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Geographic Location

Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state comprising the two southernmost islands of the Lesser Antilles. Trinidad is located approximately 11.2 kilometres off the east coast of Venezuela in South America and falls just below the hurricane belt.

Trinidad: 4,828 square kilometres in size ; Latitude, 10.5°N Longitude, 61.5°W

Tobago: 300 square kilometres in size; Latitude, 11.5°North Longitude, 60.5°W

Unlike most of the islands of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago supports a primarily South American flora and fauna. Both islands are washed from the south by the Guyana Current which carries nutrients from the Orinoco River resulting in a natural heritage that is among the richest in the Caribbean.

Capital Cities:

  • Trinidad: Port-of-Spain
  • Tobago: Scarborough

NATURAL RESOURCES

FORESTRY

Forest land covers approximately 50 per cent of the total land mass of Trinidad and Tobago. Of this, the State owns 85.2 per cent; the remaining 14.8 per cent are private lands. Additionally, the total forested area of Trinidad and Tobago comprises 35 per cent productive type forest and 65 per cent protected type forest. 1

There are several categories of legally declared protected areas (PAs) in Trinidad and Tobago, established under various pieces of legislation. These PAs include forest reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, prohibited areas, protected marine areas, environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) and cultural and heritage “properties of interest”. 2

Tobago has the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere which is the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve protected since 1776.

The wildlife sanctuaries, protected marine parks and environmentally sensitive areas are associated with well-managed, controlled eco-tourism activities such as bird watching, snorkelling and diving and hiking and also provide opportunities for education and scientific research. Trails are also being maintained for growing interest in mountain biking.

In terms of plantations for timber, forestry plantations were traditionally an interest of the State. However, private forestry is being encouraged and incentives are offered to eligible farmers under The Forestry Incentive Programme for estates over 1 hectare.

Teak (Tectona grandis ) and pine ( Pinus caribaea ) are traditionally grown. However, there is growing interest in forestry plantations of mixed hardwood trees such as Cedar, Tectona, Cypre (Cordia alliodora ), Mahogany ( Swietenia macrophylla ) and Apamate (Tabebuia pentaphylla ).

Despite the percentage of land under protection, there is the threat of deforestation as a result of increased rates of built development (industrial, commercial and residential); unsustainable agricultural practices; expansion of roads, utility networks, oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure in a manner that increases fragmentation of natural ecosystems; forest fires, resulting in a fire climax which prevents natural regeneration of the native vegetation type; and invasion by non-native species into native ecosystems (e.g. elephant grass invades burnt forested areas and forms a “fire-climax”, bamboo invades forest).

WETLANDS

Wetlands in Trinidad include: Nariva, Caroni, Oropouche, Los Blanquizales, Cedros, Icacos, Rousillac, Fishing Pond and Godineau swamps.

Wetlands in Tobago are Bon Accord Lagoon / Bucco Bay wetland, which is approximately 77 hectares, and small wetlands at Friendship, Kilgwyn, Bucco, Courland Bay, Black Rock Pond, Parlatuvier and Bloody Bay.

Despite their economic and ecological value, wetlands are under threat in Trinidad and Tobago and in need of urgent support.

Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) in April 1993. The Convention on Wetlands called the "Ramsar Convention" -- is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the "wise use", or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories. Refer to http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-feb14-homeindex/main/ramsar/1%5E26447_4000_0__.

Trinidad and Tobago now has three (3) Ramsar sites listed currently, totalling an area of 15, 919 hectares. These are:

Ramsar SiteDate of DesignationRegionAreaCoordinates
Buccoo Reef / Bon Accord Lagoon Complex 07/08/2005 Tobago 1,287 ha 11"10'N, 060"5'7"W
Caroni Swamp 07/08/2005 Trinidad 8,398 ha 10"34'N, 061"2'7"W
Nariva Swamp 12/21/1992 Trinidad 6,234 ha 10"23'N, 061" '04"W

Buccoo Reef / Bon Accord Lagoon Complex. Restricted Area (in the process of being designated as Environmentally Sensitive Area). Located on the southwestern coast of Tobago near Scarborough, this site contains several under-represented wetland types such as coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. Endangered and vulnerable species in the area include various types of coral (Acropora palmata, Diploria labyrinthiformis, D. strigosa and Siderastrea siderea) as well as the critically endangered Hawkbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and at least 119 fish species. As the major tourist attraction in Tobago, the reef continues to be adversely affected by intense tourist activity and pollutant discharges. So far the restricted area status and existing management plan have been unable to prevent these impacts. Ramsar site no. 1496.

Caroni Swamp. An extraordinarily important wetland near the capital Port of Spain, since it is ecologically diverse, consisting of marshes, mangrove swamp (5,996 ha), brackish and saline lagoons, and tidal mudflats in close proximity. A total of 20 endangered bird species have been recorded in the site, including the Scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber), Comb duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos), White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus), Snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), and the severely threatened Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). The swamp has been modified by attempted reclamation, and there is some seasonal cultivation on the landward fringe. Caroni Swamp is important economically for oyster and fish harvesting, for hunting and for ecotourism. Ramsar site no. 1497.

Nariva Swamp. Extensive complex of freshwater swamp forest, permanent herbaceous swamp, seasonally flooded marshes, and mangrove forest. The area supports a rich fauna: at least 13 species of birds, notably Ara ararauna (at least highly endangered; probably extinct); various mammals, including Trichechus manatus (endangered), and reptiles. The fishery provides a livelihood for local people. Human activities include rice, watermelon and marijuana production, felling of mangroves to supply bark to the tanning industry.Subject of a Ramsar Advisory Mission in 1995. Ramsar site no. 577.

MARINE RESOURCES

FISHERIES

The location of Trinidad and Tobago downstream of the outflow of 17 South American rivers, including the Amazon and Orinoco, and at the confluence of major ocean currents such as the North Equatorial current (Fabres, 1983) has influenced species diversity and marine habitat types, which range from coral reefs to muddy bottom, brackish water. 3

Trinidad and Tobago Country Profile

Fishing in Trinidad and Tobago comprises activities in marine fisheries, both recreational/game fishing and commercial fishing, aquaculture, inland fisheries and an ornamental fish trade. However, marine fishing is the largest subsector. Among those involved in marine fishing for a living, 96% 4 of the vessels are still artisanal and the potential is generally underutilized despite incentives to encourage greater activity. One reason given for this is inadequate facilities along the coast to exploit fisheries in surrounding waters.

Elizabeth Mohammed and Christine Chan A Shing; Trinidad Fisheries Division Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources St Clair Circle, Port of Spain Trinidad,

The Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Food Production supports fisherfolk and encourages more commercial fishing including aquaculture through a number of incentives and training opportunities. Refer to http://www.agriculture.gov.tt/services/for-the-public/fisherfolks.html

BEACHES

The Institute of Marine Affairs has documented 53 beaches of Trinidad and Tobago in "A Guide to Beaches and Bays of Trinidad and Tobago." Apart from offering locations for tourism as well as recreational activities, there are some beaches on both islands that are sensitive environments that provide habitat for large leatherback and other nesting sea turtles, crabs and molluscs such as chip chip.

Each year, thousands of female leatherback sea turtles travel from across the Atlantic Ocean to nest on Trinidad and Tobago beaches including Maracas, Las Cuevas, Blanchisseuse, Paria, Petit Tacarib, Grande Tacarib, Madamas Matelot, Big Bay in San Souci, Guayamara Bay/Toco and Fishing Pond in the north coast; Manzanilla in the east coast, Trinidad; and Black Rock, Turtle Beach and Englishman's Bay in Tobago.

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), sometimes called the lute turtle, is the largest of all living turtles and is the fourth largest modern reptile behind three crocodilians.

The most significant Atlantic nesting sites for leatherback turtles are in Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana in South America, and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, and Gabon in Central Africa.

From March to August which is the nesting and hatching season in Trinidad and Tobago, there are leather back turtle watching tours and opportunities for scientists and volunteers. For example, the Earthwatch Institute has teamed up with Nature Seekers in Trinidad to conduct a monitoring and data collection exercise and is calling for volunteers to join its expeditions. Refer to http://earthwatch.org/expeditions/trinidads-leatherback-sea-turtles#research-area

Facilitating Financing for Sustainable Forest Management PDF
Final Protected Areas Policy 2011 PDF

1 Facilitating Financing for Sustainable Forest Management in Small Islands Developing States and Low Forest Cover Countries; An analytical Report prepared by Indufor for the United Nations Forum on Forests; Country Case Study: Trinidad and Tobago Authors: Professor Dennis Pantin & Mr. Justin Ram

2 Government of the Republic Of Trinidad and Tobago; National Protected Areas Policy ; February 2011

3 The Trinidad and Tobago Country Profile for fisheries prepared by the FAO gives a very detailed description of the fishing species found in Trinidad and Tobago water. 4http://www.fao.org/fi/oldsite/FCP/en/TTO/profile.htm