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A leatherback turtle

The Council of Presidents of the Environment (COPE) is thanking Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh for granting them an exemption to patrol beaches after 6 pm to protect sea turtles.

“We have to begin by saying thank you to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for hearing our voices and the voices of the 9,300 people that requested the permission for night patrols to protect our sea turtles,” COPE treasurer Kristopher Rattansingh told Guardian Media yesterday.

“We also have to thank everyone who played a part in having such a great impact on this by signing the petition and playing their part in protecting sea turtles. We have to highlight that people from around the world saw how important this was and how necessary it was to protect sea turtles as they signed and shared the petition asking for this change as well.”

Their petition began as nesting season for the animals began in February and is expected to peak between April and May before ending in August. The reptiles frequently visit the country’s shores to lay their eggs, however, are often the victims of poachers and other unscrupulous activities despite being listed as Environmentally Sensitive Species by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

But now that the exemption is expected to be given by the Minister, COPE is hoping for a smooth registration process so patrols can begin immediately.

Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis, was quoted in a release yesterday as describing the decision as “a win for sea turtles and the communities promoting their conservation.”

The release also said the chair of the EMA and the Sea Turtle Task Force, Nadra Nathai Gyan, expressed the Task Force’s, and wider sea turtle conservation community’s, elation at the decision and is calling for compliance with the new amendments from the national community.

In October 2020, beaches were reopened after being shut a second time due to a large spike in COVID-19 cases, however, they would only be open to the public between 6 am and 6 pm.

The Public Health Regulation was updated on Wednesday, March 17 and would be in effect until April 4.