National Sea Turtle Task Force reappointed by Planning & Development Minister Beckles

Photo: Members of the National Sea Turtle Task Force at the Ministry of Planning and Development.

National Sea Turtle Task Force reappointed by Planning & Development Minister Beckles

Ahead of Trinidad and Tobago’s sea turtle nesting season in March this year, Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles officially reappointed the National Sea Turtle Task Force on January 22, 2024.

One of the key objectives of the Task Force is to protect the sea turtles, which are an important part of this Trinidad and Tobago’s biodiversity, and indeed an important global resource, through the oversight and coordination of sea turtle research and conservation activities in Trinidad and Tobago.

The appointment of the National Sea Turtle Task Force is critical given that Trinidad and Tobago is internationally recognised as one of the largest nesting sites for the leatherback turtle in the world. Nesting of other species also takes place on beaches throughout the nation. In total, there are five species of sea turtles designated as Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) under the ESS Rules, 2001 through Legal Notice Nos. 88-92 of 2014, the Leatherback, Loggerhead, Green, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles.

The Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles are listed as vulnerable, the Hawksbill turtle is critically endangered and the Green turtle is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, recent studies may change these categorisations, especially for the leatherback turtle, now absent at several important nesting sites in the Western Hemisphere.

The National Sea Turtle Task Force plays a vital role in investigating and recommending solutions to mitigate threats to sea turtle populations such as impacts of climate change, poaching, bycatch, pollution, habitat loss amongst other factors. Some specific functions of the NSTTF include provision of technical guidance to the Minister with responsibility for management of marine turtles on matters related to the management of the five sea turtles that have been designated as ESS, as well as revision of the Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan (STRAP).

The main task of this reappointed NSTTF will be to complete the STRAP which is in its framework stage while identifying potential sources of local and international funding for the development of projects and programmes to facilitate the implementation of the revised STRAP.

Minister Beckles encouraged the Task Force to continue updating data on Trinidad and Tobago’s sea turtle populations, with an equal focus on enhancing public education. The Task Force Chair, Mrs. Nadra Nathai-Gyan expressed the enthusiasm of the Committee to continue their work on enhanced sea turtle signage along beaches, the installation of turtle friendly streetlights along beaches, focus on new technology and methods to eliminate turtles dying in by-catch and fishing nets, completion of the action plan and further international and regional collaboration in the quest to conserve sea turtle species.

The National Sea Turtle Task Force comprises members from diverse organisations and includes:

  • Ms. Nadra Nathai-Gyan: Chairman, Environmental Management Authority
  • Mr. Julius Smith, Environmental Policy and Planning Division, Ministry of Planning and Development
  • Mr. Denny Dipchansingh: Conservator of Forests, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries
  • Ms. Camille Fortune-Rollock: Town and Country Planning Division, Ministry of Planning and Development
  • Dr. La Daana Kanhai: Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies
  • Dr. Rod Suepaul: School of Veterinary Medicing, University of the West Indies
  • Ms. Siddiqua Mondol: Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts
  • Ms. Shandira Ankiah: Director of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries
  • Assistant Superintendent Doodnath Jankee: Trinidad and Tobago Police Service
  • Lieutenant Gerrain Newton: Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard
  • Ms. Rosemarie Kishore: Institute of Marine Affairs
  • Dr. Reia Guppy: University of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Dr. Allan Bachan: Executive Director, Turtle Village Trust
  • Ms. Suzan Lakhan-Baptiste: Managing Director, Nature Seekers
  • Mr. Kevin Muhammad: Executive Director/Community Conservation Coordinator-Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guide Association
  • Ms. Glenda Jeffrey-Lee Quay: President- Blanchisseuse Environment and Community Development
  • Desa London: Alleyne Game Warden I-Forestry Division, Tobago House of Assembly