By Michelle Loubon
To date, about 1,000 leatherbacks have returned to these shores for the nesting season and there have been no instances of poaching or abuse, says a forestry official. The nesting season started from March 1 and ends around September 30. Among the species that frequent here are leatherbacks, hawksbill, green, olive ridley and loggerhead. Johnny Seepersad, acting Conservator of Forests, said, “About 1,000 came to nest. We are in the middle of the nesting season. They are coming back in abundance to various beaches like Matelot and the east coast. They like long beachfronts with sand. It’s one of the reasons why they are heading as far as Mayaro.” Traditionally, Grande Riviere had the highest population. Now they are spreading out to Manzanilla, to a place called Indian Bay (Guayaguayare), he said. “This is good news.”
Don’t ride turtles
To protect the turtles, they have stepped up night patrols. “So far we have not gotten any incidences of poaching and abuse. Forestry Division has stepped up patrols in non-traditional areas like Fishing Pond. By July, the hatchlings would be coming out. They would be disoriented and rather than head to the beach they head to the land. We need to capture them and lead them back to the water. The rate of survival is better because there is the natural habitat.” Seepersad appealed to people to refrain from riding the leatherbacks and even posting pictures on social media. “That is a no-no. Do not ride the turtles. It is a harmful practice. Don’t put the pictures on Facebook. We don’t encourage that. We have to keep educating people and hope law enforcement would do the rest.”
Alternative fishing equipment in 2014
Meanwhile, fishermen from Matura to Matelot are being offered alternative fishing equipment like trolling, live bait fishing and palang hooks to replace nets from next year during the period February to May, to protect the turtles. Managing director of Nature Seekers Dennis Sammy said the bycatch (fish caught unintentionally) from using the nets continued to pose a problem for turtles during the nesting season. Sammy said it was a pilot project. “Next year, we are seeking to move the project forward. More....