A CALL is being made to all Tobagonians to end the attack on the island's flora and fauna and for the authorities to enforce all applicable laws and punishments on those caught breaking the law by killing legally protected species.
The Tobago Environmental Partnership – a group represented by the THA's Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries; the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment; Environment Tobago; the Castara Tourism Development Association; the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville and; Save our Sea Turtles, in a joint press release, called on all Tobagonians to do their part to stop the poaching and harvesting of protected, endangered and iconic species.
The release stated that during the last three months of the covid19 pandemic, illegal hunting and harvesting of wildlife species that are so important for Tobago's eco-systems have reached alarming levels, especially in more isolated areas.
While poachers had more free time, some stakeholders entrusted with the protection of our precious wildlife and ecosystems were required to stay home due to the pandemic-related restrictions.
Our iconic sea turtles which are nationally designated as environmentally sensitive species and also internationally declared as threatened with extinction, are now seeking nesting beaches and often time end up in fillet nets or are being slaughtered when trying to lay their eggs, the press release stated.
Iguanas, even mothers with eggs, are illegally caught by the hundreds, during the closed hunting season and often stolen from private property; the same applies to other game species which instead of being allowed to reproduce are killed and sold at much higher prices than fish or poultry.
Parrotfishes and rockfish are free to take; however, these fishes are so important for healthy reefs that harvesting them is prohibited in many islands such as Barbuda. Without parrot fishes Tobago's reefs will die making the coasts vulnerable to storm surges, fisherfolk will earn less and tourists will stay away. Do we really want this?
It is up to us Tobagonians to decide if we choose to fill our bellies with the last turtles, iguanas, parrot fishes, sharks, and sea birds or if we decide that we want these species to survive on our small but precious island so our children and children’s children will be able to see them and be proud of the rich biodiversity of their home island.
The release said it is critically important that all of us be aware that interfering with a sea turtle or its eggs in any way and at any time is illegal and can result in a fine up to $100,000 and imprisonment for two years; hunting in the closed season will result in a fine of up to $10,000 or six months in prison!
Environmental crimes can be reported to Crime Stoppers without any risk at 800-TIPS (8477); the caller will never be asked to reveal his or her name, where he or she is calling from, or any other personal information and might be eligible for a cash reward up to $10,000.
"Illegal hunting can also be reported to the Forestry Department or the Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries both at 639-1966 Let’s stop the poaching and over harvesting that only profits the very few selfish individuals and let’s start to show that we care about the sustainability Tobago’s beautiful biodiversity."