheries, and Christine Chan-a-Shing, Director of Fisheries and four government advisers about the need for year round protection for all sea turtles including a ban on hunting, tougher enforcement of laws governing the requirement for mid and large sized trawlers to use Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs), and better education and support for modern fishing techniques for the artisan fishermen who, through by-catch, are responsible for drowning up to 1,000 endangered Leatherbacks each year.
When Pete and the Eco Warriors met with the Ministers, they took with them a 110lb green sea turtle rescued from a hunter, where it had been lying on its back in the sun waiting to be sold for meat.
Seeing the stricken sea turtle seemed to have a profound effect on the Ministers, and a promise was made immediately to introduce new legislation in 2011, and to address the other issues presented by Pete and the Trini Eco Warriors. (http://new.earthrace.net/news/full-protection-all-sea-turtles-trinidad). Subsequently, in September 2011, Cabinet approval was given for the Amendment which now ‘prohibits the killing, harpooning or selling of turtle’. It explicitly states that ‘No person shall, at any time, kill, harpoon, catch or otherwise take possession of any turtle, or purchase, sell, offer or expose for sale or cause to be sold or offered for sale any turtle or turtle meat’
First Sea Turtle Symposium, Trinidad
In May 2012, the Environmental Management Authority’s First Sea Turtle Symposium was held in Trinidad. The aim of the Symposium was to inform and guide the process of designating the sea turtles as an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS).
As reported in the media, in his Address, Minister Bharath referenced a meeting with international and world-renowned conservationist Mr. Pete Bethune of Earthrace Conservation and members of local conservation group, Trini Eco Warriors, which preceded recommendations to Cabinet for the amendment to the Protection of Turtle and Turtle Eggs Regulations made under Section 4 of the Fisheries Act Chap. 67:51 to remove the open season for the killing, capture and offering for sale of all marine turtles.
Earthrace Conservation would like to congratulate the Government of Trinidad on keeping their promise to make sea turtle hunting illegal. We hope that they and others are able to fully support this new law with the financial assistance to ensure strict policing, reporting and strong punishment for those who flaunt the law from now on.
‘Bobbo’ the sea turtle was later released with a tracking device, and is currently swimming happily off the coast of Venezuela.
Watch video of Pete's interview on 'One to One' in Trinidad http://vimeo.com/21723108
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF HOUSING AND THE ENVIRONMENT,THE HONOURABLE DR. ROODAL MOONILAL ON THE BAN ON HUNTING OF SEA TURTLES BY THE GOVERNMENT OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO http://www.mhe.gov.tt/news/223-ministers-message-on-ban-on-hunting-of-se...
This is a great video showing the struggles that sea turtles have to go through from the moment they're born http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-KmQ6pGxg4