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Trinidad and Tobago - Main Details

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


Trinidad and Tobago are the two main islands of an archipelagic state situated at the southern end of the chain of Caribbean islands known as the Windward Islands. Being an island state Trinidad and Tobago has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) comprising roughly 75,000 km2, approximately 15 times the land area. Because of its recent separation from the South American mainland, the biota and terrestrial habitats of Trinidad reflect the ecology of equatorial South America unlike the other Windward Islands, which have ecosystems dominated by island endemic species. The vast range of terrestrial ecosystems includes evergreen seasonal, littoral woodlands, montane rainforests, swamp forests, marshes and savannahs. These support rich species diversity including approximately 420 species of birds and 85 reptiles. In the marine areas, ecosystems include mud bottoms, coral reefs, sandy bottoms and rocky shores. These support a range of macro and micro biota, such as an estimated 36 species of reef building corals. Endangered species include the manatee, the golden tree frog, the crab-eating raccoon and the blue and yellow macaw. Some of the principal threats to biodiversity are mismanaged planned development, squatting, deforestation, forest fires and over harvesting of commercially important species. It is estimated that the average harvest of timber, fisheries and game is valued at over $150 million annually.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

Trinidad and Tobago has identified 23 priority strategies and associated actions to be executed in a three-year period. Nine of these strategies fall within the Education and Awareness category, with other categories being Legislation and Enforcement, Capacity, Information and Research, and Policy and Commitment. Extensive public consultations were carried out in the process of creating the NBSAP, which helped identify the key biodiversity-related issues the country needs to address in addition to providing solutions to these issues. The twelve immediate next steps identified in the NBSAP include holding workshops in Ministries on the value of biodiversity, identifying specific interventions to be made in sectoral policies, promoting public awareness, and conducting an economic evaluation of biodiversity.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

Initiatives that are being implemented to conserve biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago include the National Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme. This 10-year programme started in 2004 and aims to replant 33,030 acres of forest, including 11,000 acres of forest in watersheds to allow for watershed development and the recharging of aquifers. A strategic plan has been developed for the first 5 years of the Programme, accompanied by an operational plan guiding the implementation of the strategies over the first 3 years. The Programme has identified 72 sites throughout Trinidad and Tobago for reforestation and watershed rehabilitation, and 80,000 seedlings had been planted as of 2004.

The Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Species and Biodiversity Work Plan also aims to declare 10 Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) and to develop and implement management plans for them. Designated species to date are the Sabrewing Hummingbird, the Manatee and the Pawi. Other species targeted for designation include 5 marine turtles. Additionally, the Environmental Management Authority will make biodiversity a part of holistic community programmes, emphasizing linkages between community activities and the environment. Other measures to restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species include the Macaw project, the No Net Loss Policy for forest replanting, and the cap on the number of fishing trawlers allowed.

The protection of agricultural genetic diversity is done through germplasm collections run by the government and the University of the West Indies, which includes approximately 300 varieties of hot peppers. The Forestry Division addresses sustainable consumption issues with measures such as the regulation of tree harvesting and issuing hunting permits along with monitoring of hunters by game wardens. The concept of annual allowable harvest has also been adopted, by which only the annual increment of the forest can be harvested. The Revised National Environmental Policy has a section on invasive species which states, among other things, that the government must educate citizens on the risks of introducing exotic species and develop action plans to deal with invasive species.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

The Environmental Management Authority has developed an Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Species and Biodiversity Work Plan. This plan outlines a work programme for the period of 2004-2007 and one of the strategic objectives of the plan is to declare 8 Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), as well as to develop and implement management plans for them. In 2004, one site was designated and three more were proposed, two of which have recently been designated as Ramsar sites. The existing system of protected areas includes 36 forest reserves and 13 wildlife sanctuaries.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

To increase their contribution to resource management, rural communities have organised themselves into formal groups known as Community Based Organisations (CBOs). This has improved co-operation among the state, private enterprise and the rural communities for the co-management of natural resources. NGOs and CBOs have been instrumental in raising awareness for the value of biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago and the benefits of conservation and protection of natural resources.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme