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Rainy Season 2005



Look a little closer Rainy Season 2005

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ABOUT THE COVER: A hermit crab gives photographer Solomon Baksh a long hard look before retreating into the shell that doubles as its home, camouflage and protection.



Samaan Choice


We Paved Paradise


Portraits of Planet Earth


Cruising for a Bruising?


Plastic Problem


The Dirty Dozens


Sunscreens – What’s Your Factor?


On the Beach: Pigeon Point


Beneath the Deep Blue Yonder


Losing our clear waters


A pick of environmental themes in literature, cinema, music, websites, and organisations fighting for conservation and environmental protection. On current trends, a third of all life forms could face oblivion by 2050. Hello? Is anybody listening? By Mark Meredith Time for a reality check. Photos by Alex Smailes 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water; 30,000 gallons of sewage; 255,000 gallons of waste water; and 15 gallons of toxic waste – the daily output from an average cruise liner. By Mark Meredith Even the distant sand strips of Chacahacare island can’t escape it. So what’s being done about it? By Gail Alexander “When the ubiquitous ant goes AWOL in the food basket of Trinidad something is not quite right.” An introduction to persistent organic pollutants. By Mark Meredith If it seems the sun’s rays are stronger and brighter now than they were 10 or 20 years ago, well, they probably are. By Gail Alexander We test the bathing water at Tobago’s most celebrated beach. By Cristina Legarza (Foster Solutions for Sustainable Ecosystem Development) Wet, warm and weightless in a world beyond imagination, scuba diving is the portal to another dimension - and it’s right here, in Tobago. We show you why, where, and how. It could just change your life. By Sandra and Solomon Baksh Tobago’s coral reefs are in trouble. By Dr Owen Day

Publisher Editor-in-Chief Design Advertising sales Administration Printing

Willow Works Ltd Mark Meredith Gabby Woodham Willys Marshall Michel Hazell SCRIP-J Printers

samaan Willow Works Ltd 47 Cornelio Street, Woodbrook Trinidad and Tobago Telephone (868) 622-6968 Fax (868) 622-7584 Email (Advertising) Editorial/Letters




52 Samaan Park: Snorkelling Creatures 59

Nature Notes: The Rocky Shore




North Coast Crossing


Tree Stump: The Paria Main Road


The Solar Life


Lessons In Nature

Writers Gail Alexander, Sandra Baksh, Sandra Chouti, Dr Owen Day, Nadine Hosein, Cristina Legarza, Julian Kenny, Mark Meredith, The Pathmaster, Natasha Ramnauth Attillah Springer, Andrew Whitwell Photographers Solomon Baksh, Dr Owen Day, Nadine Hosein, Julian Kenny, Mark Meredith, Ernst Neering, Alex Smailes, Andrew Whitwell


Your own collectible encyclopaedia of Trinidad and Tobago’s wondrous wildlife — this issue features creatures anyone who swims can find. So look a little closer. By Sandra and Solomon Baksh Exploring the halfway world of an environment existing between land and sea. By Julian Kenny An appreciation of “the best of animals”. By Andrew Whitwell The proposed “eco-highway” would obliterate it — we show you how explore it before the worst happens. By The Pathmaster

By Andrew Whitwell

A look at solar power in this country of sunshine. Plug in and find out who’s using it. You may want to join them. By Sandra Chouti How is the teamwork in the company you work in? You’d be surprised how Nature can help. By The Pathmaster


Noticeboard: North Coast Treasures

Samaan’s Noticeboard series showcases community projects and organisations who could use your help. For all our benefit. Toco’s Folk Museum is a case in point. By Nadine Hosein


On the Ground: Warden Patrol

Spending a day with those charged with environmental protection. By Attillah Springer

If that didn’t inspire action, then I don’t know what else would. Except, maybe you, readers of Samaan and citizens of the Caribbean. Maybe you could lobby, write, raise your voices at our representatives. Demand they provide the resources needed to enforce environmental legislation; to build Tobago’s south west sewage treatment plant; save our coral reefs, outlaw sea turtle hunting and live up to our label as an award-winning ecodestination. Perhaps, if you experience the wonder of Tobago’s precious coral reefs yourselves, you will feel motivated to make the noise needed for the protection of your birthright.

Samaan Desk So in this issue of Samaan we showcase a few of the amazing creatures that inhabit Tobago’s reefs and show you how to experience the extraordinary world Beneath the Deep Blue Yonder. Our dive map lists all the dive operators in T&T, contacts, and certification offered. For those without the budget or who prefer the shallows, we show you snorkelling techniques, where to snorkell and creatures to look out for in Samaan Park. So, go on, look a little closer. Continuing our marine theme, On the Beach examines the beach bathing water quality of T&T’s popular recreational beaches. We look below the blues of Pigeon Point in Tobago by testing the water and publishing the results so you can make informed choices about your health.

Should an “eco-highway” be built along Trinidad’s last remaining stretch of coastal wilderness between Matelot and Blanchisseuse? Forest and turtle nesting beaches opened up to development and squatting? We say no, hoping good sense prevails, and that the only opening up is to an authentic, regulated ecotourism market inside a protected North Coast National Park. But in case the worst happens we show you how to experience the area in question on one of the Caribbean’s most rewarding hikes, Brasso Seco to Matelot, the North Coast Crossing. While you can. The objective of Samaan is to promote environmental awareness and an appreciation of our natural world across all levels of society. Every secondary school in T&T receives a number of free copies (thanks to the generous sponsorship of British Gas Trinidad and Tobago), as do decision makers in government and the private sector. Samaan has certainly struck a chord, if the responses received are an accurate indicator, and we’d like to thank everyone who has written to us, or recommended us! Some of the stories in our previous issue attracted some debate (Save our Sea Turtles, and Maracas Bay’s beach report), but no action yet by the authorities. Others have attracted generous financial contributions from members of the public. Thank you to all our advertisers and everyone who sent money to The Samaan Appeal Fund for community based environmental projects (see next page). Special thanks to Ali Khan of the Hilton Trinidad for their contribution of $10,000 to the NGO SOS Tobago for their work protecting the island’s sea turtles. Also the $10,000 Hilton donated towards Environment Tobago to help them protect Tobago’s seabird colonies on St Giles and Little Tobago, featured in Samaan. Hilton Trinidad’s action is just what we hoped to elicit from the corporate citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, especially those in the tourism industry. It is they who stand to benefit most from a clean, green and sustainably managed environment. We originally hoped to produce a quarterly magazine, so to those who hoped to see this issue appear last year, we apologise. The truth is that to fund this expensive publication on such a regular basis we will need greater financial support than we have received to date. So I hope you enjoy this issue of Samaan even more than the first. Solomon Baksh


quarter of all known marine species make their homes in coral reefs, though reefs cover only 0.02% of the ocean floor. Yes, coral reefs really are that important. They are the rainforests of the oceans with perhaps even greater undiscovered biodiversity than their terrestrial counterparts. The tiny fraction of ocean floor currently occupied by nature’s marine nursery can ill afford further shrinkage. However, that 0.02 per cent of ocean floor is under siege, especially in the Caribbean which accounts for an estimated 9 per cent of total global reef reserves. According to figures from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 30 per cent of Caribbean reefs have already been destroyed and a further 30 per cent are at risk. Worldwide, it is expected that a third of all coral reefs will vanish within 30 years. I could sit here and throw statistics at you all day — and in Portraits of Planet Earth I take that opportunity — but I think the point is already made. Global warming, marine pollution, siltation, overfishing, coastal development, and the physical destruction from anchoring and trampling on these miraculous coral cities — constructed by countless thousands of tiny animals called polyps – are the manmade, preventable causes. What’s the solution? Well, in our own case we could start by ensuring that every single politician who can swim gets scuba tuition courtesy of Tobago’s dive instruction fraternity. Take them out to the rainbow spectrum of Speyside’s Japanese Gardens, the drama below St Giles, or the schooling hammerhead sharks at The Sisters. And instead of throwing them to the sharks, equip our decision makers with underwater cameras with macro lenses and make them take a closer look. As close as the hermit crab gracing our cover, or the creatures featured in Samaan Park. Make them experience the wonder. Then take them to an undersea desert, miles of suffocating mud that were once thriving coral reefs stretching from Cambleton to L’Anse Formi, needlessly destroyed by siltation from the careless construction taking place of Tobago’s north coast road link to Charlotteville. Whisk them westwards and eastwards along the breadth of Tobago’s coastline in heavy rain so they can see at first hand silt pluming into the sea as a consequence of widespread logging and the continued failure to deal with it. But don’t stop there. Head to the Buccoo Reef and let our politicians examine its slow death from sewage pollution, reef walking and anchoring. The dire penalties of procrastination.

Mark Meredith Editor-in-Chief

fund/letters The Samaan Appeal Fund:

Help communities to care for their environment In our first issue we asked readers of samaan to make financial contributions to our appeal fund for community based environmental projects. We were asking the stakeholders of T&T to take a lead in caring for our environment by helping those currently engaged in the process, in particular reforestation projects. At the time of planning SAMAAN’s fund raising venture, the Green Fund levy, now standing at approximately TT$300 million, had not been made available to the environmental community groups and NGOs for whom it was originally intended. And it is still under lock and key as we go to print. The Samaan Appeal Fund was our and your own effort, and it still is. However, by the time SAMAAN 1 was published the Government had just announced its own $50 million reforestation programme. Obviously, this intent duplicates our own. And people may rightly feel no obligation to donate to such a cause when the government is supposedly doing the same thing. And $50 million is $49,998,000 more than we managed to raise. So in the circumstances we will concentrate our attention on other efforts, too. There are many community groups across the country who need funding for a variety of projects, from organic farming to housing local archeological artifacts or running eco-tours. They may need computer equipment, or to hire professional help. The list is endless and they all have one common thread–a lack of funds. As a small society we need to pull together to help others achieve goals that benefit us all. Thank you to those who have made contributions. The Northern Range communities we featured, managed by The Tropical Re-Leaf Foundation, has grown from an original eight areas to 18. However, they have received sufficient funding from other sources for only three community areas to plant, and so far 55 acres have been planted between them. They are hoping for further UNDP funding to carry the work to all their community areas. None of the Government’s $50 million ($44 million spent by June) has been allocated to fund these well-trained and motivated community groups in their reforestation efforts. The Tropical Re-Leaf Foundation have extended their project down south to Mayaro, Debe, with other areas in the planning stages. Meanwhile, the Fondes

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Amandes Community Reforestation Project in St Anns goes from strength to strength, aided by a wet, dry season. The CFCA’s Nursery Project in Sangre Grande has not yet got underway. The SAMAAN APPEAL FUND asks schools, form classes, companies and ordinary citizens to send us something, however small, that can go towards the sustainable development of our country and show our communities we care, too. If you belong to a community group and you need assistance, we want to hear from you. E-mail: The Interact Club of St. Joseph’s Convent, St. Joseph, want to hear from like-minded environmental groups, especially school groups. Contact: Camille Rajnauth President of Interact Club Of St. Joseph's Convent, St. Joseph. Tel: 642-7955 The SAMAAN APPEAL FUND is a registered non-profit company.

The standard of journalism featured in this magazine far outweighs what passes for environmental reporting in the other media. The photography is excellent, the diversity and depth of the articles refreshing. I sincerely hope that you receive the support necessary to continue this good work that you have begun. Neil Parsanlal Former Corporate Communications Officer Environmental Management Authority

We wish to congratulate you and your team on the level of excellence that you have achieved in the first issue of SAMAAN magazine. The articles and photographs were truly commensurate with the quality of world class publications. Pursuant to reading the articles on the commendable work being done by Environment Tobago (ET) and SOS Tobago towards the conservation of Tobago’s seabirds and sea turtles we have decided to donate TT$10,000 to ET towards the conservation of Tobago’s seabirds, and TT$10,000 to SOS to aid them in their cause i.e. the preservations of Tobago’s sea turtles. We look forward to supporting other NGOs that are featured in SAMAAN. Ali Khan Country Director and GM of Hilton Trinidad

This first issue is a real success... Above all, it's imbued with the right sort of crusading spirit and commitment that makes you want to get up and get involved. Sincere congratulations from all of us at MEP, and very best wishes for future issues! Jeremy Taylor Publisher of Caribbean Beat

Congratulations on your excellent effort in producing the first edition of SAMAAN. This magazine is much needed in bringing critical information about the T&T environment to the public and decision-makers in a friendly format. Keep up the good work. John Agard Chairman, Environmental Management Authority Akilah Jaramogi of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project displays her forest jewelry.

Letters: In this issue we present some reaction to our first issue. E-mail: I have just finished reading the first edition of SAMAAN, from cover to cover, a feat I do not usually manage with most other magazines. Please accept my sincerest congratulations on this project.

We have recently purchased a copy of SAMAAN Magazine. It is awesome! Where have you been? How can we get a sub-scription? It is most welcome to see this level of environmental awareness alive in T&T. Keep the momentum. Matt Kelly New Ashford, USA

Congratulations on a really impressive product! You have certainly brought together a great many thought-provoking articles, along with some marvellous illustrations. It is also reassuring to see

that the issue will be available for schools etc, since that is where we have to find future environmentalists. I only hope that you get proper support. The impetus must be kept up, so I look forward to many more like this. Keep up the good work. Richard ffrench Author of Birds of Trinidad and Tobago

Allow me to express our congratulations for your wellacquainted publication. I would like to highlight the excellent graphics and layout of the magazine, as well as the very informative approach to the issues taking place in Trinidad and Tobago. Congratulations again for this outstanding publication.

Just read Samaan, FANTASTIC. Congrats.

Hector Cassy Azocar Ambassador, Venezuelan Embassy

Courtenay Rooks Managing Director, Paria Springs Eco-Community

The information in your magazine fits exactly some of the topics that are dealt with for both the Biology and Geography syllabus. The teachers were particularly excited by the article on Maracas Beach and on the whole, deem your magazine an excellent reference and research tool that can be used to supplement what they will be teaching. We actually passed out the remaining magazines to our ‘A’ Level Biology and Geography students. We are all looking forward to the next issue of your magazine and wish to extend congratulations on this first one.

A lot of people who have seen your magazine have told me how impressed they are with the quality of the articles and pictures, and most were shocked to hear for the first time about the slaughter of our wildlife and destruction of Mother T&T. I would like to congratulate you and your writers’ fearless approach to environmental conservation and wish you all the best of luck in our fight to save Mother T&T and all her helpless friends. Gervais Alkins Game Warden, Tobago

Asha Mahabir Librarian, Naparima Girls' High School in San Fernando

SAMAAN APPEAL FUND Willow Works Limited,, 47 Cornelio Street Woodbrook, Trinidad and Tobago Telephone (868) 622-6968, (868) 622-9369 Fax: (868) 622-7584 E-mail:

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samaan choice “MERCY, MERCY ME” By Marvin Gaye (1971)

One of three million-selling singles from one of Motown’s biggest selling albums, What’s Going On. The giant record label was sceptical about the lavishly orchestrated album’s commercial potential. They needen’t have worried. The album and this song, especially, elevated Marvin Gaye to the status of master composer and producer capable of biting social commentary. The lament of Mercy Mercy Me has lost none of its relevance today.

The Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA) provides an umbrella for environmental groups spanning the Caribbean, North and South America. Located in Barbados, they not only assist in providing information on projects throughout the region but offer tangible assistance to NGO’s in setting up websites and writing proposals. This site also provides links to the work of other Caribbean NGO’s and issues facing the region.

Oh, oh, mercy, mercy me Oh, things ain't what they used to be, no, no Where did all the blue skies go? Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east Oh, mercy, mercy me Oh, things ain't what they used to be, no, no Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas fish full of mercury Oh, oh, mercy, mercy me Oh, things ain't what they used to be, no, no Radiation underground and in the sky Animals and birds who live near by are dying Oh, mercy, mercy me Oh, things ain't what they used to be What about this overcrowded land? How much more abuse from man can she stand? Hoo - oh no - oh my my my

WEBSITES By Natasha Ramnauth

Our website choices this issue are guaranteed to give you a good grounding on the most important environmental issues affecting the world, and the Caribbean. See some ways these are being tackled and what you can do to help.

10 10 is an Australia based site that provides up to the minute information on a variety of environmental issues world-wide, including the on-going fight to save marine mammals. In addition, it is chock full of helpful tips on how to be “green” conscious as well as practical ways to assist. Recipes, alternatives to pesticides and other useful information abound. Also provides links to other major international environmental organisations.

It’s the most influential and conspicuous environmental NGO in the world with some 5 million members. “Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action,” they say, and we’re not arguing. If you want action this is the place for you. Read about their extensive current campaigns; maybe join them. Take your pick: stopping climate change; protecting ancient forests; saving the oceans; stopping whaling; saying no to genetic engineering; stopping the nuclear threat; eliminating toxic chemicals; encouraging sustainable trade. A fascinating website.




We’ve grown used to the BBC World News but have you tried their excellent website? Featuring information gathered by correspondents from all over the globe this site holds a mountain of information, but it is easy to navigate and will be of interest to people of all age groups. Of special interest is the BBC Science and Nature sections with the latest environmental information, reports, issues, background and inter-active games. You can also access the BBC’s extensive radio and television archives.

Originally known as the World Wildlife Fund, WWF International is the global conservation organisation with the symbol of the panda. Active since 1961, WWF has been one of the more successful organisations working for “nature’s special places”. This site provides in-depth information on

environmental issues and campaigns, including action on the ground and advocacy work with governments and the private sector. WWF’s current campaigns echo those of Greenpeace, but they take a different approach.


MOVIES WE LIKE Movies with environmental undercurrents in this issue have a common theme: man’s relationship with nature, the unknown, and man. Mark Meredith shares six favourites.

Deliverance (1972) Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox/director John Boorman Four city slickers spend a long week-end far from civilisation shooting Appalachian rapids on a canoeing trip in the Georgian wilderness. Dangerous as the untamed countryside can be, it’s nothing compared to some of the inhabitants — fellow humans in the form of redneck Hillbillies with more than a touch of in-breeding. A terrific atmospheric adult thriller, disturbingly dark and malevolent, carried by a dazzling soundtrack (Dueling Banjos) and excellent performances from the four buddies, especially Burt Reynolds in his best ever role. Will you want to go down to the woods today? After this, probably not.

original novel. Lord Jack Clayton and his pregnant wife Alice are shipwrecked off the coast of Africa. They survive a while in the hostile jungle, dying after the birth of their son John (Tarzan). The baby is found and adopted by a family of apes and grows up shaped by a simian society until, one day, he rescues a Frenchman, the last survivor of a party of white hunters. Captain D’Arnot takes Tarzan back to England. His table manners don’t go down terribly well in high Victorian society. And Tarzan’s not too partial of society, either, especially after he finds his ape foster father in a science lab at London Zoo. Stunning jungle cinema-tography, realistic apes and a sad, accurate depiction of man’s exploitation and cruelty. No, Homo sapiens, doesn’t come across too well at all.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) Ian Holm, Christopher Lambert, Andie MacDowell, Ralph Richardson, James Fox/director Hugh Hudson The most faithful, and the best version by some distance, of Edgar Rice Burroughs’

Alien – Director’s Cut (2003) Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Ian Holm / director Ridley Scott

“In space no one can hear you scream.” Probably the greatest sci-fi horror flick of all time. It spawned three sequels . . . so far. Not even James Cameron’s brilliant action sequences and special effects-laden fireworks in Aliens holds a candle to the grotesque design and terrifying imagination of the original. A cargo ship intercepts a distress signal from a nearby planet. They find a crashed mothership with an interior like the rotting carcass of some huge beast, laden with eggs. Inadvertently, a deadly life-form which needs a human host is brought back on board their ship that picks the crew off one at a time. Superb use of shadows and claustrophobic tension with the most famous stomach-churning sequence in cinema history. Ridley Scott’s 25th Anniversary Director’s Cut shaves 40 seconds off the 1970’s original, tweaking and polishing it to perfection.

Walkabout (1971) Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, Luc Roeg/ director Nicholas Roeg A teenage girl and her little brother are driven from the suburbs far into the Australian outback by their crazed father. He burns the car and shoots himself leaving the two children abandoned in the scorched wilderness. They meet an Aborigine on his “walk-about”, a rite of passage in which adolescent males go out into the outback to live on the land for six months. He shows them how to find water, catch food, survive. They can’t communicate, but an unspoken attraction grows between the black man and the white girl, each of their worlds as distant to the other as a rain cloud in the blue Antipodean sky. Roeg aims his camera at the land and strange, deadly creatures that live there, drawing the viewer into a landscape of rare beauty hiding a savage heart. Gorgeous imagery and music can’t lessen the cruelty of this environment. The outback has never seemed so real. “A meditation on the corruption of civilization and the terrifying purity of wildness,” mused one critic.

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moving climatic effect to instantaneous climax but by obliterating Los Angles with tornadoes, pelting Japanese with hailstones the size of breadfruits, and sinking New York in a terrifying tidal wave before the onslaught of a hemispherical temperature drop of 10 degrees a second, all within a number of days? The science may be dicey but the message isn’t. Good to see the cinema tackling climate change so spectacularly. There’s enough material out there for a whole new genre. Finding Nemo (2003) Voices of: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, William Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush/ director Andrew Stanton


By Mark Meredith

The story of a clown fish (“bet he’s good at jokes”) who sets out to find his son Nemo who has been kidnapped from the reef to live in the tropical fish tank of a Sydney dentist. This hilarious, yet thought provoking tale of life in the oceans and behind glass is the most successful animated feature ever, with Pixar’s computer wizardry reaching new heights: the overhead view of a shark effortlessly cruising over the seabed is one of many wonderful images that illustrate the film’s marvelous attention to detail — all the animators had to take scuba lessons. We journey from light dappled coral reefs, through clear deep ocean currents to the nutrient filled greens of Sydney Harbour meeting some wonderful creatures along the way. You’ll never look at your fish tank the same way again.

rocky shore (see Nature Notes) and terrestrial vegetation diminishes our biodiversity and dilutes our inheritance. Beaches and Bays attempts to enrich us through appreciation. Fifty three wonderful beaches and secluded bays are described in detail on their own page and illustrated with attractive photos. Symbols under each entry denote facilities such as toilets, car park, food and picnic areas. The safe side of a fun day out is highlighted by symbols denoting suitable swimming beaches, whether there are life guards and rip currents. The text includes a chapter on Safety at Beaches with rip current diagrams. Geographical directions and a fold-out map of the featured beaches complete an invaluable reference for any resident or visitor wanting to explore T&T’s Beaches and Bays. It should also be tried out by the other markets targeted by the IMA: the Town and Country Planning Department, other Governement agencies and ministries, as well as developers and their contractors.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004) Dennis Quaid, Ian Holm, Jake Gyllenhaal / director Roland Emmerich Hollywood takes on the consequences of climate change in cataclysmic style. Well, how else do you bring a slow

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“Yet they felt the sea-wind tying them into one nation of eyes and shadows and groans, in the one pain that is inconsolable, the loss of one’s shore.” You’ll find Derek Walcott’s words in Omeros highlighted in the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) “A Guide to Beaches and Bays of Trinidad and Tobago”. Published early last year and sponsored by Yara Trinidad Ltd, the IMA guide seeks to bring out in us the bond that drew our ancestors together in appreciation of our precious coastline. The loss of one’s shore is a painful occurrence that can never truly be undone. Nevertheless, in some areas of T&T, we are doing our best to accomplish this: man-made coastal structures, pollution, sandmining, erosion and siltation, all of these activities and consequences interfere with nature’s coastal dynamics. Messing with wetlands, golden sand, the


A Guide to Beaches and Bays of Trinidad and Tobago by Institute of Marine Affairs

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Fellowship of the Ring; The Two Towers; Return of the King, by JRR Tolkein (Harper Collins)

“First and foremost, Lord of the Rings is a myth for the modern world, and like all genuine myths it has a sort of elasticity that allows readers to find in it whatever message they’re looking for. It resonates with Conservatives and Greens, software designers and Luddites, monarchists and anarchists, devout Christians and tree worshippers,” said Andrew O’Hehir writing in the Sunday Times Magazine.

When he was eight he lost his green fields and wooded dales, golden seas of swaying barley and sagging apple boughs, meandering streams and village ponds when his widowed mother moved them to Birmingham. Tolkein loathed the city. He was never to return to those halcyon days of his early youth. When eventually he saw his beloved hamlet of Sarehole again it had been swallowed up by suburban sprawl and industrialisation. It is said to have spawned in Tolkein a life-long hatred of modern things: cars, smog, noise, machinery and roads. The death of two of his closest friends in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and his experience in the trenches fuelled his abhorrence of war, of which Lord of The Rings has aplenty: the “destruction of the race of Men” being a central purpose. The book was first published in 1955, 10 years after the discovery of Nazi death camps by the Allies. The slag heaps, fires and poisoned streams of Mordor; Sauron’s dark, destructive forces: industrial anarchists, totalitarian usurpers, destroyers of Nature all. The Hobbits’ journey from Paradise to the doors of Doomsday echoes our own epic voyage of bounteous sanctuary to inglorious uncertainty. The loss of innocence and the rural idyll is captured most tellingly in the famous penultimate chapter of Return of the King, ‘The Scouring of the Shire’. It was left out of Jackson’s movie, maybe because it would have cluttered his perfectly paced and structured conclusion. It tells of Frodo, Samwise, Pippin and Merry — the latter two now uncommonly large for Hobbits after they drank the life-enhancing waters found in the forest of the ancient Ents — returning to the Shire after their conquest of the One Ring, to find friendly faces displaced by ruffians and thugs, imported gangs of villainous Men, and rule by intimidation and brutality. Worse, their beloved Shire has vanished and in its place is something that makes brave, strong Samwise cry: “It was one of the saddest hours of their lives. The great chimney rose up before them; and as they drew near the old village across the Water, through rows of new mean houses along each side of the road, they saw the new mill in all its frowning and dirty ugliness: a great brick building straddling the stream, which it fouled with a steaming and stinking outflow. All along the Bywater Road every tree had been felled. The Old Grange had been knocked down, and its place taken by rows of tarred sheds. All the chestnuts had gone. The banks and hedgerows were broken. Bagshot Row

was a yawning sand and gravel quarry. ‘They’ve cut it down!’ cried Sam. ‘They’ve cut down the Party Tree!’” As Andrew O’Hehir so accurately put it: “Tolkein thought the modern age had robbed the world of its mystery, its morality, and its sense of meaning. If he could have thrown it back into the fire where it was forged, he would have done so gladly. The power of this strange and troubled book lies in the fact that a great many of us wish, or half wish, that the One Ring encircling us all could be unmade, and lament the fact that it cannot.”

JUST DO IT By Natasha Ramnauth

In keeping with Samaan’s marine theme, we take a look at some organisations at work in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean for the conservation of our marine areas and the species that depend on them — which includes us. So why not get involved?


Like a great many people, I suspect, I only came to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy after I saw The Fellowship of the Ring. I had put it off since childhood. Why on earth did I wait so long? Marvellous as Peter Jackson’s version is, his films could never capture the eloquence of JRR Tolkein’s writing or the extent of his astonishing imagination, not in 10 hours or a dozen 3-hour sequels. I wasn’t looking for a message in the books, other than good versus evil portrayed so effectively in the films, but I soon found one. And it was green, very green. Apart from the Ents — the walking talking trees that carry Merry and Pippin to Saruman’s fortress at Isengard to douse the fires fuelled by the Ents’ relatives, the oaks — there is no indi-cation in the films of the profound importance to Tolkein of the natural environment so evocative and evident in his prose. “Tom’s words laid bare the hearts of trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers.” The tale of four plucky little Hobbits on a journey from the pastoral bliss of the Shire to its antithesis in the waste-lands of Mordor in order to destroy a malevolent ring in the fires of Mount Doom is an epic, totally involving travel adventure in Tolkein’s magical hands — with as many messages as you want; the books were a bible of 1960’s counterculture. The dramatic geography of Middle Earth is so real, described with such loving detail you can smell the heather, hear the wind rustling leaves along the winding river, feel the storm clouds billowing up over the downs spilling laden rain down your neck, and sense the relief blue skies that follow bring. “A golden afternoon of late sunshine lay warm and drowsy upon the hidden land between. In the midst of it there wound lazily a dark river of brown water, bordered with ancient willows, arched over with willows, blocked with fallen willows, and flecked with thou-sands of faded willow-leaves. The air was thick with them, fluttering yellow from the branches; for there was a warm and gentle breeze blowing softly in the valley, and the reeds were rustling, and the willow-boughs were creaking.” The true location of the Hobbits’ home, the Shire, is the idyllic English Midlands countryside of Warwickshire of the late 19th century where Tolkein spent his early childhood.

Nature Seekers started as a training initiative of the Forestry Division in Trinidad and has been in existence since 1990. Members of the NGO come from the community of Matura where they have volunteered their time to patrol its famous leather-back turtle nesting beaches, one of the most significant nesting sites in the world. In the past sea turtles fell prey to poachers and predators endangering its status as a nesting area. Matura residents felt that people outside of the community were depleting their resources and it was up to them to get involved in its protection. Nature Seekers still works in collaboration with the Forestry Division to limit the damage done by human incursion. Currently their website is under development but they can be e-mailed at The Buccoo Reef Trust is working towards the expansion of capacity building,

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education, and research to protect the marine environment of Tobago, with emphasis on public outreach, ecotourism, and the preservation and enhancement of Tobago’s once renowned reef of the same name. They are embarking on a “demarcation of reefs programme” — putting up floating equivalents of noparking signs to boat owners. You can read about their programmes and a great deal more in their Out of the Blue newsletter, or on the Trust’s excellent website: In our last issue we featured Save Our Sea Turtles Tobago (SOS Tobago). Recent news stories have highlighted the continuing perils facing sea turtles in Tobago and the work being done by this organisation to protect their marine environment. SOS Tobago is actively lobbying for the protection of Tobago’s Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles which are subject to an “open season” for hunting due to local legislative loopholes. SOS have been receiving vocal support from the international community, but they still need your help. To see how you can assist log on to their Trinidad Marine Conservation Network is a new University of the West Indiesbased organisation devoted to research, education and lobbying for the preservation of the local marine environment. These new kids on the block have already collaborated on a paper on the history of whaling in Trinidad and Tobago and are developing a marine watch manual. TMCN’s focus is on marine mammals including manatees, whales and dolphins, and they have been actively networking with local, regional and international NGO’s and agencies. You can contact them at 623-5559 or send e-mail to The Portland Bight Reserve in Jamaica came into being on Earth Day 1999 as the largest protected area on the island, consisting of 1,876 square kilometres of which 1,356 sq km is marine. It is home to many bird species, hawksbill turtles, bottle nosed dolphins and porpoises, sperm and pilot whales. The area is comanaged by the Jamaica Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) in collaboration with several government agencies. C-CAM applies “a collaborative approach” which has put C-CAM and the PBPA on the cutting edge of natural resource management, they say. The stated mandate is to “to create a situation where humanity and nature can co-exist peacefully and with mutual respect, and where people can make a decent living.”

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For more information log on to or The Barbados Marine Trust is dedicated to promoting environmentally and socially sustainable use of marine areas. Their membership encompasses stakeholders, interest groups, business people and school children. They see themselves as playing a vital role in assisting the Government in implementing marine

management initiatives. Projects include the development of a Marine Plan for the island of Barbados, educational programmes for the community, children and visitors to the island, renewal of existing reef structures and their current success story; the construction of artificial reefs and reef balls. BMT has a comprehensive up to date website with project details:

It is believed we know scarcely 15% of animal and plant species alive today, and most of those that we are driving to extinction will vanish without us ever having known they were here.


We paved paradise... One million species face extinction by 2050





ver wondered what life will be like on planet Earth in 2020, or 2032, or even at the end of this century? It is said that if one were to compress the timespan of life on Earth from its beginnings to the present day into 24 hours, mankind arrived 10 seconds before midnight. During the last millisecond of that 24-hour period one of the largest wave of extinctions since the demise of the dinosaurs has been taking place, gathering frightening pace. According to a January 2004 report by the science journal Nature, climate change could drive a million of the world’s land-based species to extinction as soon as 2050. Their study of six world regions suggested a quarter of all animals and plants living on the land could be forced into oblivion. We are losing species we do not even know exist, which could be vital to our survival. Research showed that if mankind continues to burn oil, coal and gas at the current rate, up to one third of all life forms will be doomed by 2050. The report shocked the scientists who compiled it. Professor Chris Thomas, lead author of research from four continents, described the results as “terrifying”. It took two years to assess the effect of climate change on the six biologically diverse regions, including 20 % of the earth’s land surface, by a global collaboration of experts. Computer models simulated how the ranges of 1,103 species — plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, butterflies and other invertebrates — are expected to move in response to changing temperatures and climate. Assessing whether, in fact, they were able to move at all.

Birds may have the greatest chance of escape to a suitable climate, but the trees and habitats they needed for survival could not keep pace and all would die. Europe’s projected bird extinction rate is 25% says the report, while Brazil could lose 4,400 plant species. The scientists looked at three different scenarios: minimum, midrange, and maximum expected climate change based on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They concluded that 15% to 37% of all the species in regions studied could be driven to extinction by climate change. Professor Thomas, writing in the UK Guardian under a front page banner headline “An unnatural disaster”, commented that: “Causing such perturbation to the Earth’s life systems is likely to have huge consequences. There is some irony in so many resources being spent on trying to find life on Mars while we continue to extinguish it so successfully on our own planet.” The United Nations said the prospect is a threat to billions of

“There is some irony in so many resources being spent on trying to find life on Mars while we continue to extinguish it so successfully on our own planet”

FACING PAGE: Shark fins litter the deck of a ship in Yemen. For soup. The rest of the creature is discarded, like the remains lying on a Yemeni rubbish tip, overleaf.

ABOVE: Oil-covered caiman, Godineau Swamp, south-west Trinidad.



people who rely on nature for their survival. The UK Government’s chief scientist added that climate change is a far worse threat than international terrorism, later acknowledged by the Pentagon which has told President Bush in a report that climate change will “destroy us all”. But climate change is only one of many factors, scientists say, supporting the belief that “the world is on the breaking crest of the sixth great wave of extinctions”. A spate of reports was released ahead of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa in the hope the world’s leaders would be shocked into acting to avoid the bleak scenarios that were presented to them. The destruction of 70% of the natural world in 30 years for roads, mining and cities; the mass extinction of species; and the collapse of human society were forecast by a group of 1,100 scientists. The 2002 Global Environment Outlook, compiled for the United Nations, charted environmental destruction over the last 30 years, looking forward to 2032. It warned that the world has to change its “markets first” approach. Or else. The current pattern of free trade and short-term profit at the expense of the environment would lead to disaster, they forecast. The 2005 Millennium Ecosytem Assesment, conducted by 1,300 experts from 95 countries, revealed that 60% of the ecosytem services supporting life on Earth (water, air, fisheries etc) are being degraded or used unsustainably. Detail from these portraits of planet Earth, circa today and the not very distant future, is featured on the following pages. Hello? Is anybody listening?

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• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

structure will disrupt wildlife breeding patterns and wipe out species, particularly in coastal areas. At least 15% of the Earth’s surface is already degraded by human activities. Extinction of species is now (2002) reaching 12% of birds (1,183 species), a quarter of all mammals (approx 1,130 species), 5% of fish, and 8% of plants. There may be as few as 20,000 lions left across the whole of Africa. 60% of species under the protection of South Africa’s Kruger National Park risk extinction, and 54% of Australia’s butterflies, because of climate change. On current (2002) trends, by 2025, 15% of all forest species will be extinct. Brazil will lose 4,400 plant species. The world lost almost 10% of its forests in the past 10 years. Currently, forest covering 2 football pitches is lost every minute. In Latin America and the Caribbean, home of 25% of the world’s forest cover and 178 regions of special biodiversity, the situation is already critical in 31 of them. The causes: habitat loss, land degradation, land use change, deforestation and marine pollution. Coral reefs have been damaged more in the last 20 years than they have in the last 1,000. Of 1,107 reefs surveyed worldwide, just one, near Madagascar, was considered pristine. A third of all coral reefs are expected to vanish in the next 30 years. 60% of the world’s population lives in ecologically vulnerable areas. Nearly 50% of all fish stocks are fully exploited, 20% are overexploited. Only 2% of global fisheries are recovering from over fishing. There are 2.2 billion more mouths to feed than in 1972, and there will be 2 billion more in 30 years. 10% of land on which to grow food is lost because of soil degradation. Overgrazing causes 35% of soil degradation, deforestation 30%, agriculture 27%. Already 40% of the world is short of fresh water, and in 30 years this will rise to 50%. In west Asia this will rise to 90%. Half the world’s rivers are seriously depleted and polluted. About 60% of the 227 biggest are disrupted by dams and other engineering works. There are 4 billion cases of diarrhoea causing 2.2 million deaths a year. Over the next 17 years, global energy use is expected to expand by more than 50%, and by more than 100% in China, east Asia and the former Soviet Union. The non-renewable fossil fuel resource base is expected to be sufficient to meet demand to 2020. Problems beyond that point are foreseen for natural gas and possibly oil. 2004 reports forecast oil to dry up by 2040. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could double by 2050. 3 million people currently die each year due to air pollution. OECD countries (group of world’s richest 22 countries) subsidise the emission of global warming gases by $57bn — almost exactly what is estimated it would cost to meet international targets. The number of people affected by weather related disasters has risen from 147 million a year to 211 million in 10 years. A fifth of the world’s population is responsible for 90% of consumption. Two thirds of the population, about 4 billion people, live on less than $2 a day. More than a billion urban dwellers, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, live in slums. Another billion people will be living in cities by 2010. 80% of global finance flows went to rich countries in 2000, with the entire African continent receiving less than 1% of direct foreign investment. Sources:;;


Photographs with a marine theme by Alex Smailes


species face extinction by 2050 because of global warming. • 1Onemillion third forms will vanish by 2050 if fossil fuels continue to • be burnedofatallthelifepresent rate. 30 years 70% of the Earth’s surface will be suffering the severe • Inimpacts of man’s activities: roads, power lines, airports and other infra-

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There will be 19 million cruise passenger visits to Caribbean destinations in 2005, says the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Cruising for a bruising? The average person throws away 1,500 pounds of garbage each year.


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hey are vast emporiums of pleasure, floating cities that carry millions of people a year to the world’s most sensitive marine ecosystems. And, according to the US-based environmental group Ocean Conservancy, they are leaving a trail of pollution in their wake with disastrous consequences for areas like vulnerable Caribbean reefs and serene Alaskan sounds.

The cruise ship holiday is the fastest growing sector of the global tourism industry, and the Caribbean is one of its most crowded ports of call. The global cruise liner figure was forecast to be about 300 by 2005, all of them looking for exciting, unspoilt destinations. And the ships are getting enormous. Titanic has long been dwarfed. Many of this new generation of

super-liners are 20 storeys high, over 1,000 ft long and carry 3,000 to 5,000 souls. The recently launched Queen Mary II carries 2,620 passengers and 1,200 crew in its 23 storeys. Sea air galvanises the appetite. On P&O’s Oriana, for a 14-day cruise, the 2,616 passengers and crew will consume 116,550 main meals, 3,800 bottles of champagne, and 33,000 beers. And their waste?

A typical cruise ship’s daily waste output includes, says Ocean Conservancy’s study, 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water; 30,000 gallons of sewage; 255,000 gallons of waste water (showers, laundry, dishwashing etc); 15 gallons of toxic waste from photo processing, painting and dry cleaning; seven tons of rubbish; and smokestack and exhaust emissions equivalent to 12,000 cars.

Caribbean reefs are affected, some believe, not only by oil spills, bilgewater, and other dangerous waste, but also by supposedly “harmless” grey water — the by-product of thousands of baths, showers, and other cleaning activities. The Ocean Conservancy study found that the amount of waste generated by each cruise passenger was far greater than that created by

a vacation on land. The per capita pollution generated by these floating cities was actually worse than a city of the same size due to weak pollution laws, lax enforcement, and the difficulty of detecting illegal discharges at sea — the US Coast Guard devotes less than 1% of its total aircraft surveillance to environmental protection. The cruise ship industry’s

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environmental record is poor and compounded by deception. Between 1993 and 1998, cruise ships were involved in 87 cases of illegal discharge of oil, garbage and hazardous waste into US waters, paying US$30 million in fines. Some cases involved multiple incidents of illegal dumping that numbered in the hundreds. In 1999 Royal Caribbean Cruises admitted 21 charges of polluting the ocean, including dumping toxic waste into the sea off Alaska, Puerto Rico and Florida. In 2001 they admitted in court to installing special piping to bypass pollution control devices and pleaded guilty to dumping toxic chemicals. They were fined $33.5 million to settle complaints between 1994 and 1998. Carnival Corporation (parent company of Cunard) were slapped with a US$18 million fine for pleading guilty to falsifying records to cover up pollution on six ships. How much has been dumped and what damage done over the decades to the marine environment in the cruise industry’s favoured playground of the Caribbean? You may well ask. International treaties and conventions exist that govern pollution from ship-based sources. The most important of these are the 1983 Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean (Cartagena Convention), and the 1978 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (Marpol Protocol). The latter specifically governs the cruise ship industry — about 77 per cent of all ship waste comes from cruise vessels. The Caribbean region is designated a “special area” under Annex V of the Marpol Protocol due to its unique ecological considerations, putting us on a par with Antarctica and the Red Sea. But few Caribbean countries have signed up to Marpol, instead “accepting” various Annexes of the Protocol. Not one Caribbean country, for instance, has accepted Annex I which sets regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil. Annex V of Marpol governs the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships, and this bans the dumping into the sea of all forms of plastic. It stipulates how far from

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“But out at sea, beyond the breakers and limited resources of Caribbean coastguards, any number of conventions will not stop what the eye cannot see”

land and in what manner garbage can be disposed. Annex V requires that countries have ports capable of receiving such waste — which presents a major problem for cashstrapped Caribbean islands. Marpol also provides a legal framework to deal with polluters. But according to the UN’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) website, only Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname have accepted Annex V. Cruise-friendly Bahamas and Barbados have accepted Annex IV only, the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships. For many international conventions to have force on a national basis, new domestic legislation often has to be drafted or existing legislation amended. Trinidad and Tobago’s Parliament recently debated the Shipping (Marine Pollution) Bill, which will implement Marpol and other marine conventions. But out at sea, beyond the breakers and limited resources of Caribbean coastguards, any number of conventions will not stop what the eye cannot see. The cruise ship industry prefers self-regulation, especially regarding environmental and pollution requirements. But history has shown that the trust bestowed has not always been repaid in kind. Nineteen million cruise visits to the Caribbean are forecast in 2005; hundreds of thousands of passengers to be dumped in regional ports every month. But few of these countries can manage their own waste, let alone that from ships, says Frank Campbell, former Guyanese Ambassador to Cuba. Many cruise ships, in fact, have higher standards than the countries they visit, he adds. Protection for this Special Area of the Caribbean will exist only on paper as long as the region lacks adequate facilities to receive the waste on land, he says. An environmental levy on each passenger to the Caribbean, which could help fund such infrastructure, was scuttled by the cruise lines. Useful websites:

Committed to corporate responsibility‌Environmentally conscious.


More than 80% of a typical household’s garbage is recyclable

GAIL ALEXANDER reports on a 21st century curse and efforts in Trinidad and Tobago to deal with it.

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hat’s small, durable, handy, found everywhere around T&T, more ubiquitous than ants, and is a right royal pain to get rid of? You guessed it. These days there are often more plastic bottles of every shape and size, along with general trash, competing for space on sand and grass at beaches and picnic sites than people. Despite the best efforts of occasional

PLASTIC clean-up campaigners, our beaches still suffer the 21st century curse of plastic, trash, and inconsideration. The very popular “Chagville” strip in Chaguaramas is a woefully sad case in point, where the narrow beach — already beset by many small rocks and stones — is also chock-a-block with trash and bottles. The journey of any plastic bottle thrown from a passing car window is

a circuitous one. It lands on land, is washed into drains, canals, and rivers to end up bobbing up and down upon the sparkling ocean. Currents distribute the flotsam everywhere along the way. Especially hard hit are Chaguaramas, “down-the-islands”, and as far as the sand strips of Chacachacare island. All get liberal coatings of bottles daily. Plastics in all forms, including



Plastic bottles coat the shores of Chacachacare Island.

bottles in the ocean, are estimated to kill as many as a million marine creatures a year. Turtles and large fish often try to swallow floating items including plastic bags and small bottles, mistaking them for lunch. Often their last lunch. Plastics may be seen as the most versatile group of materials used in packaging, but the bad news is that a plastic bottle can take decades,

sometimes generations or more, to decompose and integrate with the environment, depending on the conditions around it. Evidence is clear just how big the problem has become in T&T over the last couple of decades. The growth in volume on the country’s landscape has not been noted by environmentalists alone. “Our records in the plastic industry

show that as many as 18,010 metric tonnes of bottles are to be found in landfills and as litter in T&T per year,” said industrialist Richard Tang, a plastics manufacturer. “That’s as much as 162 million onelitre bottles and 266 million 500-ml bottles annually. “This much of a number can certainly build a downstream recycling industry,” Tang argued. He is among

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plastics industry representatives who have advocated laws to govern the issue of plastic bottles and relevant recycling. The days of plastic problems may be numbered, thanks to an innocuous-sounding piece of proposed legislation known as the Beverage Container Bill. A four-year-old Government plan to deal with plastic bottles may finally kick into high gear soon, when the legislation relevant to the collection and recycling of plastic bottles gets ready to head for Parliament. An initiative to deal with the mounting problem was announced in the Prime Minister’s 2002-2003 Budget package. Government revealed plans to “reintroduce lapsed pieces of legislation”, such as those covering Water Pollution Rules and beveragecontainer deposits, as well as others concerning industrial pollution and recycling of waste. That measure was one of last year’s promises which so far hasn’t materialised. The idea — known as the Beverage Container legislation — involved stemming the rising tide of plastic waste and facilitating easier collection via a small deposit sum for purchasers of such bottles. This would then be returned to the buyer if the bottle was returned . At the time the idea arose, discussions were held with bottled -product manufacturers and plastics industry representatives. But legislation never reached Parliament, former UNC Environment Minister Adesh Nanan said last year. The Beverage Container legislation would have included a recycling plant and landfill sites in a downstream industry phase to accommodate the broken-down product. It was also proposed that landfills be privately managed, according to Nanan. But the project hit a snag when manufacturers voiced concerns about the need for time to implement the necessary organisational structures in their companies to accommodate the Bill’s stipulations. Then the UNC demitted office. The PNM Government has since been working more or less along the same lines of the original legislation, said former Environment Minister Rennie Dumas in February 2004. His successor Penelope Beckles has reaffirmed the decision on the legislation. Ministry officials said she plans to push through as many environmental laws as possible,

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including Water Pollution Rules. In February 2004, according to an adviser at that Ministry, the Bill was receiving “priority attention in terms of fine-tuning”. Richard Tang and other plastics industry representatives hope they will have some input in the initiative under the current administration. “One important thing must be noted: legislation alone cannot adequately deal with the huge plasticbottle problem in T&T,” said Tang. “Any sort of law will also require mechanisms for ensuring that the bottles do not find themselves back in circulation and the environment.” That mechanism, he suggested, must involve a recycling plant. “And this is where the industry can assist with advice or input,” he added. Indeed, Tang confirmed that in-dustry members had already done a comprehensive feasibility study on a recycling plant. Plastic needs to go where glass has already gone. Carib Glass set the pace as the first manufacturing company to provide door-to-door collection of the glass product it manufactures. Carib recycles 40 per cent of the total amount of glass which it puts into the local market. Waste products are crushed and melted down to form new bottles or jars. Daily output figures are just over three quarters of a million bottles, with supply recirculating to major companies. Meanwhile, if the Government seriously intends to make good on launching its environment protection programme, the problems so far posed by glass’s more commonplace cousin, plastic, must now come under control.

PLASTIC-CONTAINER WASTE FLOW Imported resins go to plastic converters, become manufactured goods for consumers, ending up as waste destined for landfills or to litter on the land and sea. Plastic Resin (HDPE Blow type) used for bottles and various products is estimated at 12,000 metric tonnes annually in T&T. Plastic Resin (PET Blow Type) used for bottled soft drinks, water and food containers is estimated at 9,000 metric tonnes annually in T&T.

SAVE T&T FROM BOTTLE DEATH 1. Do not throw any kind of litter on the beach, picnic sites, or anywhere outdoors! Take along a garbage bag when packing for outings. 2. Save your litter. Stack it all together, and place in one bag or paper and take it with you when you leave the beach if the bins are full or absent altogether. 3. If you find bottles or aluminium cans on the beach or picnic sites, bring them home for recycling or garbage collection. 4. Clean drains in and around ypur property regularly, pulling out plastic bottles for garbage disposal, rather than sweeping them away. 5. Encourage recycling of plastic bottles within the home and community via handicraft and other methods of reuse. 6. Spare a thought when you’re through with that plastic bottle: that it could eventually, one day, have a bigger effect on your life, lifestyle and environment beyond its simple contents.


BY GAIL ALEXANDER ioration of our protective ozone shield. The result: holes in the layer and seepage of extra UV rays with corresponding worldwide increases in cases of skin cancer. Ozone depletion is most severe over the South Pole, with its edges extending beyond Antarctica and to the tip of South America. Estimates in the last couple of years reveal the ozone layer is being depleted at a rate of four to six per cent each decade. People most susceptible to skin cancer are those with thinner, lightcoloured skin and eyes, and/or from a North European background. Persons with dark, thick skin like most Caribbean people, are also at risk, but to a slightly less extent, the experts say. Tanning is an indication that the skin has been injured by the sun. The amount of sunlight a person can safely tolerate, dermatologists reckon, depends largely on the thickness of the skin. As a defensive mechanism to damaging UV rays, the skin produces a pigment called melanin which provides some protection in preventing skin cancer. Sun damage reveals itself in the form of freckles, uneven skin tone, wrinkles and, in the worst cases, skin cancer lesions. For both men and women, the damage manifests itself most significantly in middle age when hormones dip. Some local experts suggest that

“If it seems the sun’s rays are stronger and brighter now more than they were 10 and 20 years ago, well, they probably are”




ew Zealand director Baz Lurhmann (of Moulin Rouge fame) reminded us about its value in a musical treatise for living life in the 21st century. Writer Kurt Vonnegut, reported to have written the advice, is also said to have advocated it in an address to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduating class of 1998. The word from both gentlemen — wear sunscreen. It’s advice which doctors, scientists and beauticians all agree on. For those of us in the sweet — and hot — Caribbean, if it seems the sun’s rays are stronger and brighter now than they were 10 or 20 years ago, well, they probably are. Umbrellas abound past 8 am and they’re no longer rainy-day gear either. Vehicle tints get darker and darker, to the delight of the bandits and to the consternation of the authorities. But neither precaution will help prevent sun damage to a great extent, experts warn. And such damage, they say, begins to take place after only eight minutes in the sun. Sunscreens and sunblocks used generously may help prevent skin aging and many skin cancers, studies confirm. Many cosmetics on the market today, from face creams to lipstick, also include some minimal form of sunscreen/block. Health experts agree that excessive exposure to the sun’s rays can cause skin cancer and break down collagen in the skin, hastening signs of ageing. The ozone layer — a colourless gas layered between 15 km and 35 km above the earth’s surface — absorbs the sun’s harmful ultra violet radiation. But industrial chemicals — including coolants used in fridges and air-conditioners — and other chemicals and pesticides have, over the decades, caused deter-

(a) Persons spending a lot of time outdoors. (b) Persons near the equator (as we are in T&T), or at high altitudes. (c) Those with a family history of skin cancer or who were treated for it. (d) Persons with fair skin, blonde, red or light coloured-hair ; blue, green or gray eyes. (e) Persons with freckles, or those who burn before tanning. (f) Those who work indoors all week and tan on weekends. (g) People who take medications - acne medicines, antibiotics or oral contraceptives containing estrogen. (h) Users of cosmetics containing Retinol are also advised to use sunscreens. (i) The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 3 pm.

T&T folk should use at least a 15 Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Although there are sunscreens with an SFP of 50, in 1993 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggested 30 as the upper SPF limit. This level was advised since it was felt that anything above this offers little benefit and might expose people to dangerous levels of chemicals. The debate is also on regarding whether sunscreens and blocks protect against melanoma and some more common skin cancers. But, by and large, sunscreens are suggested in combination with other protective measures. Hats and clothing are said to protect even better than sunscreens. Your sunscreen must be applied liberally for proper effect. It should contain a wide spectrum of UVA blocking ingredients including Parsol 1789. Sunblocks prevent nearly all UVA and UVB rays from reaching the skin. But to be fully protective, they must contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Several are white and pasty; others transparent. Sunscreen and blocks should not be used on babies under six months as their bodies may not be able to handle chemicals found in such a product. Don't keep your children in the sun for prolonged periods — because they do burn and can burn badly — or use hats, loose clothing and umbrellas. Also remember that sunblock over a year old will have started to deteriorate and will have diminished benefits. Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and A can assist and are known to accelerate cell turnover, improving the smoothness of sun-kissed skin. But, as Baz Lurhmann and Kurt Vonnegut have said: “Trust me on the sunscreen.”

Less than one per cent of the world’s 250,000 tropical plants has been screened for potential pharmaceutical applications



what’s your – s n e f e act r c s or n u


SUNBURN AND TANNING HISTORY ARE THE MAIN FACTORS IN SELECTING SUNSCREEN. • Persons who always burn easily and rarely tan should use an SPF of 20 to 30. • Those who burn easily and tan minimally - 12 to under 20. • Pesons who burn moderately and tan gradually - 8 to 12. • Those who burn minimally and always tan well - 4 to 8. • People who rarely burn and tan profusely - 2 to 4.

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Around the world, as many as 25 million people are injured or killed by pesticides each year


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“Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment” UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (UNEP) BY MARK MEREDITH PHOTO: ALEX SMAILES


he “Dirty Dozen” are among the deadliest pollutants mankind has released into the environment in his quest to control nature and the waste generated by modern living. Now we are paying the price. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), many of which are listed as probable carcinogens, have been found everywhere from the icy Arctic to warm human breast milk. They can travel from one part of the world to another through the air as water vapour, falling as rain or snow, and through rivers and streams in a process called the “grasshopper effect”, leaping from one continent to another. In the United States it has been estimated that three out of every ten persons can expect to contract some form of cancer, and that 98 per cent of those cases can be directly attributed to the exposure to harmful chemical pollutants like pesticides. Some 70,000 different chemicals are used worldwide on a daily basis. Between 1956 and 1982, approximately 4 million distinct chemical mixtures were created, with an additional 6,000 new formulations being generated on a weekly basis. Countries around the globe belatedly decided urgent action was required. The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants aims to eliminate the use of POPs, controlling the production, import, export, disposal, and use of these toxic chemicals. It establishes tough international controls on an initial cluster of 12 chemicals (nine are pesticides), of which most are subject to an immediate ban, and targets a number of others. On May 17th, 2004 the Treaty came into force. There are 151 signatory countries, and 59 parties to the Convention. Trinidad and Tobago acceded to the Treaty in December 2002. Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent and The Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis are not listed as parties, or signed up. Trinidad and Tobago, like many developing countries, is awash with chemicals and rising cancer rates. Our POPs can also be found in traffic and waste incineration fumes, industrial by-products, and through the overzealous application of pesticides. In Trinidad and Tobago the importation of chemicals and pesticides is controlled by a register of permitted

substances approved by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB). None of the Dirty Dozen exist on the official register as permitted substances, said a Board spokesman, though he conceded that didn’t mean they don’t exist here. Ernst Neering, a resident Dutch specialist in eco-friendly pest management, told Samaan that, during his tenure training farmers in Aranguez in Trinidad, he discovered no ants in the soil of a large field of vegetables. Not one. Rows of cabbages in another field that at night should have been festooned with spiders and their webs were anything but. Just a half-dozen lonely arachnids looking for a meal. He was horrified. What chemicals are we ingesting through our food and water? You might as well ask: how long is a bed of carrots? Shelves of shiny, spotless cabbages in our supermarkets are the most visible signs of the insidious power of pesticides. Whether the infamous 12, or any

number of their dangerous cousins, you can be sure that when the ubi-quitous ant goes AWOL in the food basket of Trinidad something is not quite right. Pesticides may be invisible footprints to us; in reality, they’re an avalanche of trampling beasts stampeding through the vegetable patch of Nature. What can you do about it? Well, you could try to go organic — the global organic market is expected to grow by US$100 billion in the next 10 years. A list of organic sources below may help. Otherwise, look at the names on the labels among your chosen bottles, gallon drums, or truckloads of pesticides and chemicals. Find out about their toxicity or otherwise by visiting the US Environmental Protection Agency (, or United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ( websites and running a search on your pesticides. Or contact the PTCCB. Telephone 6237544 for advice on what you have, its disposal, and alternative products. NEVER pour anything away.

Early morning in the bread basket of Trinidad finds farmers in Aranguez spraying their produce with coatings of pesticides which we will ingest. Developing countries use 25% of the world’s pesticides but account for 99% of related deaths. PHOTO: ERNST NEERING

Find out on the following pages how chemicals like the “Dirty Dozen” Persistent Organic Pollutants pollute and how they enter the human food chain . ORGANIC SOURCES The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements Trinidad and Tobago Organic Agriculture Movement Contact Everad Byer Tel:/Fax 625-9223 or 627-8217 A good site detailing organic literature, research, products and links.

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In 1993, Trinidad utilised over 1.7 million kg of pesticides, 51 per cent of which included DDT, Mirex, Toxaphene (listed below) and Lindane.


1. Aldrin: A pesticide applied to soils to kill termites, grasshoppers, corn rootworm, and other insect pests. Adrin can also kill birds, fish, and humans. The fatal dose for an adult male is estimated to be about five grams. Humans are mostly exposed to aldrin through dairy products and animal meats. The use of aldrin has been banned or severely restricted in many countries. 2. Chlordane: Used extensively to control termites and as a broad-spectrum insecticide on a range of agricultural crops, chlordane remains in the soil for a long time. Chlordane may affect the human immune system and is classified as a possible human carcinogen. It is believed that human exposure occurs mainly through the air. Chlordane is either banned or severely restricted in dozens of countries. 3. DDT: Widely used during and after World War II to protect soldiers and civilians from malaria, typhus, and other diseases spread by insects. DDT was also sprayed on a variety of agricultural crops. Its persistence — as much as 50% can remain in the soil 10-15 years after application — and its widespread use have meant that DDT residues can be found everywhere; residual DDT has even been detected in the Arctic. Thirty-four countries have banned DDT, while 34 others severely restrict its use. Food-borne DDT remains the greatest source of exposure for the general population. The short-term acute effects of DDT on humans are limited, but long-term exposures have been associated with chronic health effects. DDT has been detected in breast milk, raising serious concerns about infant health. 4. Dieldrin: Used principally to control termites and textile pests, dieldrin has also been used to control insect-borne diseases and insects living in agricultural soils. Dieldrin is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic animals, particularly frogs. Dieldrin residues have been found in air, water, soil, fish, birds, and mammals, including humans. Food represents the primary source of exposure to the general population. For example, dieldrin was the second most common pesticide detected in a US survey of pasteurised milk. 5. Dioxins: These chemicals are produced unintentionally due to incomplete combustion, as well during the manufacture of pesticides and other chlorinated substances. They are emitted mostly from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste, and hazardous waste, and also from

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automobile emissions, peat, coal, and wood. There are 75 different dioxins. Dioxins have been associated with a number of adverse effects in humans and are classified as possible human carcinogens. Laboratory animals given dioxins suffered a variety of effects, including an increase in birth defects and stillbirths. Fish exposed to these substances died shortly after the exposure ended. Food, particularly from animals, is the major source of exposure for humans. 6. Endrin: This insecticide is sprayed on the leaves of crops such as cotton and grains. It is also used to control rodents such as mice and voles. It has a long half-life, persisting in the soil for up to 12 years. In addition, endrin is highly toxic to fish. The primary route of exposure for the general human population is through food. 7. Furans: These compounds are produced unintentionally from many of the same processes that produce dioxins, and also during the production of PCBs. They have been detected in emissions from waste incinerators and automobiles. Furans are structurally similar to dioxins and share many of their toxic effects. There are 135 different types, and their toxicity varies. Furans persist in the environment for long periods, and are classified as possible human carcinogens. Food, particularly animal products, is the major source of exposure for humans. Furans have also been detected in breast-fed infants. 8. Heptachlor: Primarily used to kill soil insects and termites, heptachlor has also been used more widely to kill cotton insects, grasshoppers, other crop pests, and malariacarrying mosquitoes. Laboratory tests have shown high doses of heptachlor to be fatal to mink, rats, and rabbits, with lower doses causing adverse behavioural changes and reduced reproductive success. Heptachlor is classified as a possible human carcinogen, and some two dozen countries have either banned it or severely restricted its use. Food is the major source of exposure for humans, and residues have been detected in the blood of cattle from the US and from Australia. 9. Hexachlorobenzene (HCB): First introduced in 1945 to treat seeds, HCB kills fungi that affect food crops. It was widely used to control wheat bunt. It is also a by-product of the manufacture of certain industrial chemicals. When people in eastern Turkey ate HCB-treated seed grain between 1954 and 1959, they developed a

variety of symptoms, including photosensitive skin lesions, colic, and debilitation; several thousand developed a metabolic disorder called porphyria turcica, and 14 % died. Mothers also passed HCB to their infants through the placenta and through breast milk. In high doses, HCB is lethal to some animals and, at lower levels, adversely affects their reproductive success. HCB has been found in food of all types. 10. Mirex: This insecticide is used mainly to combat fire ants, and it has been used against other types of ants and termites. It has also been used as a fire retardant in plastics, rubber, and electrical goods. Direct exposure to mirex does not appear to cause injury to humans, but studies on laboratory animals have caused it to be classified as a possible human carcinogen. In studies mirex proved toxic to several plant species and to fish and crustaceans. It is considered to be one of the most stable and persistent pesticides, with a half life of up to 10 years. The main route of human exposure to mirex is through food, particularly meat, fish, and wild game. 11. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): These compounds are used in industry as heat exchange fluids, in electric transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics. Consumption of PCB-contaminated rice oil in Japan in 1968 and in Taiwan in 1979 caused pigmentation of nails and mucous membranes and swelling of the eyelids, along with fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Children born up to seven years after the Taiwan incident showed developmental delays and behavioural problems. Similarly, children of mothers who ate large amounts of contaminated fish from Lake Michigan showed poorer short-term memory function. PCBs also suppress the human immune system and are listed as probable human carcinogens. 12. Toxaphene: This insecticide is used on cotton, cereal grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It has also been used to control ticks and mites in livestock. Toxaphene was the most widely used pesticide in the US in 1975. Up to 50 % of a toxaphene release can persist in the soil for up to 12 years. For humans, the most likely source of toxaphene exposure is food. Toxaphene has been listed as a possible human carcinogen due to its effects on laboratory animals. It is highly toxic to fish. Thirty-seven countries have banned toxaphene.

Bill Oliver:

The Eco Troubadour DON’T BURN DOWN THE FARM (TO GET RID OF THE ANTS) There’s a saying in the country That makes sense to country cats Don’t burn down the barn To get rid of the rats The same applies to pesticides Applied to soil and plants Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants In your quest to kill a pest Don’t poison your own nest Learn the way of nature’s will Before you spray and over-kill Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants In the backyard garden, In flower beds and shrubs There’s a world that works together In the family of bugs Like the bees that carry pollen To fertilise the flowers And the ladybugs that save the leaves From the aphids they devour The stalking praying mantis Is a working walking stick Picking off the pesky pests From vegetables you pick Even the red fire ant is not so bad and evil When it helps out the cotton plants By eating the boll weevil Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants In your quest to kill a pest Don’t run off a good quest Learn the way of nature’s will, Before you spray and over-kill Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants Nature has an order In her own organic best In the words of nature There is no such word as pest Pesticides are poisons For producing the quick fix Pesticides won’t help you If you’re using the wrong mix

A wasp carries a caterpillar to its nest, preserving the plant upon which it was caught; doing the job of a pesticide without poisoning anyone. PHOTO: ERNST NEERING

Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants You kill the friendly critters, too, While poisoning the pests Learn the way of nature’s will, Before you spray and over-kill Don’t Burn Down the Farm To Get Rid of the Ants

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on the beach

The water at beaches we swim in looks “clean” but have you ever stopped to think: is it really?

Pigeon Point Tobago


Ask anyone, local or foreigner, what their favourite beach in Tobago is and many will likely answer: Pigeon Point. It is the iconic Caribbean image, a dazzling palette

of blues surrounding one of the most photographed strips of real estate in the region. Our second investigation into bathing beach water quality in T&T

examines this famous peninsula — our first issue looked at Maracas Bay. Background on beach water quality and the bathing beach water quality at Pigeon Point

is examined. The purpose is to provide information on beach water quality so that people can make informed health choices and swim safely.


Pigeon Point 11 March 2004 8 No Dry Season: Fair Rainy Season: Beware

BENEATH THE BLUES AT PIGEON POINT Pigeon Point is located in south-west Tobago and provides calm swimming and a great view of Buccoo Reef. The main activities here include: sea bathing; one of the main departure points for the glass bottom boats to Buccoo Reef; a fish-landing site; and other recreational activities such as diving, cruising and sport fishing. Pigeon Point was part of the Milford Estate and was formerly a coconut plantation. Pigeon Point has gone through many name changes: it was formerly known as Flying Fish Point, Sheerbirds Point and Sheerbirds Harbour. The Point has also undergone many physical alterations with these changes in ownership. Some changes included the addition of groynes along the point which is said to have resulted in the increase of seaweed along the beach. Recently Pigeon Point saw the destruction of the legendary jetty, but it has now been re-built. Samaan’s Pigeon Point samples were collected on March 11th 2004 from eight sampling locations. The samples were taken during the dry season. The sites were chosen in order to allow us to determine the general sources of pollution that contribute to the overall bathing beach water quality at Pigeon Point, such as any points of run-off from the land, by the fishing depot, and by areas that are used for anchoring of boats. Samples were also taken from the popular bathing areas. The results obtained during this single sampling event indicates that Station 6 which was located south of the groyne

showed results of recreational water quality that is not adequate for swimming. Initially, this was a surprise since the area is mainly used by windsurfers as well as kitesurfers. In addition, the area further south is used as an anchoring point by a number of glass-bottom boats. These are unlikely factors that cause a reduction in the recreational water quality. However, it must be noted that east of Pigeon Point is Bon Accord Estate. Historical reports show the sewage treatment plant at Bon Accord Estate has rarely, if ever, functioned. Sewage and agricultural run-off has been entering Bon Accord Lagoon and Buccoo Bay for years. This, coupled with the current direction on the day of sampling as well as the presence of the groyne (which reduces current flow), may result in the reduction in recreational water quality in this area. The recreational water quality results for the rest of the beach were in compliance with standards. However, caution is required. Certain areas such as directly in front of the washroom facilities, west of the fishing depot, and west of the jetty are areas that showed levels slightly below the standards. This may be of concern during the rainy season when land run-off increases significantly. The increased levels are seen west of the sources of pollution, mainly due to the current during the sampling event which flows in an east to west direction.


Some sea turtles may take 50 years to reach sexual maturity


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Most of the areas tested were within standards for acceptable bathing water quality, except near the groyne and windsurf area. However, the main bathing areas were only just within those standards when sampling took place after a very long dry spell in March. In the rainy season increased run-off is likely to alter these readings to the detriment of Pigeon Point’s bathing water quality. Tests should therefore be carried out during this rainy season and the figures published for public consumption.




0-30 CFUs: GOOD 31-70 CFUs: FAIR 71+ CFUs: POOR






What this means for ‘limers’ and swimmers at Pigeon Point • Do not swim near the groyne at any time. • Do not swim in areas west of the fishing depot, directly in front of washroom facilities, or east of the Jetty during and after periods of rainfall. • Do swim south of the wind-surfing and kite-surfing rental shop, and east of the jetty. • Look for trash and other signs of pollution. These kinds of pollutants may indicate the presence of disease-causing microorganisms that may have also been washed into the water. Do not swim in the areas where you see these signs of pollution. • Try to avoid swallowing water when swimming as this increases the risk of getting ill. • Be responsible and use the facilities provided to you — you are looking after your own health, too.

Improving water quality at Pigeon Point


• Further sampling needs to be conducted in order to determine the recreational water quality during the rainy season when land run-off increases. • Regularly monitor the bathing water quality at Pigeon Point and make the information accessible to all beachgoers. • An information booth can be used to make this information available to beach users on arrival at the beach. • Signs should be posted to inform the public of areas that are unsafe for swimming and the risks (see overleaf) associated with swimming in these areas. Zoning of Pigeon Point is advisable. • This is Tobago’s most famous and popular beach, with great cultural and historical importance to the people of Tobago and Trinidad, and a drawing card for tourists the world over. This beach must be carefully managed, and an action plan developed that will include the continuous monitoring of the bathing beach water quality under various conditions.

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ON THE BEACH WATER POLLUTION PROFILE • Main causes of water pollution at beaches in Trinidad and Tobago: high levels of harmful microorganisms in the water. • These come from untreated or partially treated sewage which enters the rivers and streams and drains into the sea. • Pollution in beach water is usually much higher during and immediately after heavy rain and especially during the beginning of the rainy season. • People swimming in waters near the discharge points of rivers and streams are at risk of becoming ill. • Tests showed swimmers who swam near contaminated drains, rivers and streams developed a broad range of adverse health effects, while those who swam further away did not. These included fever, nausea, and gastroenteritis, and flu-like symptoms such as sore throats and nasal congestion (US EPA 2002). • In highly polluted water swimmers may be exposed to more serious diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis, cholera and typhoid fever. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop illnesses or infections after swimming in polluted water. • These illnesses may last a lot longer than your lime at the beach!

DISEASE-CAUSING MICROORGANISMS IN SEWAGE Microorganisms: Some illnesses and symptoms Bacteria: Gastroenteritis (includes diarrhoea and abdominal pain), salmonellosis (food poisoning), cholera Viruses: Fever, common cold, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, hepatitis Protozoans: Gastroenteritis, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis (including diarrhoea and abdominal cramps), dysentery Worms: Digestive disturbances, vomiting, restlessness, coughing, chest pain, fever diarrhoea

HOW WE MEASURE BEACH BATHING WATER QUALITY Bathing beach water quality is measured by estimating the number of bacteria in 100ml of sea water. The microorganisms counted are not necessarily those that cause disease, as this would tend to be much more extensive and expensive. Rather, other groups of organisms, usually bacteria, that tend to be more numerous and hence cheaper to detect, are used. These are referred to as indicators. The results are then compared to water quality standards. Recent studies have shown that Escherichia coli is the most adequate indicator for freshwater. However, for marine waters studies indicate that Enterococci is most adequate. As a result, during this study Escherichia coli and Enterococci were tested for at all stations.

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Beneath the deep blue yonder

Wet, warm and weightless in a world beyond imagination, scuba diving is the portal to another dimension. Of all the extraordinary places on Earth, few compare to the complexity and wondrous beauty of a coral reef. And in Tobago’s waters a world exists that ranks among the most magical our planet can offer. Isn’t it time you looked a little closer, while you can?

The Caribbean has an estimated nine per cent of total global reef reserves



rinidad and Tobago may not be known for its scuba diving and snorkelling in the fashion of other Caribbean islands, such as the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Bahamas or Belize. While the waters off Trinidad offer fair and limited diving, Tobago continues to give divers a rich and memorable experience, with some of the largest, healthiest and diverse reef formations and marine life anywhere in the region. However, the island is still very much in the fledgling stage of promoting scuba diving, and even other watersports, as a specialised area of the tourism sector. It has been said that we continue “to sit on a goldmine” while other destinations continue to market themselves aggressively and compete stiffly for market share and volume of visitors. Nevertheless, the thousands of divers over the years who have come to Tobago have enjoyed themselves and respected what we have to contribute to the marine environment and diving world. The problem of silting from the Orinoco River does not affect Tobago as adversely as it does Trinidad (See Diving in Trinidad). The visibility is much better than Trinidad but there can be turbid conditions in the dry season as the water temperature rises and plankton proliferates. The Guyana Current sweeps the effluent from the nearby Orinoco River in Venezuela, bathing the reefs in nutrient-rich water. The Atlantic Current then brings clean, blue water into the mixture, creating a unique environment for explosive growth in marine life. Generally, the conditions of Tobago’s marine environment are more favourable to sustained coral reef development as salinity and temperature of the water do not fluctuate as much as in Trinidad. In Tobago the main areas of diving are Columbus Passage, North Coast, Man O’ War Bay, St. Giles Islands and Speyside. All diving in the Columbus Passage area is done as a drift, due to the strong Atlantic currents. The water is almost always clean and blue with a proliferation of marine life and healthy coral. There is usually better water visibility on this side of the island compared to the Caribbean side. Because of the strong currents all dive masters carry a surface marker buoy (SMB) that the dive boat follows. It is imperative to use the line attached to the SMB when ascending since it

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is easy to be swept away from the dive site. Most of the dive centres are concentrated around the area of Pigeon Point to Crown Point. Columbus Passage dive sites are the ones most visited by diving tourists. Fringing reefs make up most of the dive sites in the North Coast area starting from Store Bay at the southwestern end to as far as Sisters Rocks at the northeastern side. Many visiting divers think the highlight of their holiday is diving at The Sisters just to see schools of Hammerhead sharks and occasional Mantas. Among the most noticeable aspects of this region are the large pelagics, and the lack of current which is favoured by novice divers and photographers. Most of the dive sites are close to land and can be accessed from shore or from a dive boat. There are numerous white, sandy beaches and reefs close to shore that are ideal for snorkelling. Man O’ War Bay at the northern tip of Tobago is sheltered from the northeast trade winds, providing dive sites that are free from currents and large waves. The scenic and relaxed fishing village of Charlotteville is located here. All the dive sites are just minutes from the dive centres and are excellent for novice divers. The area just around Man Friday Dive Center is considered a spawning ground so it is common to see various colour phases of juvenile fish as they develop to adults. At a shallow depth of 12 feet (3.7m), just under the Charlotteville pier, is a treasure trove of various types of nudibranchia (very small, shell-less marine snails), making it a taxonomist’s dream and perfect for photography. Species that were previously thought to be non-existent in this part of the world have only been recently discovered and have gained the attention of foreign marine scientists. As dive boats head out to dive sites in the area, it is common to be accompanied by large pods of friendly, playful porpoises. The St. Giles lslands dive sites are located around a group of rocks 1 km off the north-eastern tip of Tobago. Here the Atlantic Ocean collides with the Caribbean Sea, bringing strong currents and plankton-rich water that attracts some of the largest pelagics in Tobago. Dive sites are accessed by a short boat ride from Charlotteville. Located on the east coast of Tobago, Speyside is regarded as one of the best dive regions in the Caribbean. The reefs are in pristine condition and home to a multitude of marine life. At

the southern end of Goat Island, you will find the now renowned Japanese Gardens dive site. The reef takes on a flower-garden appearance because of the vivid and brightly coloured corals and sponges. Hues of each colour in the rainbow spectrum create a unique richness and vibrancy reflected in the diversity and prolific marine life of this area. Another popular dive site is Coral Gardens where one the world’s largest Boulder Brain Corals is found, thought to be thousands of years old.

Diving in Trinidad Trinidad can only offer limited and seasonal diving due to discharge from the nearby Orinoco River in Venezuela. This causes high turbidity and very poor visibility for diving. When there is good visibility it is very transient and ranges from a depth of 5 m to 30 m. During the rainy season from June to December, the turbidity is at its highest as the silt-laden influx of fresh water from the Orinoco flushes into the Gulf of Paria and along the North Coast of Trinidad. The discharge from local rivers such as the Caroni contributes to characteristic turbid conditions. During the dry season good visibility is still unpredictable and transient. The most distinguishing feature of Trinidad’s water is its dark green colour, due to algal bloom. There are also occasional “red tides”. The vibrant shades of blue often associated with the other waters of the Caribbean islands and Tobago are not found here. The seasonal variations in salinity and turbidity hinder proper and consistent coral reef development in Trinidad. Symbiosis between hard corals and zooxanthellae (marine algae living within the tissue of coral polyps) require very consistent and precise conditions if reef formation is to occur. The diving is therefore limited to certain areas along the North Coast and around the Bocas Islands. The waters around Trinidad are rich in plankton and seeing large mantas is quite common, since that is their main source of food. Unlike Tobago, encounters with barracudas and occasionally black tip sharks are possible. Thermoclines (cold layers of water in the ocean) are also more common, occuring at varying depths, but can usually be found at around 10 m. Diving in Trinidad is more of an adventure since there are rarely the colourful reef formations found in Tobago.

Roughhead Blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

Yellowline Arrow Crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis)

Caribbean Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea)

Giant Anemone (Condylactis gigantea)

Black-spotted Sea Goddess (Hypselodoris bayeri)

Sand Diver (Synodus intermedius)

Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)

Great Star Coral (Montastraea cavernosa)

Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Rough File Clam (Lima scabra)

Spotted Moray (Gymnothorax moringa)

White Speckled Hermit Crab (Paguristes punticeps)

Getting wet Tobago certainly has a very vibrant and viable dive industry with dive centre owners and staff consisting of both locals and foreigners. Most centres operate under the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) guidelines and certification procedures. There couldn’t be a better, more convenient place to start than here in the sister isle. For those with a genuine interest and love of marine life, the first step to gaining confidence before trying scuba diving is through regular swimming or snorkelling. For those unsure of what to expect before committing to a full certification course, there is the option of taking the half-day “Discover Scuba Diving” (DSD) experience at a dive centre for about US $75. You can then proceed to take the basic certification scuba course, called the “Open Water“course. This can be done within five days, depending on how well the candidate does the underwater skills and study requirements. This course can range from US$350 to US$400 and can be done through a dive centre or individually with a certified and currently licensed Instructor. It is the right of the potential scuba

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student to ask for credentials of instructors to verify any validity of status and safety concerns. As a guarantee, most who try scuba become addicted and some even go on to make it a career and take the professional path, feverishly keeping regular dive logs and completing more advanced and specialised courses.

The rewards Learning to scuba dive helps to increase one’s awareness of the underwater world and how important it is to respect our marine environment. It is thoroughly relaxing and mentally soothing, also benefiting physical health through constant movement of limbs and increasing one’s overall rate of respiration. This is also a highly sociable recreation, giving the opportunity to travel and meet many people from various other countries and cultures, often resulting in lasting friendships and unforgettable memories. Scuba diving can also complement other professions in the fields of tourism, marine biology, hyperbaric medicine, reef ecology and conservation. It can lead to full-fledged career options like commercial diving, photography, videography, publishing, research and development for equipment manufac-

turers, sales and marketing. If employed in the business, there is always something different to experience and new faces to meet on a daily basis. It is a job that can never become monotonous. Dive employees can continue studies to become instructors and teach others to dive. Some even go the highest level called Course Director, where they can eventually train others to become instructors and can work independently anywhere in the world or even as consultants. Successful dive centre owners and entrepreneurs typically have very amicable and congenial personalities, usually possessing solid knowledge and experience in the dive industry. Scuba diving is not only a safe, addictive and wonderful recreation but it contributes significantly to tourism revenue as well as enabling amazing career options. The best part is that there is no age limit on when to learn to dive. Some centres offer appropriately sized equipment for young divers from eight years old. Many divers choose to learn in their 30s or 40s when income or lifestyle is more favourable. One of the oldest students in Tobago was a whopping 73 years old, yet completed his course slowly, surely and merrily.

GLOSSARY BENTHIC Of the bottom of the sea and the marine life that dwells or roams there, e.g. nurse sharks, jaw fish, blennies. Also refers to the spawning behaviour of certain fish. CARAPACE The hard outer covering of fused dorsal plates, as in turtles or the exoskeleton of crustaceans, like lobsters. CLOACA A ventral opening in some female fish used for reproduction and excretion. CLUTCH A compact, single-layer patch of eggs during fish spawns or a batch of eggs laid in intervals as seen in marine turtles. CORAL Marine animals living in colonies that build complex marine ecosystems. They belong to Phylum Cnidaria which includes stony (hard) corals, octocorals (gorgonians and soft) and black corals. Hard corals create skeletal formations of calcium carbonate from seawater, working in symbiosis with zooxanthellae and are hermatypic.

CORALLITES Small, hard cups produced by coral polyps that secrete calcium carbonate. They provide protection for the soft, delicate bodies of the polyps. The structures of many species project above the overall coral colony forming distinctive rims, called calyces (calyx sg.) which aid in species identification.

NEMATOCYST Stinging capsules attached to tentacles (such as jellyfish) or polyps (such as fire coral) of animals in Phylum Cnidaria.

EXCURRENT Flowing of water outwards: as the excurrent nostrils of eels or excurrent osculum of sponges.

OSCULUM (sg.) The terminal opening at the upper end of a sponge which acts as an excurrent pore for release of water, waste and gametes.

FRINGING REEF A type of reef growing out from the shore or separated by a shallow lagoon. GAMETES Reproductive cells: sperm and eggs. HERMAPHRODITE Having both sexes and the ability to produce both male or female gametes as well as change sex roles during spawning. HERMATYPIC Reef-building corals. INCURRENT Flowing of water inwards; as the incurrent nostrils of eels or incurrent ostia of sponges.

A Pederson’s Shrimp cleaning a Grouper’s eye

OSTIA (pl.) Very small incurrent pores or openings, through which water enters the body of a sponge.

OVIPAROUS The external hatching of fertilised eggs, either by pelagic or benthic spawning of fish. OVOVIVIPAROUS The internal development of fertilized eggs to complete live birth. There is no placenta, but throughout gestation embryos receive nourishment from uterine secretions. PELAGIC Of the open ocean and freely moving marine animals e.g. Mantas, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, whales. This also refers to spawning behaviour of certain fish where gametes are released in the open water. POLYP Individual coral animal body unit that attaches itself to a substrate where it will spend the rest of its life reproducing, and building coral colonies with millions of polyps. Each polyp has a ring of tentacles surrounding a single body opening, the mouth. PROTOANDROUS Fish capable of changing sex from male to female. Less common occurrence than protogynous capability. PROTOGYNOUS Fish capable of switching sex from female to male after reaching a certain age or size, or with the loss of the dominant male in a harem, when needed. SPICULE An individual, mineralised, skeletal element of a sponge, usually made up of calcium carbonate or silicon dioxide. SPONGE The simplest, multicellular animals of Phylum Porifera. They are sessile, filterfeeding, benthic dwellers with porous bodies through which water flows continuously. SPONGOCOEL A large central cavity within certain types of sponges. It is lined with specialized cells that create water currents within the sponge, necessary for intake of food and oxygenated water. SYMBIOSIS A close association of animals and plants of different species that is often, but not always mutually beneficial. ZOOXANTHELLAE Marine algae that live within the tissue of coral polyps; essential to the survival of reef-building corals through a delicately balanced, symbiotic relationship.

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COMMON SEA FAN (Gorgonia ventalina) Also known loosely as a “soft coral”, sea fans are really Gorgonians composed of polyps growing together to form a flat structure. There is a supportive, central skeleton composed of calcium carbonate spicules, covered by a rind of gelatinous material. The polyps grow from within the rind extending their tentacles from openings or apertures.

ELKHORN CORAL (Acropora palmata) Large branches similar to Staghorn coral, but they are flat, sturdy and broad, though delicate at the tips and can break very easily. Also known for fast growth and likes shallow, fringing reef areas where waves cause constant movement. The surface is covered with small protruding, tubular cups (corallites).

SLIT PORE SEA ROD (Plexaurella sp.) Another type of gorgonian characterized by slit-like apertures when its polyps are retracted. Some species may or may not have raised rims (calyces) as in other types of sea rods, so the branches appear bushy and fuzzy instead of bumpy or warty. Colonies show dichotomous and non-tapering branching with fat stalks.

FINGER CORAL (Porites porites) Another hermatypic coral whose colonies form smooth branches with embedded corallites. Three forms exist: Club Tip, Thin Finger and Branched. They are common to abundant in South Florida, Bahamas and the Caribbean. Can exist at moderate depths to shallow, back reefs. Polyps are usually open during daytime, giving a fuzzy appearance.

GIANT BARREL SPONGE (Xestospongia muta) Very hard, rough and jagged exterior and shaped like a barrel. The spongocoel may be large enough to accommodate a diver but climbing inside is discouraged since it can damage the organism and be lethal to the colony. The largest of these may be over a century old and grow less than one inch (2.54cm) per year.

BOULDER BRAIN CORAL (Colpophyllia natans) Colonies are usually found as large round domes, or large encrusting plates. The surface is covered with a convoluted system of ridges and valleys similar to the cerebral cortex of the human brain. There is a distinct groove that runs along the ridge tops. Mostly common between depths of 20ft (6.1m) and 80 ft (24.4m).

YELLOW TUBE SPONGE (Aplysina fistularis) Yellow to orange upright tubes with soft walls and existing in clusters, joined at the base. Grows in various depths, but hardly beyond 100 ft. (30.5m). Exterior walls may vary in appearance from smooth, bumpy or convoluted depending on depth. Shallow dwellers are shorter and may even have antler-like projections around the oscula.

BRANCHING FIRE CORAL (Millepora alcicornis) Also know as stinging coral, they belong to Class Hydrozoa and are often mistaken for true, stony corals (Class Anthozoa). They are also hermatypic, but possess nematocysts (stinging cells) that can give very painful, burning sensations if touched by bare skin. Can also be deceptive as they tend to overgrow gorgonians, appearing almost identical in shape. They are tan to brown in colour, with white branch tips.

ROW PORE ROPE SPONGE (Aplysina cauliformis) These are long, thin and branching forms that do not have a spongocoel as in other types of sponges. Instead they have a series of long rows of oscula on the branches. These openings have thin, protruding lips, often lighter in colour than the rest of the body. They usually hang downwards, with tips curved upwards and exist in a range of colours.

BUSHY BLACK CORAL (Antipathes sp.) Named after their black or brownish skeletons, they are found in very deep water habitats, often over 100 ft ( 30.5m). Unlike stony corals, they do not have symbiotic zooxanthellae living within their tissue and are not considered reef builders. Polyps grow on a skeletal surface secreting protein material in concentric layers that form branches. Significant in jewellery making and sculpture, but has been over harvested in most areas.

STAR ENCRUSTING SPONGE (Halisarca sp.) A thin, encrusting sponge with characteristic star-shaped openings on its surface.These distinct stellar patterns are really the oscula, each one separate from the other and without inter-connections. They exist in a variety of colours and are found in dead areas of reefs, especially under ledges and in recesses.


STAGHORN CORAL (Acropora cervicornis) Likes to live in warm water close to the surface and is one of the primary reef building stony corals (hermatypic). Colonies form cylindrical branches that are densely interwoven, looking like thickets of antler-like racks. This is the most rapidly growing coral amongst those in the Western Atlantic, estimated to grow 10 to 20 cm per year.


In the Caribbean, as in many other tropical areas, corals are in trouble. The clear and nutrient-poor coastal waters which corals require for healthy growth are gradually being transformed into cloudy (sometimes downright muddy) and nutrient-rich waters. The growing human population, infrastructure development and deforestation in the coastal zone have led to widespread deterioration in coastal water quality. Poorly treated sewage and storm run-off, laden with mud and silt, are considered to be the two main culprits in the disappearance of coral reefs. Studies have shown that nitrates and phosphates from human and animal waste, as well as from fertilisers, are changing the ecological balance in coastal waters, giving plants the upper hand. Buccoo Reef, which is naturally stressed by the seasonal green water from the Orinoco, is being particularly hard hit by a proliferation of marine plants that can be seen overgrowing both the hard and soft corals. These plants starve the underlying polyps of vital sunshine and gradually take over the seafloor. This ecological shift leaves behind a impoverished environment where biodiversity is greatly reduced. The solution to this is better waste-water and sewage treatment facilities. A project being developed by the Inter-American Development Bank for a large-scale (US$50 million) sewage collection and treatment system for south-west Tobago has been on the drawing board for far too long. Despite the promises of politicians and WASA officials to implement this critical project, no action seems imminent. This ongoing delay needs to be addressed, as sewage-treatment

facilities are not just an environmental priority, but are critical for the sustainable development of Tobago and for the health of its inhabitants. But nutrients and sewage are not the only problems. The number of construction sites around the island is increasing year on year and, sadly, mitigation measures to reduce soil erosion or trap silt from these are seldom used. The new North Coast Road, from Charlotteville to L’Anse Fourmie, is a good example of a coastal infrastructure project that is causing major erosion and siltation of the fringing coral reefs. The tragic loss of centuries of coral growth could have been prevented had the recommended mitigation measures been observed. Deforestation is also a major concern, not only in coastal areas but also inland where slashand-burn agriculture persists. Satellite images of Tobago in the dry season show large areas of denuded earth, particularly in the Courland Watershed, the largest watershed and the most important source of drinking water for the southwest of the island. Each year, when the rains start, streams and rivers around the island turn into torrents of mud and silt, causing dramatic plumes of brown water in the coastal zone. The silt eventually settles but gets re-suspended by the next rough sea, causing persistent reductions in the clarity of water over Tobago’s coral reefs. To address this problem, construction sites and deforestation in sensitive watersheds need to be carefully controlled with policies and regulations to prevent erosion. Other harmful impacts on coral reefs, such as from boat anchors, reef

Siltation in action. Mud plumes out into Tobago’s Minster Bay at Bacolet caused by earthworks on the construction site of the nearby Dwight Yorke Stadium. The smothered corals died. PHOTO: DR OWEN DAY

walking and poor snorkelling and scuba-diving practices also need to be addressed. These require greater public awareness and voluntary compliance on the part of the stakeholders in the marine tourism sector to act as stewards of the environment. Tobago’s reefs are priceless resources that contain untold ecological and economic treasures. The basis of both the tourism and fishing industries, they are also an essential coastal defence against storms ­­— we know that when a fringing coral reef dies, the beaches eventually disappear. Protecting the marine environment from the increasing impacts of man’s activities must be given greater priority. Their loss will be our loss, and that of future generations. To find out more about coral reef conservation efforts in Tobago and what the Buccoo Reef Trust is doing to address the issues outlined above, contact us on 635-2000, or see our website at




Not surprisingly, Tobago is a snorkelling, scuba-diving and fishing paradise. For those of you who wish to explore this underwater wilderness, a variety of approaches are available depending on your fitness level and sense of adventure. Scuba diving, snorkelling or a trip on a glass-bottom boat at either Buccoo Reef or Speyside will all produce enduring memories. All these activities are rapidly expanding on the island so, whether you are a visitor or resident, please follow some simple guidelines to ensure that future generations can enjoy Tobago as it is today: • Do not walk on reefs as this kills coral polyps and prevents regeneration • Do not touch or collect anything while snorkelling or scuba diving • If scuba diving, control your buoyancy carefully – watch out for your fins • If big-game fishing on a charter boat, ask about tag and return • Do not leave litter anywhere – even if other people have

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f the idea of descending into dark watery depths with metal tanks as lungs strapped to your back doesn’t appeal, or simply scares you witless, then don’t despair. You can experience a greater diversity of marine life in 12 feet of Tobago water in one hour than most people will see in a lifetime. But what of the creatures you are likely to encounter in Tobago’s shallows? What do they do, besides swim or crawl about for our delight? Samaan Park features a mere dozen of the more common snorkeling creatures you are likely to meet. Here’s your chance to understand them, empathise, get beneath their shells and scales and go and look for them.

Snorkelling is easy, fascinating fun for any age and, in Tobago, we are blessed with an underwater wonderland of astonishing variety. There really is no excuse not to take advantage. Sandra and Solomon Baksh are the authors of the Macmillan series of Caribbean Dive Guides, including Trinidad and Tobago. Here they show you how to snorkel successfully, highlighting some of Tobago’s more rewarding snorkelling areas.

Aside from exploring bays yourself, snorkelling can be done three ways in Tobago. There’s the sea tour snorkelling business; the dive centres; and through glassbottom boat operators. There has been commendable development of sea tour operators that specialize in snorkelling tours with a planned itinerary of sites around the island. These operators dispense technical knowledge about marine life, reef ecology and species identification, also offering a more personalized service for snorkel enthusiasts. Snorkelling is an activity that the entire family can enjoy and only requires basic equipment of mask, fins and snorkel. It is also relaxing and educational and could be a precursor for those who want to venture into scuba diving as an option. Locally, the depths of the sites usually range between 2ft to 12ft and hardly exceed 18ft (5.5m) but depend on the topography of the site, weather conditions and visibility. Some of the more common snorkelling sites around

Tobago, accessible on a boat tour would include: Emerald Bay (Castara), Cotton Bay (close to King Peter’s Bay), Arnos Vale, Wall Bay (Mt. Irvine) and Coral Gardens (Buccoo Lagoon). Man o’ War Bay and Pirate’s Bay would interest visitors to Charlotteville along with other sites that pirogues can access from that area. Wall Bay, Emerald Bay and Coral Gardens are noted for healthy specimens of Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral, while the latter two have fine examples of Grooved Brain Coral and Boulder Brain Coral. Emerald Bay offers the rare opportunity to see Golden Hamlets which were previously thought not to exist in this area of the Caribbean. Southern Stingrays are common here as well as in Cotton Bay. Throughout the snorkelling sites, there is a proliferation of fish life comprised of Angelfish, Parrotfish, Butterfly fish, Squirrel fish, Sergeant Majors, Grunts and many others, intermingled with a rich diversity of coral species and vividly coloured sponges.


Tips for Good Snorkeling Keep both arms at the sides to reduce water resistance. Extend one arm in front to act as a bumper if needed. Breathe through the mouth not the nose. If water goes into the mouth it must be spurted out with a forceful and quick exhaled breath. Newer snorkels now have splash guards to keep sea water from entering, in addition to purge valves so water flows out more easily. Do not swallow since sea water is a higher salinity (3.5%) than the human body (0.09%). Additionally, it is not purified, and is contaminated with various pathogenic bacteria. To prevent fogging of the mask, apply an anti-fog agent and rinse it off, before going into the water. Never use saliva as it only makes the situation worse after seeming to work initially.

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If attempting to skin dive below the surface and deeper downwards, there will be a pressure change in the ear which could be painful. To avoid damage and discomfort to the inner ear during descents, equalizing is necessary and is a simple maneuver done by pinching the nose closed while applying a blowing action gently until a “pop” is felt. Equipment can be used interchangeably with scuba mask, fins and snorkel, but there are also snorkel product lines, produced by the same scuba equipment manufacturers. It all depends on the frequency of use, durability concerns, affordability, functionality and fit. Popular and reliable brand names include: Technisub, Cressi, Scubapro, Mares and Oceanic.

(Panulirus argus)

Golden Hamlet (Hypoplectrus gummigutta)

Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Holocentrus adscensionis)

Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana)


Squirrelfish Behaviour: This fish uses sound to communicate with members of its own and other species. The calls, resonating from air bladders, reach a peak during dawn and dusk. Nightforaging squirrelfishes, which are intensely territorial by day, routinely challenge fishes approaching their hiding holes. Neighbouring squirrelfish are met with a grunt or two, fin displays, head-shaking and nipping lunges. At the end of the disagreement, the antagonists assume parallel positions and briefly press their rear bodies together. Generally, squirrelfish are unconcerned and allow close approach.

Habitat: Although inactive, they are frequently seen in the daytime hiding in holes on the reef or drifting inconspicuously in shaded areas near the bottom. Occasionally they gather in groups.

(Holocentrus adscensionis)

Found: Common Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean; also northwestern Gulf of Mexico, north to North Carolina, Bermuda and south to Brazil. Description: The most notable feature of the squirrelfish family, is the reddish colour, large “squirrel-like” eyes and a long pronounced rear dorsal fin that sticks up very much like a squirrel’s tail. These nocturnal fish have characteristic large eyes which facilitate better vision and red hues that make them more difficult to see in the dark and in depth .There are light silvery stripes running along its body length with faint, white patches all over. The front dorsal fin is yellowish while there is an elongated rear dorsal fin and upper lobe of the tail. The head is bony and they possess hard, spiny scale. Squirrelfish feed typically on small crustaceans and invertebrates. Reproduction: As with most small and populous fish, benthic egg-laying with external fertilization is typical. The eggs are spawned at particular sites at daybreak inside holes, crevices, inside abandoned shells and under rocks. They will hatch into larvae six or seven days afterwards and continue their development into adulthood.

Behaviour: The Southern Stingray is not aggressive to humans but will use its sharp tail spine in defence if stepped on. They appear unconcerned but will move away if closely approached or bothered. They can be conditioned to allow human contact by daily feedings at a particular spot. Tourist attractions like “Stingray City” in The Cayman Islands and Bahamas were developed for an economic purpose and are not natural occurrences.

Habitat: It prefers shallow coastal or estuarine habitats with sand or silt bottoms, where it rests or feeds covered with only eyes protruding. As a bottom-dweller, it avoids walls and large reef structures where it is difficult to feed.

female during copulation. Stingrays are ovoviviparous and carry their fertilized, yolk-rich eggs throughout gestation, to live birth of pups. After the embryos consume the yolk, they are nourished by secretions from the mother’s uterus rather than by a placenta as in sharks and mammals. Gestation is 4 to 11 months producing an average of 4 pups per litter.

Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) Found: Common throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico; north to New Jersey and south to Brazil. Description: Stingrays are cartilaginous fish, belonging to the same group as sharks and skates, called elasmobranchs. They all have small, hard scales called dermal denticles, which give them a rough, sand paper-like feel. The flattened pectoral fins (loosely called “wings”) form a disc-shaped body with no distinct head. The eyes are large and there are spiracles on the elevated head that enable the intake of water while it lies on the sea bed. Posterior to the spine, is the long whip-like tail containing razorsharp barbs. The mouth and gills are hidden on the flat underside. It feeds by slowing grazing along the sandy sea floor for crustaceans, mollusks and segmented worms, relying on electro-reception and keen senses of smell and touch. Stingrays can reach a maximum disc width of 79ins. (200cm) and weight of 214lbs. (97kg.). Reproduction: Mating is quite a vicious display of male dominance over forcefully subdued females, bypassing any sort of playful dances and rituals as seen in most fish. Fertilization is done internally as sperm is transferred into the female’s cloaca by grooves in the male’s claspers which secure a hold on the

Caribbean Spiny Lobster

Behaviour: Since the shell of the lobster is hard and inelastic, it must be shed periodically in order for the animal to grow. The art of escaping form the old shell is known as Ecdysis, or more commonly, shedding. The term Molting, is used to refer to the entire cyclical process of preparing for, undergoing and recovering from ecdysis. Normally wary upon approach, they are known to swim backwards rapidly using powerful strokes with their tails and take refuge in nearby recesses.

Habitat: They inhabit reefs, hiding in protective recesses during the day and forage openly at night.

macroalgae. The puerulus change into benthic juveniles at 8 to 10 days after settlement. The survival rate between freely floating larvae and benthic attachment is very low as predators snatch up most of them for quick meals. As they grow larger, the juveniles are found outside of shelters more often and seem to explore and forage away from their burrows. Adulthood (sexual maturity) is reached after 5 to 8 years for females and 3 to 6 years for males, depending largely on environmental conditions.

(Panulirus argus)

Found: Common to Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean. May be abundant in areas where they are not harvested.

Description: Lobsters are benthic, using well developed legs to crawl about. The carapace has shaded areas of brown and tan with a few dark spots, while the abdomen is brown and tan banded with a few light spots. Since they have no claws for protection, as in their American relatives, they rely on sharp spikes that cover the carapace and the pair of long, conical antennae. There are also distinct “horns” above the eyes.

Reproduction: Mating is apparently seasonal. During mating, the male plasters spermatophore to the outside of the hardshelled female’s abdomen, where it darkens and becomes known as “tar”. Spawning is from March to August when the female can release from 50,000 to 800,000 eggs. Females carrying clusters of orange eggs under their abdomens should be left undisturbed. There is a very complex life cycle that includes five phases: egg, larvae (phllyosomas), puerulus, juvenile, adult. The larvae are planktonic (drifting) and their development takes place over 6 to 9 months. After metamorphosis of the larvae to the puerulus stage, they migrate towards the coast and settle on substrate covered with clones of

Behaviour: Somewhat shy and wary, but can be curious. After retreating as short distance, fish may approach if a diver or snorkeller remains stationary.

Habitat: They tend to prefer complex reef structures and although thought to prefer moderate depths, have been found in less than 20 ft. (6.1 m) of water in Tobago.

far away. They display fins, alter colours, twitch and chase about the sea floor. The partner taking the female role always acts as the aggressor. As they move slowly to the top of a coral head, the female then darts towards the male and they clasp bodies for about three seconds. This is when the actual exchange of gametes occurs. The mating will continue for another three to ten times for the night with both partners changing sexual roles between each clasping bout.

Golden Hamlet (Hypoplectrus gummigutta)

Found: Occasional in the eastern and northwest Caribbean including Cuba. Previously thought not to exist in the southern Caribbean, until recent, localized populations that have been spotted in Tobago by both snorkellers and scuba divers.

Description: They belong to the muscular sea bass family which also includes large groupers. These relatively small, slim fish with sizes ranging from 3 to 5 ins look more like members of the damselfish family, but swimming style, large mouths and triangular pupils verify the family status. These carnivores are solitary hunters, often spending the day skimming above the bottom, searching for quick meals of crustaceans and fish. The Hamlets are a group that is almost identical in body shape and features, differing only by colour patterns and markings within the Hypoplectrus genus.

Reproduction: Hamlets are simultaneous hermaphrodites (having both ovaries and testes), that engage in egg trading. This is a form of pelagic spawning that involves mutual release of gametes, multiple times throughout the night, instead of a single release of eggs as with most other spawning females. Just before sunset, courting couples, thought to be monogamous, would leave feeding areas and move to spawning grounds not

(Holacanthus ciliaris)

Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Queen Angelfish

Blue Tang

(Acanthurus coeruleus)

French Grunt (Haemulon flavolinateum)

Behaviour: The family common name is assigned on the basis of characteristic grunting noise they produce audibly below and above water. French grunts grind teeth together to produce a groaning sound that is amplified by the air bladder. They drift around the reef in groups ranging from a few individuals to several hundred, often hovering in the shade of large coral heads, often mixing with other species of grunts and snappers. French grunts and other grunt species are sometimes seen "kissing" each other. During territorial skirmishes male grunts will also face and push each other with open mouths.

French Grunt (Haemulon flavolinateum) Found: Found in the western Atlantic from Bermuda, South Carolina (USA), and northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil; throughout Tobago and the West Indies and the coasts of Central and South America. Description: Grunts are closely related to the true Snappers, family Lutjanidae. They appear similar but may be distinguished from them by the lack of canine and vomerine teeth and the presence of a series of chin pits. The body is whitish to silvery blue with diagonal yellow stripes below the lateral line. Above the lateral line, the stripes are horizontal. All of the fins are yellow. The early juvenile stage has a short upper eye stripe. Scales are below the lateral line in oblique rows and much larger than those above lateral line. No other grunt has enlarged scales below the lateral line. They are 6-12 inches long.

Queen Angelfish

Behaviour: They are somewhat shy but occasionally curious and often observe divers from a short distance after retreating.

Habitat: It stays near the bottom in coral reef habitats. The Queen Angel can be found from near shore shallows of 6ft. (1.8m) down to as much as 80ft. (24.2m). They often blend into the background of sea whips, sea fans and coral as they swim slowly about reefs. Juveniles prefer offshore reefs.

water, bringing their bellies close together and releasing clouds of sperm and eggs. A dominant male would spawn with members of his harem every evening. The female can release as many as 25,000 to 75,000 eggs each evening and as many as 10 million eggs during each spawning cycle. The eggs are transparent, buoyant and pelagic and hatch into larvae after 15 to 20 hours. The larvae grow rapidly and in about 3 or 4 weeks after hatching, the 15mm to 20mm long juveniles settle on the bottom and continue development to fully grown adults.

(Holacanthus ciliaris)

Found: The queen angelfish is a subtropical species preferring reefs that surround offshore islands. It is limited to tropical western Atlantic waters, ranging from Bermuda to Brazil and along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. It is most abundant throughout the Caribbean island chain.

Description: It is a highly compressed fish with a blunt, rounded head and a singular continuous dorsal fin. They are graceful swimmers that generally grow to more than one foot (30 cm) in length and are thought to be the most beautiful fish in the ocean. One of its most distinct features is the dark blue spot on the forehead, speckled and ringed with brilliant blue, forming the “crown”. The body is brilliant blue to greenish blue with yellow rims on scales, yellow tail, ventral and pectoral fins with deep blue lips and markings on the gill cover. The Juvenile phase has a dark blue body with three blue curved bars, yellow tail and yellow lips. While adult Queen Angels can feed on a variety of invertebrates, over 90% of their diet comes from 33 genera of sponges. Juveniles’ food sources are about 75% algae and 25% from picking parasites off larger fish.

Reproduction: These Angelfish are protogynous hermaphrodites that reproduce by pelagic spawning; rising up in the

Reproduction: They are pelagic spawners and reproduction occurs mainly at sunset. Habitat: Occurs in large schools on rocky and coral reefs, often under ledges or close to elkhorn coral. Juveniles are abundant in near-shore seagrass beds. They feed mainly on small crustaceans and molluscs.

Found: This species is found strictly throughout the Atlantic Ocean. It is abundant in Florida, Bahamas and the Caribbean; also the Gulf of Mexico, north to Rhode Island, Bermuda and south to Uruguay.

Description: These small, sprightly, oval shaped fish are an evident part of the coral reef community. Sergeant Major got its name from the five black body bars that resemble the insignia of that rank in the military service. They have a small, terminal mouth, a single nasal opening on each side of the head and a single, continuous dorsal fin. The upper body is yellow, occasionally with shades of green to blue, while the lower body is white with shades of grey. As omnivores, they eat algae, small crustaceans and fish, eggs and various invertebrate larvae.

Reproduction: These are benthic egg-brooders that display an impressive wooing of females by males, building nests on barren walls, beneath overhangs and even on the sea floor for potential mates. Males become dark blue to purple during courtship and when guarding egg patches. Courtship occurs randomly throughout the day, when they perform repeated loops two to four feet off the bottom. Dozens of these jumps may be required before enticing egg-laden females. As many as

Behaviour: Generally unafraid when approached by divers and snorkellers but known for their bossiness, dominance and aggression towards other inhabitants of the reef throughout its territory.

Habitat: Juveniles are common in tide pools while adults are found among coral heads on reefs. They swim in all habitats, usually in loose aggregations.

four females may spawn in a single nest, each laying up to 20,000 eggs. The males take full care of the broods in the nest and expend much energy protecting them from thieves, fanning the eggs and removing damaged and infertile ones. This behaviour continues for about 6 to 8 days when hatching occurs, the larvae swim free and the males then abandon the nest.

Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Behaviour: They seem unconcerned but tend to keep their distance and slowly move away when approached. The caudal spines are extended from its horizontal groove when the fish becomes excited or in self defence and any type of handling should be avoided.

Habitat: Tangs are found in coral reefs and inshore grassy or rocky areas. They live in holes and crevices where they are sheltered from predators while sleeping at night. The blue tang can be seen singly or in larger aggregations that forage about shallow reefs, grazing on algae.

Reproduction: They reach sexual maturity at 9 to 12 months and from lengths of 4 to 5 ins (11 to 13 cm). Spawning occurs during late afternoon and evening hours. Males aggressively court females of the school, leading to a quick upward rush towards the surface of the water during which eggs and sperm are released. The fertilized eggs hatch in twenty-four hours, revealing small, translucent larvae called acronurus. Complete metamorphosis from acronurus to juveniles takes a week, after which two-inch long juveniles settle onto the bottom of a suitable inshore habitat.

Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus) Found: The blue tang is found in the western Atlantic ocean from New York and Bermuda to the Gulf of Mexico, south to Brazil. It is abundant in Florida, Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea. Description: A high-bodied, compressed, pancake-shaped fish with a pointed snout and small scales, the blue tang reaches about 12 ins. (30 cm) in length. The most distinct feature of this fish and the group of surgeonfish, to which it belongs, is the yellow caudal spine located at the base of the tail on either side of the body. The spines are as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, hence the derived name for this group of fish. These spines are used as defensive weapons by the quick, thrashing action of their tails from side to side which can cause severe cuts to predators and even humans who attempt to touch. The fish has three colour phases: a bright yellow overall in the Juvenile phase, blue head and body with a yellow tail in the Intermediate phase and a deep blue with yellow caudal spines in the Adult phase. This fish feeds entirely on algae and has close-set, spatulate teeth well-adapted for nipping and grazing algae from rocky areas. They are vital for keeping algae populations under control, preventing algae from overgrowing and suffocating corals.

Habitat: Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous but can be seen feeding mostly on sponges and are one of the few vertebrates that do. Sponges are toxic to some marine creatures and unpalatable. Consumption of sponge toxins, amazingly, do not affect the hawksbills but may be the reason why their flesh is poisonous in some regions and the fatality rate high with no known antidotes. The ledges, caves and sea floor of reefs provide resting areas for the turtles throughout the day and night.

Females only nest every two or three years but can lay up to 5 clutches of eggs within one breeding season, at an average 1521 day interval. Each clutch contains 130-160 eggs and incubation takes from 55- 70 days. Hatchlings emerge usually at night when the sand temperature is cool and immediately head for the sea attracted by the light of the moon and stars reflected off the sea.

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) Found: Hawksbills are found around tropical and sub-tropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. They inhabit shallow coastal areas, lagoons and coral reefs and are commonly encountered on Caribbean reefs by divers and snorkellers. Description: This is one of the smallest sea turtles weighing only 95-165 lbs (43-75 kg) as an adult and usually reaching a carapace (upper shell) length of 30-40 ins. (76-102cm). Included on the list of endangered species, this marine turtle is famous for its beautiful, ornate carapace, referred to as “tortoise shell”. Although the colour of the carapace varies from one region to the next, it is predominantly mottled brown with dark amber and yellowish, fan-like spots and streaks and is the only species with overlapping shell plates. It has been exploited illegally by the fashion industry for its prized “tortoise shell” which is used to produce jewelry, combs, eyeglass frames and ornaments. The most distinct feature is it overhanging upper beak resembling a “hawk’s bill”. This narrow, sharp beak is an excellent tool for foraging among coral crevices.

Habitat: The Green Moray is mostly sedentary and associated with rocky shorelines, mangroves, areas over sand and mud bottoms, coral reefs and among sea grass beds. It hides during the day in rocky crevices or holes, extending its head from the opening. It is a carnivorous, nocturnal predator of fish, squid, octopus, crabs and shrimps, relying largely on its sense of smell to locate prey, as it has very poor vision and is known to move skillfully between cracks and crevices while hunting.

transparent, leaf-like larvae called leptocephali which float at the top of the water and transform into juveniles which then swim to the bottom of the ocean and continue development into adults.

Green Moray (Gymnothorax funebris)

Found: In the Western Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Bermuda and the Northern Gulf of Mexico and South to Brazil. Common throughout the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea and Florida Keys.

Description: This odd-shaped fish is a type of eel, characterized by its long, serpentine body with a muscular appearance. Average size found in local waters ranges between 3ft. to 4ft. in length, but larger ones in Tobago can grow to as much as 5ft. to 6ft. They exist at depths from 10ft. to 100ft. Morays have no pectoral or pelvic fins; their dorsal, tail and anal fins form a single, long continuous fin that begins behind the head, encircles the tail and extends midway down the belly. The scaleless, thick skin is covered by a layer of yellowish mucus that protects the animal from parasites and diseases. It is this layer of mucus over the dark body that gives the moray its distinctly, uniform green or even brownish colour. The mouth is constantly opening and closing as a form of respiration to move water over their gills and is not a sign of aggression.

Behaviour: These benthic (bottom-dwelling), solitary fish are not aggressive but can inflict horrible bites if molested by snorkellers and divers, during attempts to feed directly, or through indiscriminate probing of reef holes and crevices with hands. They will often appear unconcerned and allow very close approach before withdrawing but may attack randomly, though that is quite unusual. Extreme caution should therefore be exercised in any type of interaction.

Reproduction: Like all true eels, morays are oviparous (eggs hatched outside of the body), but little is known of spawning and amounts of eggs laid. However, they hatch into

Behaviour: Unlike the Green turtles and Leatherbacks that often migrate several hundred miles between feeding and nesting grounds, hawksbills are often seen year-round on reefs near nesting sites. They prefer to nest alone or in small groups on isolated beaches.

Reproduction: Mating often occurs at the surface in shallow waters near nesting beaches and copulation may last for hours.

Geographic Distribution: Found in the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, including southern Florida, Bermuda, Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean Sea; also along the eastern and western boundaries of the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil.

Description: Large size, heavy scales, powerful jaws, fused teeth or “beaks” and bright colours are characteristic of parrotfishes. Identification of various species is made difficult due to dramatic changes in shape, colour and markings as they mature. The phases include: Juvenile Phase (JP), Initial Phase (IP) and Terminal Phase (TP). During the IP, both males and females are mottled reddish brown often mixed with white scales on the upper two-thirds of the body, while the belly is bright red and the first half of the caudal fin is white. In JP, there are three rows of white spots running along the length of the body, and there is a distinct white bar on the caudal fin. Fishes in TP are emerald green and have an orange to yellow crescent on the caudal fin and a bright yellow spot at the upper corner of the gill cover.

Reproduction: Parrotfish exhibit protogynous hermaphroditism (changes sex from females to males). Primary males are born male and remain so throughout their lives while secondary males are born female, changing both sex and colour to

Behaviour: Solitary swimmers, they use their pectoral fins for quick, vertical movements which propel them forward, while the caudal fin is used only for bursts of speed. They are herbivores and unlike other parrotfish that graze by scraping algae off dead coral surfaces, they additionally gouge out algae growing below the coral structure’s surface, often leaving white bite marks on Boulder Star Coral and Boulder Brain Coral. Coral skeletal material (calcium carbonate) is finely ground by specialized teeth, passed through the digestive system and excreted as clouds of chalky residue forming deposits of white coral sand all over the reef.

Habitat: The Stoplight Parrotfish is found from depths of 15ft. to 80 ft. and is strictly diurnal, spending the night sleeping on the bottom, seeking a safe haven inside reef pockets and crevices.

become male in the TP. Stoplights are polygamous, often living only in territorial harems composed of a single terminal male and from 2 to 14 initial phase females, when food resources are limited. Pelagic spawning occurs during 90 minute periods daily throughout the year in deep reef areas, after which the adult fish return to shallow waters.

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride)

Behaviour: The four eye’s first instinct when threatened is to flee, positioning its rear end with the black spot, closer to the predator than its head. Most predators would aim for the eyes and this is an effective form of deception that enables a headfirst escape. This energetic little fish tends to ignore divers and snorkellers as it frolics, but will move away if approached too closely.

Habitat: This subtropical fish inhabits shallow coral reefs and related sea grass beds at depth ranges of 6 to 65 ft. Young are usually solitary while adults are seen in pairs and are thought to be monogamous. If an adult pair gets separated, one partner makes and effort to find and rejoin the other. Since they are diurnal fish, they are susceptible to nocturnal predators like morays and sharks so they seek hiding places at night as shelter for rest and protection.

4,000 small, pelagic eggs per night that hatch overnight. The larvae, called tholichthys are characteristic of butterflyfish only and are silvery-grey and almost transparent. Transformation is so rapid that overnight they begin to resemble colour patterns of juveniles.

Four Eye Butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus) Found: The four eye butterflyfish is very common in the tropical western Atlantic. It ranges along the North and South American coasts from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Description: The four eye gets its name from the large, dark spot of the rear portion of its body, surrounded by a brilliant white ring. This spot acts as a false eye, which may result in a predator confusing the rear end of the fish for the front end. Juvenile forms have a second smaller black spot on the rear dorsal fin, just above the larger one. A black vertical bar runs over the true eye making it less visible. There are prominent spines on the dorsal and anal fins which can deter predators when made erect, as a form of self defence. They travel alone or often in pairs, using keen eyesight to spot tiny worms, exposed coral polyps and other small invertebrates. Adults may reach 6 inches in length. Reproduction: Courtship between the two is prolonged and vivacious, first with an encircling dance, followed by a break away chase all over the reef, totally ignoring any other lone foureyes that may approach them during this ritual. Actual spawning occurs at dusk when the female releases 3,000 to

Four Eye Butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus)

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride)

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Green Moray (Gymnothorax funebris)

nature notes


he interface of sea and land presents in many respects a difficult environment for living organisms generally. The interface is extremely varied and its characteristics are determined by geography, local geology and local oceanography. In extreme latitudes the shore may be a wall of ice or rock. In temperate and sub tropical latitudes it may be more varied with beaches, rocky shore, mud flats and tidal marshes. In tropical latitudes it is even more varied with the addition of coral reefs and mangrove woodlands. In all latitudes however the factors that determine the characteristics of any particular of the sea land interface are tides and wave energy. Tides are caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon particularly, and the sun to a lesser extent, causing the ocean to bulge slightly on the side nearest the moon. In addition as the earth rotates on its axis each day the bulge moves from east to west. There is an added effect also on the opposite side of the globe, another bulge resulting from the peculiarities of the rotation of the moon about the earth. The point of rotation is not at the center of the earth but rather at the center of gravity of both masses rotating about each other. The sun’s gravitational attraction forces much weaker at the considerable distances from the earth and only become noticeable when aligned in parallel with those of the moon. There are thus in most parts of globe two tides per day and when the moon and sun are aligned along the same axis the combined gravitational forces have maximum effects causing spring tides. Wave energy is derived mainly from wind action but also by currents. Where the coastline is exposed and the winds strong and sustained the sea land interface will be determined by local geology. It may be beach or it may be rocky shore. Trinidad and Tobago experiences what is called a semi-diurnal tidal regime. There are roughly two high and two lows per day, with the interval between highs or lows being approximately 12.30 hours. Compared with other parts of the globe tidal ranges in Trinidad and Tobago are modest measuring up to about 1 metre at spring tides and 0.5 metres at neap tides. In the months of March/April and October/November there are always slightly higher and lower spring tides owing to alignment of the earth with the sun. These are the best times to visit the rocky shore as much of it is exposed and there may be sheltered


tide pools in which one can observe the rich variety of plant and animal life that would not otherwise be seen. Life on the rocky shore, for both plants and animals, requires adaptations for holding fast in a turbulent environment of crashing waves, and for occasional exposure to the air. Marine algae, as long as they can attach to the rocks, thrive in this environment of high light intensity and well-aerated clean clear water. Many different kinds of animals make their lives here, grazing on algal beds, or living in the spaces between and underneath rocks. Common animals of this part of the marine environment include, soft corals, sea fans, anemones, relatives of the stony corals, some hardy stony corals, flatworms, tube worms, brittle stars, sea cucumbers and rock urchins, molluscs, chitons, limpets, bivalve and gastro-pod molluscs, and many crabs. Each species has its own peculiar range of adaptation to the rocky shore. Many such as limpets, periwinkles and purpuras wander well above the high water mark into the splash zone grazing on algal films, but cease active grazing if too exposed. Other molluscs such as top shells less tolerant of desiccation are confined the wet surfaces. Crabs may be found anywhere. The common zagaya crab wanders on to highly exposed rock surfaces but is very shy, retreating under water on sensing human intrusion. The best places and times for enjoying the wonders of the intertidal zone of the rocky shore are along the rocky shores adjoining beaches along the north coast and in Tobago. The best times are during the extreme spring tides. This usually occurs in mid to late morning on the second or third day before a full or new moon. In tide pools may be found anemones, many grazing molluscs, a few fish and possibly a brittle star. The real excitement comes when turning a large flat stone. Underneath will be found anemones, flatworms, many tube worms, many molluscs, particularly small gastropods and bivalves, possibly a rock urchin or a sea cucumber, and above all crabs. If a loud click is heard coming from underwater it is probably a pistol shrimp. Immature sergeant major fish with alternating black and yellow vertical banding are common, but one of the wonders of the tide pool is the red-lipped blenny. This fish appears to be able to walk over the rocks. But remember one thing, this is the home of many animals and after looking gently restore the rock to its original position.

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One in eight of the world's bird species faces extinction

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or detestable person”. I ignored the good lady’s advice, and now my nighttime garden is delightfully populated by all sizes of toads hopping and slopping about their business. The recent addition of a pond has pleased them immensely. At the end of a long dry season, many joyously welcome the arrival of the rains. Yet this time also heralds the annual slaughter of toads. Emerging

Let’s feel some comprehension For common garden toads We see in two dimensions On all suburban roads.

toads and the occasional chameleon, whilst birds swooped low overhead, all gorging on the emerging millions. The toads wasted no energy. They sat still and quiet by the hole, slightly leaning forward, and when a termite imago climbed a grass stalk in just the right place, the tongue would flash, the jaws would snap, the throat would gulp; again, and again, and again. Just as my garden toads do today, on the compost heap behind the house, though their targets are the house flies and blow flies that congregate on the most recent additions of kitchen scraps. Late one evening I was sitting and reading in the patio, which is raised one step’s height above the walkway beneath the eaves. A movement through the open door caught my eye. It was the back of a toad, appearing and disappearing as it hopped along the paving. It was followed by a second back, and then a third. Then, a little closer together than before, the three backs returned in the opposite direction. About half a minute later, a triangular nose with two dark nostrils poked above the step followed by a pair of eyes. Then, like three stooges on a stakeout, two more pairs of eyes rose over the step and balefully surveyed the scene. Obviously I was considered harmless, as one after the other the three toads jumped up into the patio and hopped and crawled around the walls to see if any especially scrumptious insects had dropped from the lights. From there they clambered up the next step into the living room and continued their circumlocutory perambulations, indifferent to the routine movements of my family. Eventually, when it was time to lock up and go to bed, I had to gently pick them up and put them out, along with the dog. Perhaps Rat, in The Wind in the Willows, has it right. “He is indeed the best of animals, so simple, so goodnatured, and so affectionate. Perhaps he’s not very clever – we can’t all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both boastful and conceited. But he has got some great qualities, has Toady.” That is indeed so. They are princes and princesses unto themselves and no osculatory transformation is necessary. M MEREDITH


he birthday lime was on a secluded balcony, high on Hololo Hill, looking down the Cascade Valley to bright-lights Port of Spain and a sliver of moonsilvered sea. The ol’ talk ebbed and flowed. “Eh, I saw yuh name in dat new magazine. Yuh write dat?” “Yeah.” “Yuh writing in de next one?” “Hm hmm. I think I’ll write on toads.” The intelligent young lady at his side had been listening. Her arms flew up, her hands with fingers extended flapped frantically, like a dancer doing the Charleston. Her eyes stared, her mouth opened. “Aaarghhh, they’re horrible, horrible!” Our host, six foot something with muscle to match, young executive on the way up, ceased his laconic lolling and leaned forward. “Boy, I ‘fraid dem ting too much. When I see one, I run boy”. The lady interrupted. “I pour salt on them from the stairs”. I almost spluttered: ”Have you ever had acid poured over you?” But why spoil a good lime with education. This was not the first time that I had come across chemical warfare as a mechanism for deterring ambulatory amphibians adjacent to our dwellings. A few years ago, when I viewed the house in Cascade that I eventually bought, the vendor, a middle-aged lady with a penchant for cats, showed me round. She must have misunderstood my long stare of attraction at the forested hillside reaching to the back of the house. “Use black disinfectant, she quietly confided“. Then strongly and firmly, “you must put black disinfectant round the house; it keeps the toads away”. I silently agreed. The regular, liberal application of a pungent poison would keep many things away. To ask her why in the face of such certainty was too daunting. Clearly everyone in their right mind wanted to keep toads away. That bastion of the English Language, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, records our prejudice. It opens its discourse on toad n. with a clear biological description. But, one other meaning is added: “A repulsive

hungry and gaunt from the period of drought, they go in search of mates and food, and many of their traditional routes are now crossed by our own. The spectacle of our roads randomly patterned with the blackened cardboard cutouts of flattened toads, is so common as to be unnoticed by most. We also suffer from this carnage. Toads will eat anything that will fit into their mouths, including house flies, baby rats and bachac (leaf-cutting ants). A brief examination of toad scats from round my house showed that they contained from 50 to 500 bachac heads each. Every squashed toad represents about 100,000 bachac per year, left alive to destroy our plants. They are beneficial predators par excellence. Way back in my early childhood in Zimbabwe — before pesticides were used indiscriminately — every rainy season, two or three colonies of termites would swarm in our back garden. I would sit happily on the lawn, next to the heaving exit from the nest, surrounded by lizards and

• Name

Bufo marinus Linnaeus Common names; “Crapaud”, Giant Toad, Cane Toad, Marine Toad, American Toad.

• Geographic Range

The natural range of Bufo marinus is from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas south to the Central Amazon and southeastern Peru, including Trinidad. This toad has been introduced into the other Caribbean Islands, South Florida and Australia’s east coast (East Queensland and Coastal New South Wales) and several Pacific Islands.

• Habitat

Bufo marinus is a tropical species that prefers forested areas with semi-permanent water nearby. It lives in various humid sites with adequate hiding places, i.e. in or near natural pools, gardens, and man-made ponds. This nocturnal toad can be found under stones, logs, or other large objects, or in burrows during the day.

• Reproduction Mating systems: polygynandrous (promiscuous) . It breeds year round with suitable temperatures and rainfall. The males congregate at the breeding ponds and sing in order to attract the females. The males clasp the willing females around the body behind the forelimbs.

white viscous venom. This venom is largely comprised of cardioactive substances. These bufotoxins can lead to profuse salvation, twitching, vomiting, shallow breathing and collapse of the hind limbs if bitten, ingested, or when in contact with mucous membranes. This toxin can cause temporary paralysis or even death in some small mammals and predators. The poison is used entirely for defense and never as an offensive weapon. Toads that are handled gently and slowly so they do not feel attacked or trapped, do not release bufotoxin.

She’s going to meet her loved one. Who sits, and trills, and • Feeding Habits soaks. Bufo marinus forages primarily nocturnally in mature forests and roadways and round human habitation, Water’s such erotic fun. Light, noise, tread, pitch - particularly under bright lights. It feeds on anything smaller than itself that it can get into its mouth; she croaks! commonly ants, beetles, and earwigs and sometimes dragonflies, grasshoppers, true bugs, crustaceans, gastropods, plant matter and even dog and cat food.

• Mortality Factors Human activities including pesticides, pollution and vehicles, in addition to amphibian parasites and diseases, can result in significant mortality. There is considerable predation of tadpoles, especially by dragonfly nymphs.

There is no real scientific distinction between frogs and toads; some species have characteristics of both. The name ‘toad’ is usually given to those animals with a dry, warty skin, short hind legs (more suitable for walking than for jumping), and parotoid glands (poison glands) behind the eyes. Also, toads tend to lay their eggs in long chains instead of clusters. Because their skin doesn't loose moisture as quickly as that of frogs, toads are often able to live further away from water. In all amphibians the skin is used as an accessory respiratory mechanism and needs to be kept moist. Bufo marinus has a grey olive brown dorsal skin with many warts ending in dark brown caps. The ventral skin tends to be a whitish yellow with dark brown speckles or mottles and is granular. Adult males are unicoloured red-brown. Both sexes are similar and possess huge paratoid glands stretching from the anterior side of the tympanum to halfway down the back. Prominent cranial crests meet at the snout between the nostrils. Bufo marinus, like other nocturnal species, has horizontal pupils. Old adults can reach a maximum length of 238 millimeters, although generally they average 150 to 175 millimeters. Identifying Bufo marinus tadpoles is usually fairly simple. They are small, usually no longer than 3.1 cm from mouth to tail tip, or 1.4 cm if just the head and body are measured. They are uniformly black or very dark grey in colour. Crapaud tadpoles often occur in massive numbers and frequently form dense aggregations in shallow water. They metamorphose into juvenile toads that are very small, usually from 0.7 cm to 1 cm.


• Physical Description

Bufo marinus is able to reproduce nearly year round. Males are able to reproduce as both sexes because they possess a rudimentary ovary that becomes operative if their testes are removed or damaged. The females are able to reproduce after their second year. Eggs are laid in long jelly-like strings on rocks, debris, or emergent vegetation in excess of 30,000 at a time. Fertilization is external. Once the eggs are fertilized and arrayed in the water, there is no further parental care. The eggs can be easily identified by their typical appearance like black beads in a string of jelly. They hatch in 2 to 7 days.

• Vocalisation A slow, rhythmical, low-pitched trill, made with a round vocal sac.

• Lifespan/Longevity

Bufo marinus is relatively long-lived, reaching ages of 7 to 24 years.

• Behaviour The cane toad sits in an upright position when it moves; it hops in short fast hops. During cold or dry seasons it will remain inactive in shallow excavations beneath ground cover. When confronted by a predator, it is able to “shoot” bufotoxin from the paratoid and other glands on the back in the form of

• Economic Importance for Humans:

1. Negative This toad is considered the most introduced amphibian in the world. People have tried to use it to control insects such as the grey-backed cane beetle, Lepidoderma albohirtum, which threatened sugar cane production. However, there is no evidence that it has controlled any pest in Australia and it is now considered a pest species itself in its introduced range of Australia and the Pacific and Caribbean Islands. It outcompetes native amphibians and also causes predator declines, since these predators have no natural immunity to the bufotoxin it secretes. 2. Positive In its natural range it is an important predator of many pests, especially commensals.

• Symbolism and Mythology In Vietnam the toad was called the ‘sky-god’s uncle’ who told the sky-god when to pour out the water. The person who harmed a toad would be struck by lightning. Frogs and toads were considered lunar creatures, and were connected to the underworld. The symbolism of the toad was generally darker than that of the frog: it was sometimes regarded as a malignant spirit, a witch’s familiar or depicted as the attribute of a skeleton. In Ancient China however, toads were a symbol of longevity, and they were associated with Liu Hai, the God of wealth. The goddess of the Moon was also depicted as a toad.

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More than 100 plant species, which are indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago, may be threatened by extinction




North coast crossing

In 2003, and again during the Budget presentation of 2004, the Trinidad and Tobago Government announced its intention to build an “eco-highway” along the last unpaved stretch of Trinidad’s coastline. The 22-mile road would link the north coast villages of Blanchisseuse in the west to Matelot in the east, traversing some of the island’s most rugged and beautiful terrain. If any area of Trinidad could be considered pristine, then this is it: a vital and magnificent forest ecosystem fringed by turtle nesting beaches, remote as it’s possible to get. Our hike, therefore, takes on added significance as it transports us on a three-day journey, most of it along the route the “eco-highway” would obliterate. As you will see, a little disturbance goes a long way in places like these.


he dry season is the preferred period to take on long, multiday hikes. The river crossings are safe and campsites are more likely to be bathed in starlight than rain. And if you know your routes, and the forests of the watershed are undamaged, you will always find fresh water close by. The forest takes on different characteristics. Deciduous trees drop their leaves, then resurrect themselves in an exuberant flush of brilliant greens and golds or delicate pinks and mauves. As the humidity drops, fungi become dormant or retreat to their vast subterranean mycelia; insects become more numerous. With the diminution of diseases and the proliferation of pollinators, many forest trees burst into spectacular flowering displays, setting fruit before the coming rains. This is also the time to experience one of nature’s most awe-inspiring and most moving, yet fast-disappearing sights: the nesting and egg-laying

“The forest takes on different characteristics. Deciduous trees drop their leaves, then resurrect themselves in an exuberant flush of brilliant greens and golds or delicate pinks and mauves”

ritual of the leatherback turtle. It is great to be at Grande Riviere, and to leave the warm glow of the restaurant or bar at Mt. Plaisir, and gather with guides and fellow visitors around a turtle in an egg-laying trance. It is wonderful to visit Matura, and watch and learn under the expert tutelage of the guides there. However, it is magical beyond compare, sitting quietly at the top of Madamas beach, frogs piping in the lagoon behind you, surf crashing on the shore before you, under the brilliant luminescence of a full moon, to watch at your very feet giant female turtles scooping their deep nests whilst the hatchlings of earlier layings bubble up through the sand and cascade, tumbling and turning in a flurry of flippers into the foam-flecked sea. The North Coast of Trinidad is special, indeed unique among Caribbean islands, and therefore, by the laws of supply and demand, of inestimable, though under-exploited, value. There are 30 miles of coast with no vehicular access. The hunters and the poachers and the loggers and the other multiplicity of despoilers of natural environments are constrained in their rapaciousness by having to walk in or come by sea—and there are precious few safe anchorages. Since the collapse of the plantation economy of the north coast estates, this area has been protected by default rather than design, but partially protected nonetheless. However, there is an insidious and continuous encroachment from illegal roads and settlements, luxury villas and derelict

squatter camps, small-time farmers and big-money loggers, taking for themselves that which belongs to the nation and all its people. This urbanisation of the North Coast is at its worst east of Blanchisseuse. The first 5 km or 6 km from the ‘Swing Bridge’ to Morne Poui Bay is now a bizarre amalgam of muddy tractor tracks, gravel roads, concrete walls and wooden picket fences. Views of hills and sea are hidden, claimed as the sole possessions of the rich and infamous lounging in exotic dwellings of plagiarised designs that may be bold, but are far from beautiful. The destruction of the old donkey trail and the construction of human habitation now extend almost half the way from Blanchisseuse to Paria Bay. Consequently, Blanchisseuse is no longer a suitable starting or ending point for the North Coast Crossing. Our hike starts in Brasso Seco, the only village in the heart of the Northern Range. We have two main choices: either to do the hike in two days, camping at Grand Tacarib, or to have a threeday trip, overnighting at Paria Bay and Madamas Bay. Although Grand Tacarib is the longest beach on Trinidad’s North Coast, with over a kilometre of golden sand, there are only two small streams from local catchments. There is enough fresh water for cooking and drinking, but insufficient for washing. The Paria and Madamas Rivers are large, and the picturesque beaches are backed by expansive lagoons. Although it means carrying more food and stove fuel, for us this difference tips the balance. Three days and two

“This urbanisation of the North Coast is at its worst east of Blanchisseuse . . . Views of hills and sea are hidden, claimed as the sole possessions of the rich and infamous lounging in exotic dwellings of plagiarised designs that may be bold, but are far from beautiful” nights is our recommendation. The first day, from Brasso Seco to Paria waterfall and beach, is long, but relatively level for most of the way. We follow another one of our ancient, historic donkey trails, the Paria Morne Bleu Road. The walk begins through gardens and then secondary forest and ends in abandoned cocoa plantations and coconuts. In between is some of the most beautiful rainforest in the country, dominated here and there by pure stands of Mora. Much of the area is ancient forest, having never been felled or farmed, and the sections of path that follow our own Jordan River are especially beautiful. After fording the Jordan to its left bank, the first small stream has always borne crystal clear water of pristine forest purity. It is a good place, in a very fundamental sense, for lunch. One high, steep hill backing the lowlands of Paria

Bay challenges weary legs in midafternoon. Then there should just be time to detour to Paria Waterfall for a freshwater bath before the final short, flat stretch to the gleaming sea. There are many suitable camp sites along the back of the beach, and three sources of fresh water. Before dark, visit the western end of the beach to see the arch of Church Rock with its surf-sculpted madonna etched by the setting sun. In the early morning of Day 2, wait until you’ve crossed the Paria river mouth before donning socks and boots. The water is usually up to chest deep. Ignore the “No trespassing” sign on the eastern bank, on which two wooden cottages have been built, but keep to the trail — this is private land. The official public right of way is inland and in places impassable, abandoned for many years, ever since the bridge over the Paria River washed away. The trail undulates over the coastal foothills, into the rising sun with the Caribbean Sea alternately close by and far below on the lefthand side. In the dry season you will see the body pits of nesting turtles on all the beaches east from Paria. The route passes through very mixed, but mainly disturbed environments; secondary forest, abandoned plantations, fire sub-climax grassland, squatter gardens, rustic bush camps and one solitary concrete and wood holiday home. In many places the removal of the forest canopy makes the trail hard to find beneath the lush regrowth of grasses, vines and dense bushes. The

worst devastation spoils the morning hike in the small valley between Murphy Bay and Petit Tacarib. A gentleman known as “Fingers” (due to the absence of several, reportedly removed in an act of gangland retribution) has been squatting here for many years. The primary goal of his illegal tenancy seems to be to destroy as much forest as it is humanly possible to do, with hand tools. In the mid-1990s he cut all the trees that shaded the Paria Main Road as it passed through the shallow, broad reaches of the lower valley. The water table promptly rose and he happily planted swamp dasheen on the public right of way. He subsequently extended the destruction along the eastern walls of the valley until now some 5-10 acres of forest have gone, of which a small proportion is cultivated. Trees were apparently deliberately felled to fall across the trail, which is invisible beneath an impenetrable tangle of dead wood and rampant pioneer plant species. Repeated complaints from tour guides and operators, over several years to Forestry, TIDCO and successive ministers, have had no obvious

“The primary goal of his illegal tenancy seems to be to destroy as much forest as it is humanly possible to do, with hand tools”

result. It seems the destruction will continue until Fingers’ nickname changes to “Hands”! Most of the ridges, distant from settlement and sea blast, still bear forest, and east of Grand Tacarib a cooling canopy covers hikers most of the way to Madamas. Set up camp on the high bank under the almond trees. The last morning, like the previous one, begins barefoot along the beach and across the mouth of the Madamas lagoon to its rock-strewn eastern shore. Once shod, there is a steep, slippery and hazardous climb up a mud bank to rejoin the Paria Main Road, which fords the Madamas River about 300 m inland. Much of the forest between Madamas and Petite Riviere was illegally logged in the late 1990s. Heavy equipment was brought in by boat and made its way inland by driving up the river valleys, down which the logs were subsequently dragged. The Paria Main Road became a sea of rutted mud and the rivers died. The broad, clear donkey trail winding in cool comfort beneath the high canopy has become a narrow, wet footpath through high grasses and scrub, the normal consequence of deforestation. The logging tractors obliterated the public right of way in several places and the traditional users of the area made new paths to link the remaining sections. One derelict and abandoned vehicle, vine covered and moss encrusted, still sits in the trail. However, there are still areas of the old main road little changed for a hundred years, ancient cobblestones visible in places. Cooling breezes from the sea swirl through the serried ranks of tree trunks, pillared vistas stretching on either side, over the leaf-strewn forest floor. Here the heart lifts and the head sings and the mindless machina-

tions of men can be forgotten. The Petite Riviere Valley is beautiful, with the wide benching gently threading down the convoluted contours of the valley’s western slopes. The cool, clear waters of Petite Riviere complement the perfect lunch stop. The final climb is steep, but the trail zigzags back and forth, climbing westwards away from the river. This work is no longer rewarded by one of the most beautiful views of the North Coast, as the last 2-3 km of the Paria Main Road, east of Matelot, is blocked through abuse, misuse and neglect. This has happened since illegal logging in 1997/98 and the subsequent failure of the work gangs to keep a suddenly sun-bathed trail clear of vegetation. A new path cuts through secondary regrowth and cultivated land down the ridge to Tamanac Point from where the path follows a narrow shelf between cliff and sea to the mouth of the Matelot River. Total immersion in the pool just upstream of the bridge is highly recommended to ease those aching leg and shoulder muscles and to wash away the dust, sweat and mud. Beyond the simple bridge the pitch road marks the end of a very special experience and, the start

BEWARE OF RIVERS and river crossings.

Be cautious; check weather forecast before setting out


BUSH FIRES - Avoid them;

potentially very dangerous


them as soon as possible; seek help if needed


vantage point and await rescue

ROUTE HIGHLIGHTS of memories to carry to the end of days.


Old villages of Brasso Seco and Matelot, note houses and churches • Paria Main Road with cobbles, retaining walls and abutments • A few old mileposts still stand • Remains of old bridges • Home of the Mother Earth People

CULTURAL Logging and squatting, absentee landlords • Old estates with abandoned cocoa and coffee • Slash and burn, turtle poaching • Many plants with medicinal properties including ‘Wonder of the World’

FAUNA Whatever the hunters have left and you are quiet enough to see • Mountain crabs, butterflies and moths, spiders and caterpillars (look carefully and you will see) • Fishes, frogs and toads • Many birds of many species • Lizards, especially on open trails • Leatherback and hawksbill, and occasionally other turtles • Bioluminescence in the sea at night, especially at Madamas

FLORA Mora forest • Marsh forest with Euterpe palms • Very large sandbox trees • Desmonchus horribilis (Palmaceae) lianas • Giant silk-cotton tree between Paria and Madamas

GEOLOGY Typical red-forest soils, shallow in most places • Mixed metamorphic and igneous rocks • Note rocks with linear inclusions in the rivers • Apparently exposed lava flow rock on Madamas beach

GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES Folding and uplift • Sea cliffs, and coastal hills • Lagoons, spits and sand beaches • Waterfall and plunge pool • Natural and human-initiated erosion

ROUTE DESCRIPTION 1: Drive to Brasso Seco village in the

Northern Range. Keep left when you reach the Visitor Centre. A little further on there is a TIDCO sign advertising the trail next to a left turn. Do not turn left — the sign is badly positioned. Keep straight on following this narrow farm road until it becomes impassable for your vehicle. This is usually at a concrete bridge with a house up on your right. Continue walking along the road, past gardens on your left. At a ruined house the tractor trail ends and the footpath begins, turning left and north towards a stand of forest. Beware of logs over the small streams: moss and algae make them dangerously slippery. The second stream crossing is by a shack and garden, but soon after that the trail enters forest.

2: Although you are heading north,

you face east and west most of the time as the trail winds up and down the tributary valleys of the Paria River. After about 5 km the trail crosses over the ridge from the Paria valley into the Jordan valley. This is marked by the embankment of the benching changing from your left side to your right. The trail follows the right bank of the Jordan River, which is frequently visible below on your left. After crossing a small stream, ford the Jordan River and continue down on the left bank, crossing two or three small streams. You are then back in the Paria River Valley, and the rushing waters can often be heard far below on your right. A steep climb with numerous switch-backs marks

the start of the end of the first day. Keep to the main benching and avoid the short-cuts straight up the hill.


When you reach the bottom of the descent on the northern side of this hill, the trail continues north with a well-defined path heading along the valley floor south. The latter, after some 15 minutes walking, takes you to Paria waterfall. Go north, and in 5 minutes the trail opens onto Paria Beach just west of the lagoon. If you are targeting two days and one night, there is still quite a way to go and you need three hours of light to get to Grand Tacarib and pitch camp.


Turn east along Paria Beach, ford the estuary and climb the path between the dwellings and over the ridge. The trail drops down to the back of Murphy’s Bay and winds through the coconut trees at the back of the beach. After the next ridge you meet the despoliation of “Fingers”. If the tide is low, you can go down to the beach and follow the shoreline eastwards until you reach an old logging trail that climbs up to your right and brings you back onto the Paria Main Road. (Or, follow the footpath through cultivation to Fingers’ shack. Pass it and face east. The slope in front of you used to carry the old benching coming up from the beach on your left then switching back to climb towards the crest of the ridge. This is all destroyed. The trail can be found under the trees on the ridge-top in a north-easterly direction. Cut your way and the best of luck.)


The trail then takes you east to Petit Tacarib and through a permanent Bush Camp. Shortly after, you will pass a closed-up, concrete and wood holiday home. The trail continues east along the edge of the low cliff above the sea. It cuts across the base of Trou Bouilli-Riz Point and then drops down

“Here the heart lifts and the head sings and the mindless machinations of men can be forgotten”


onto the sand at the western end of Grand Tacarib Beach. After walking along the beach for almost 1 km, there is a cluster of black rocks in the sand that extend out into the surf. Do not take the trail on the right before the rocks. Continue straight on until you almost reach the eastern extremity of Grand Tacarib. The benching is wide and clearly defined, climbing up from the beach and turning east. From here, it is about one hour’s hiking to Madamas.


The Paria Main Road climbs and winds, crossing two ridges before descending steeply north to the low sea cliffs west of Madamas Bay. The trail levels and turns east. If you plan to camp at Madamas you have to find the small side path down to the beach before the Paria Main Road bends to pass behind the Madamas lagoon. When the sound of the surf changes from crashing against rocks to shushing up a beach, there is a narrow but clear path through the scrub on your left. This leads you through sea-blast dwarfed trees and down a hard mud and rock bank to the western end of Madamas Beach. The lagoon is about two thirds of the way along.

7: The long and easy way to leave

Madamas is to return to where you entered and follow the Paria Main Road to where it fords the Madamas

River and then turns back to the coast. This is ten times longer than the hard way! And that is to continue east along Madamas Beach, ford the river mouth and then, with extreme care, ascend the crumbling mud cliff on the eastern spur of the bay back to the benching. Turn left; about 10 km of trail separates you from Matelot.

8: The next valley is Cachipa, and

from there the trail steadily climbs and winds to pass above the high cliffs of Trou Borelli. The next valley was logged and a new path meanders between the dank pools of palm swamp. East of the swamp, there is little vegetation and the benching has disappeared. Keep following the narrow path into the trees and as the trail turns south, up the left bank of the Petite Riviere gorge, the Paria Main Road reappears.


Continue down to the river, and cross. Follow the benching up and out of the gorge. After about 1.5 km, the gradient lessens and the road is more or less blocked by a stand of dense vegetation. The path leaves the old trail over the low bank on your left and takes a fairly straight route north-east through regrowth and cultivation, reaching the coast half a km west of Matelot River mouth. Follow the path under the cliff to the river valley. Cross the bridge to get to the pitch road.

CAMPSITE SELECTION The following factors should be considered in selecting a campsite.

A • General area should be about 1 day’s walk from the start, say 6-10 hours of walking. • Start to pitch camp by 4:00 p.m. for the latest. • Good campsites are found, not made.

B Specific three-dimensional site selection criteria: • BELOW Durable (will not be damaged) Flat (more comfortable for sleeping) Dry (see below) Bare or smooth • ABOVE No hazards, e.g. mature coconuts, rotten branches, nests of stinging insects No foliage — nice when sunny, bad when wet • AROUND Interesting Nice place Fresh water close by Double the distance of highest flood or tide above the norm Wind protection for camp stove Firewood available if stove has failed

C Dry soil has ant lions, a good sign you will not get wet, even during rain.


Do not pitch in a depression.


Check the prevailing wind direction; do not position the stove upwind of tents.


Position tents where the flysheet traps can trap breeze to cool the interior.

Environmental Care Code for Wilderness Travellers BY THE PATHMASTER • TRAVEL WITH RESPECT - PROTECT PLANTS AND ANIMALS The wilderness is more than just bush. It is the home of other species and often the last place they have to live. They are special, often rare and sometimes unique. Treat their home better than your own, for theirs is more fragile. Walk softly. Learn the philosophy of low impact camping and practise it. Leave nothing behind but your footprints, carry out your trash, minimise your impact on the land and other wilderness travellers, and walk with respect for the places you cross and the life you meet. Observe wildlife from a distance and do not try to feed the animals. • KEEP TO THE TRACK By keeping to the track where one exists, you lessen the chance of damaging fragile plants. Use existing trails. Don’t short-cut switchbacks. • MINIMISE DAMAGE TO THE TRACK Wear as light a boot as possible for the conditions. Heavy boots with deep treads compact the soil more and tend to tear up the trail. Stay on the trail if it is muddy or wet. Hike through it. If you walk around the mud, the trail will widen and become even muddier in the future. Wear camp shoes to minimise impact while in camp. • REMOVE RUBBISH Litter is unattractive, harmful to wildlife and can increase vermin and disease. Plan your visits to reduce rubbish, and carry out what you carry in. Leave no signs of human influence. Inspect your campsite for trash or misplaced gear before you leave. Do not bury your trash; animals will dig it up or it will become exposed later. Also tin foil and plastic bottles do not completely burn. Carry everything out. Pick up trash you find at campsites and along the trail. Educate any litterbugs you encounter. • BURY TOILET WASTE In areas without toilet facilities, bury your toilet waste in a shallow hole well away from waterways, tracks, campsites and huts. Bury human waste in holes more than 8” deep and at least 50 metres from any water sources, campsites, or trails. For groups it is advisable to dig a single deep hole in a suitable location that everyone uses. Excavated material should be left nearby so each user can cover their deposit. Animals often dig up used toilet paper which should be either carried out or buried at least to a depth of 12”. Carry out all plastic feminine hygiene products. • KEEP STREAMS, LAKES AND THE SEA CLEAN When cleaning and washing, take the water and wash well away from the water source. Because soaps and detergents are harmful to water life, drain used water into the soil. Wash yourself and dishes 200 feet from any water sources and away from campsites. Food scraps will attract insects and animals. Bury deeply or carry out. Pour your dishwater onto the soil. Don’t use detergent, soap or shampoo. Keep chemicals out of the wilderness. So-called

biodegradable soap still has an impact. If you absolutely must use soap, use it 200 feet from any water sources and use sparingly. • LEAVE WHAT YOU FIND Take only pictures, leave only the lightest of footprints, and bring home only memories. Resist the temptation to take home souvenirs and specimens, both animate and inanimate. Leave nature as you find it, so that others may enjoy it. • TAKE CARE WITH FIRES Don’t build fires! Portable fuel stoves are less harmful to the environment and are more efficient than fires. If you don’t have a stove then get one! Use a candle lantern for light instead of building a fire. If you use regular candles don’t leave your wax drippings all over the place; pack them out! If you do use a fire, keep It small; use small (wrist-size or smaller) dead wood that was already on the ground. Break wood into smaller pieces as needed. This results in a nice fine ash that will blow away. Make sure your fire is out by dousing it with water and scattering the cold ashes before leaving. Don’t make a fire ring with rocks. Blackened rocks are very unsightly and remain so for years. Know the regulations for the area you will be visiting. During dry periods it can be dangerous to light fires and a permit from Forestry Department may be necessary. Remove all unburned trash from your fire ring and carry it out. • CAMP CAREFULLY When camping, leave no trace of your visit. Camp and travel in small groups, they are quieter and do less damage. Camp at least 50 m away from water sources as animals come to water to drink and may be scared off. Areas near water are also more fragile, and camping too close can lead to erosion. Be sure to camp on durable surfaces too. Avoid fragile areas that will impact easily and take a long time to heal after you leave. Try to use campsites that are already established. Give places just beginning to show negative impact a chance to heal themselves. • CONSIDER OTHERS People visit the back country and rural areas for many reasons. Be considerate of other visitors who also have a right to enjoy the natural environment. Preserve the solitude. Respect other hikers by travelling and camping quietly. Leave radios at home. Camp as far away from other visitors as you can to avoid creating noise and visual “pollution”. Pets are best left at home. Uphill hikers have the right of way. • RESPECT OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE Many places have a spiritual and historical significance. You may not know where they are so treat all places with consideration and respect. • ENJOY YOUR VISIT Enjoy your outdoor experience. Use all your senses to become one with the wilderness. Take a last look before leaving an area; ensure that the next visitor will not know that you have been there.

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Nature Trails

The Pathmaster

will show you the way tel: 1(868) 621-0255

The Paria Main Road Andrew Whitwell

The selfish destruction of the Paria Main Road near Blanchisseuse by a quarry operator to service his holiday home.


he old winding trail, that traverses Trinidad’s North Coast, following hill and valley above the crashing breakers of the Caribbean Sea, is not only a beautiful route for today’s walkers, but an integral and living part of Trinidad’s history. With its few remaining mile posts jutting from its verges, its mossencrusted abutments of long-collapsed bridges, and the subservience of distance to gradient, this last vestige of the Paria Main Road evokes our latent nostalgia for the slower pace of past times. Originally constructed in the last quarter of the 19th Century to service a rapidly expanding cocoa industry, the Northern Range’s network of donkey trails has been largely neglected for the past 80 years. More recently, road construction, urbanisation, squatting and logging have oblterated most of them. The remnant of the original Paria Main Road is a remarkable meandering bench trail, linking Matelot to Morne Poui Bay, cut by hand and lined by ferns and mosses beneath the high rain forest canopy. It is an historical haven of natural Trinidad where Trinidadians of all ages can walk, hike, camp, experience their heritage and feel at one with their natural world. It is an immense ecotourism resource whose potential value has been barely tapped. It is not only neglected, but it is being systematically destroyed. The old donkey trails criss-crossing the Northern Range are masterpieces of engineering. The gradient is never too steep for a pack donkey laden with cocoa beans, which is much appreciated by the backpacking hiker loaded down with camping gear and food. When carrying weight, gradient is the killer, not distance, and the

innumerable switchbacks up and down the coastal foothills allow for safe and easy walking. The Paria Main Road, and other old donkey trails like it, despite decades of neglect, are in amazingly good condition. The shallow gradient has prevented erosion in all but a few short sections. Where they pass through pristine forest, the trails are dry underfoot, even in heavy rain, free of undergrowth and covered with a magical, ever-changing carpet of fallen leaves and colourful flowers. In logged areas, without the immense thirst of the trees sucking moisture from the soil, or trapping it, sponge-like amongst the matted roots, the trail becomes wet, swampy, overgrown or even non-existent. A public right of way destroyed by private enterprises. Even the users of these trails are now damaging the forest. When trees have fallen, blocking the pathway, there is now apparently no one whose job it is to clear the route, and no perceived commercial or social imperative to do so. Travellers merely take a short cut up or down to the next switchback. These recent paths are steep and run across the contours. Within a few months, the weight of passing feet has depressed the soil, rain water funnels along the path, and within a couple of years these short cuts become foci of gully erosion. In due course, they may also become centres of soil creep and ultimately landslip. If hikers realised that a hundred yards of short cut could eventually mean an acre or two less forest, would they clear the old road and return to its slow and easy pace? Or has the urban imperative of hustle and bustle destroyed our mental ability to welcome and immerse ourselves in the timelessness of wilderness?

Bypassing the twists and turns of the old trail is bypassing environmental responsibility. The Paria Main Road needs maintenance, but not the road maintenance of today. An historic trail needs an historical touch in order to retain its greatest value. Widening the path would remove the closed forest canopy and open a line of light, in which weeds would flourish, entangle visitors and invade the once open forest understory. The Paria Main Road must be a walking trail initially, and perhaps in the future the beasts of burden could return. Not donkeys carrying bags of produce, but mules carrying camping equipment and hikers’ gear, servicing up-market, highpaying ecotourists seeking escape from the commercialism, urbanisation and artificiality of their home metropoli. And the more the trail meanders, the longer the journey takes and the more money they will spend here, assuming there is a wilderness to escape to. Poverty and ignorance are the greatest threats to our natural environment. Along the Paria Main Road the poor squatters and the ignorant rich have come together in mutual destruction, removing the trees that protect and sustain the integrity of the trail, building shacks or chateaux that destroy the natural value of the environment, and realigning the public road to suit their private desires. Are these deformations of our landscape and all it contains being undertaken with thought, knowledge, discussion and consideration, or is it another unregulated and uneducated or selfish act of individual need and greed, disenfranchising the majority, and ignored by an acquiescent authority?

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The human population of the Earth increases by one million every two to three days.

sustainable living

THE SOLAR LIFE in a country of sunshine Why limit yourself to living on an electricity grid, plugged into power line tentacles, when you can escape into the middle of nowhere and still watch cable? SANDRA CHOUTHI looks at the allure of a solar-powered lifestyle in sunny Trinidad and Tobago and who’s making the most of this clean, infinite energy resource. Photos: MARK MEREDITH


e’ll call him Dennis. His house sits prominently atop the evergreen hills of the North Coast, surrounded by expansive fields of pink anthuriums, ginger lilies, cordylines, ferns and the Caribbean Sea. Shift your gaze to the left of his carot-leaf-covered verandah and Saut D’Eau island appears. Walk to the other side on a day when the skies are a startling cobalt blue, and you are rewarded with the view of the Central Range and the flat-as-a-roti, cane-farmed plains of Caroni. The pale-blue-tiled living-room has four ceiling-high arch windows on either side so you can devour these picturesque scenes from indoors. Situated 1,600 feet above sea level, Dennis’s three-bedroom countryside retreat with its cathedral-type ceiling is not powered by utility, but by solar generated electrical power. The closest power lines are three miles away in Paramin. Five solar panels allow Dennis, 49, a building contractor, to turn on his 19-inch television, power his stereo and switch on his house lights. A small diesel generator is used to periodically operate a washing machine. “Solar power is clean, environmentally friendly and is a non-polluting renewable form of energy,” Dennis said, lounging in his porch in the company of his four common dogs and cat, Jay. There’s one drawback to this power source: you need sunlight for solar power to work. On this damp, overcast Saturday afternoon, there was no sun in sight, which meant little solar power. “The generator charges the batter-

ies through an inverter especially for an overcast day like this. In the rainy season, you get less power, but that could be offset by a generator,” he explained. Dennis has back-up systems in place for those days when the sun is in retreat. He has a small TT$6,000 wind generator, which is connected to the same battery bank. There is a major downside to living in such wondrous beauty at least 12 miles from Trinidad’s capital city of Port of Spain: this home has no refrigerator. “Hi-Lo is my refrigerator,” Dennis said, referring to the supermarket chain. “If I have guests, I buy ice. I go into town every day, so it’s not a problem.” A liquid petroleum gas-powered fridge/freezer, like the 19-cubic feet, hand-made, low-energy Sun Frost unit Dennis’s neighbour bought, will set him back by at least TT$25,000, a cost Dennis is not willing to put out, and an inconvenience he doesn’t mind living with. This costly fridge means his neighbour no longer has to wait two days to get a few blocks of ice. Solar power has a high start-up cost but a low operating cost. The second-hand diesel generator, wind generator, inverter and gas dryer cost Dennis roughly TT$20,000. The inverter converts 12 volts to 110 volts, which is the standard voltage for most electrical items in the Caribbean. Even as Dennis admitted that solar power is “not cheap”, he won’t trade his secluded home to return to urban living which his wife and their three daughters prefer. “I don’t miss the suburbs, but I miss the Internet,” he

said. “The lack of an electricity supply can be a liability. Unless you have a good power supply, like my neighbour, a lot of people aren’t willing to put up with the inconveniences.” For all of the warm sunshine in Trinidad and Tobago, domestic solar power-use is limited. Ian Boon, managing director of DC Power Systems Ltd, said no more than about 50 homes are presently powered by solar energy throughout Trinidad and Tobago. “In all of them, solar power is used for basic lighting and TV/radio requirements.” Some of the larger ones also power satellite TV, fans, microwave, toaster, and fridge, etc, Boon said. He installed Dennis’s neighbour’s 12solar-panel system seven years ago, which he described as the largest residential solar system in Trinidad, giving its owner +/-3,000 watt hours of daily energy. His home is now powered by one kilowatt of peak solar array,” said Boon. “In your investment planning for your dream home in a rural/secluded area like that, the cost of a solar system to power your ‘wants’ rather than just your ‘needs’, is probably in the region of $60 to $120,000 dependent on the individual’s lifestyle. But properly designed and installed, after this initial cost for the system, the operation/ maintenance cost is very low, with free solar and/or wind energy providing the power.” The first solar powered residential installation in Trinidad was in 1985 at a home off Valley Line in Barrackpore. That homeowner, then a bartender with a San Fernando hotel, used the power for fluorescent lighting for his

children to do their homework safely (they previously used kerosene lamps and candles), to power a small TV, and he daily took home a bag of ice to cool softdrinks, juices and milk. Boon himself — who lives in Tortuga, a 15-minute drive east of the Couva flyover in central Trinidad — is now connected to the utility grid. But for the first eight months of living on this 10-acre estate, he had no electricity and used solar (photovoltaic) power for lights and TV/radio. He still utilises solar thermal energy to provide hot water for his home. Some may balk at the initial cost of installing a solar-powered hot water heater in a home, but Boon is not discouraged. “Unquestionably, it is definitely economically viable with a payback period of six to seven years compared to a standard electrical hot water heater but, for the rest of your life, hot water is free,” he said. Solar power may be in limited use in Trinidad where most of the island is already supplied by very cheap utility power, but the case in other Caribbean islands is different, where a substantial percentage of the homes have solar powered water heaters. “Barbados over the years has offered tax incentives to users installing locally manufactured solar hot water systems,” Boon said. “Those incentives, coupled with the fact that the cost of energy in these countries is four to eight times higher than in Trinidad, have resulted in 60 per cent of homes in Barbados having solar hot water systems.” Trinidad and Tobago’s low utility rates are largely due to its wealth in hydrocarbons, which in January 2004 was put at 9.2 billion barrels. While the cost of installing solar power may restrict the number of its users, Boon said telecommunications companies are the largest users of solar photovoltaics (the science of converting sunlight into electricity) in the country. For instance, Omega Telecommunications, a small company in Siparia, has sites in central Trinidad that are exclusively solar/wind-powered, and they have enjoyed the reliability of these systems. “Power is critical to these companies,” Boon said. “Government, through its Maritime Services Division, is a substantial user of photovoltaics as well, used for powering navigational aids.” Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) has more than 20 solar-powered radio

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sites known as SR500s. This radio equipment provides telephone service at such rural districts of Matelot, Grande Riviere, Sans Souci, Lopinot, La Fillette, Las Cuevas, Maracas and Blanchisseuse in Trinidad; at Bayside and Point Gourde, Down-the-Islands; and at Castara, Parlatuvier, Runnymede, Bloody Bay and L’Anse Fourmi in Tobago. TSTT engineer Kenneth Williams said the solar power sites require low maintenance. “All you have to do is clean the panels and periodically check the life of the battery,” he said. Energy Minister Eric Williams said in November 2003 that the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) is exploring the possibility of offering individual solar systems to some of its rural residents in areas where the solar systems may be more cost-effective than incurring the high cost of running and maintaining, overhead feeder lines. The oil and gas companies are also substantial users of solar power: NGC, bpTT (which has 40-plus platforms), BHP Billiton, EOG Resources Trinidad Ltd, Petrotrin and Trinmar, which employ navigational aids in the port at Pointe-a-Pierre and numerous Gulf of Paria structures. T&TEC uses photovoltaics to operate its radio repeaters, and the Water and Sewerage Authority uses solar to monitor varying conditions of its river water levels. Oil company Venture Production Trinidad Ltd, completed a project in December 2003 to install 640 watts of solar-powered lighting systems on four of its platforms in the Gulf of Paria. The oil companies’ solar power use is primarily for Supervisory, Control and Data Aquisition (SCADA) systems, which tell how remote installations are performing, and in most cases also provide the control of various functions from a centrally located control room. What the oil and communications companies can afford, the average guy cannot. Richard Harmer-Brown, English owner of Dockyard Electrics at Crews Inn, Chaguaramas, said the sale of solar-powered products is not a great one. “It’s very fickle. Some years I sell about a dozen solar panels.” Land-based Trinidadians may not need to seek out cheaper energy sources, given low utility rates, but yachties aren’t as fortunate. Englishman Paul Galpin, who owns the 41-foot catamaran Union

Jock, said the six panels on his vessel give him 6.3 amps each per hour. “I have more panels than most (boat owners),” Galpin said. “Most people would find it difficult to mount six panels,” said Australian David Morrow, 56, owner of the 12-metre sloop Friction. Solar is his main source of power. Morrow, who was midway in his travels across the world, was at Marine Warehouse in Chaguaramas looking for a second solar panel. The one panel he had gave him up to four amps, but he needed to double that to comfortably use the lights, navigational equipment, radios, refrigerator and water and sewage pumps. He also has a wind generator which he uses at night when the sun’s asleep. Having more power will make Morrow a happier man. He enjoys a cold beer on a hot day at sea.


Here’s what it would cost an environmentally conscious solar energy user to live comfortably (TV, fridge, microwave, stereo, washing machine, etc). Prices in TT$: SOLAR PANEL (SIX PANELS) -$30,000 (inclusive of VAT, cable and installation) AN INDIVIDUAL PANEL FOR FUTURE EXPANSION (80-WATT PANEL) $3,000 AN INVERTER/CHARGER (1,500 WATTS) $10,000 BATTERIES TO STORE SOLAR POWER FROM PANELS (100 AMP HOUR; YOU NEED ABOUT FIVE) $1,500 EACH $7,500 (total) REGULATOR $1,500 PROPANE GAS FRIDGE $12,000 LIQUID PETROLEUM GAS FRIDGE (19 CUBIC FEET) $14,000-plus WIND GENERATOR $6,000 DIESEL-POWERED GENERATOR (5,000 WATTS) - $24,000

nature How is the teamwork in the company you work for? Do you gel, click, attain your targets under inspired leadership ignited by mutual respect? No? Then perhaps your company needs a lesson in Nature; where the playing field is level; CEOs, middle managers, messenger boys, workers on the factory floor, novices all. The PATHMASTER explains how the art of corporate team building in the great outdoors can produce the unexpected for all our benefit.

Lessons in Nature

The rapid extinction of plants on Earth is resulting in the loss of one potentially important drug every two years.


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or most people these days, their natural environment is an amalgam of the urban and metropolitan milieus in which they spend their lives. It is a world of hard surfaces beneath their feet and the rolling thunder of vehicles in their ears; a world where the air they breath is either filled with the effluent of their civilization, or sampled, circulated, cooled or heated; modified either to meet their fashion-fuelled expectations or to moderate the sad, bad designs of their habitation. It is a world forever dimly bright, distant from the white light of the sun; a world of false colours, yellowed by tungsten or eerily green under neon. It is a constricted world of small spaces, a world of containment, of concrete walls all around, of iron roofs above, separating us in body, mind and spirit from the Natural Environment. We have become set into our suburban lives; we are comfortable in our self-created corporate climes. Unconsciously following ancient tribal instincts we form groups, develop hierarchies, and into the stocks and shares, profits and losses that substitute for sticks, stones and clubs, we displace our competitive nature. Within our businesses we evolve a comfort-zone of cliques, a conspiracy of cabals, and the consequent frictions between factions are just a part of the politics of business. These conflicts — and the real and imagined self-seeking, jockeying, backstabbing, pseudo-servility and one-upmanship — reduce efficiency, corporate targets slip and companies slide. It is therefore no surprise that modern corporate managers want to build their departments and work-groups into teams. Successful team building creates a climate that encourages and values the contributions of all team members and directs their energies toward problem solving and task effectiveness. The team learns that individual performance cannot be fully separated from the performance of others. In order to create this silk-purse of multi-facetted unity from the sow’s ear of sloth, disharmony and conservatism, existing

groups must be broken down. The status quo must be exploded to be explored and understood. The work groups and departments must be subjected to unexpected challenges and new stresses that the old cliques and cabals cannot deal with. This is attained by taking the corporate creatures out of their natural environment, and putting them into a Natural Environment. In Nature, and comprehending natures, the necessary lessons can be learnt. Ecological inspiration and human experience are the fuel for ‘Lessons in Nature’, taking participants along four pathways of knowledge and growth. Specialized bush and activity leaders, who ensure safety at all times, oversee the activities. Trained facilitators observe the team interactions and mediate the debriefing sessions. In Trinidad and Tobago, our natural environments are never too far away. From almost any base, activities can be designed and customised to meet the specific needs of any business and work-group. Situations are created that expand people’s perception of themselves and others; activities undertaken that require trust where none was needed before; physical and mental challenges set that demolish existing hierarchies. And this is best undertaken away from familiar structures and distant from routine comforts, where there are no telephones or porcelain toilets, where the next corner hides the unknown, where the cafeteria and bar are forgotten in the exertion and exigencies of the task in hand. Strange settings and new challenges create first-time fears; participants fret and sweat in the wet and heat and discover personal resources to achieve a novel feat. Individual comfort with known abilities and success areas is confronted by unfamiliar risks requiring new skills and alliances. Herein lies lesson 1: learn one’s own nature. Our corporate view of our colleagues is largely twodimensional, based on the office and the after-work lime, which is usually an inebriated extension of the office! Change the scene to forested mountains and rushing rivers, to narrow rock and

“Change paper-pushing to building with bamboo, to orienteering overland or solving three-dimensional puzzles, and new leaders emerge, new hierarchies develop� root-strewn paths and the confidant become concerned. Change the inter-office amble to hilly hiking, cross-country cycling or never-before-attempted kayaking and the traditional relativities are blown away. Change paper-pushing to building with bamboo, to orienteering overland or solving threedimensional puzzles, and new leaders emerge, new hierarchies develop. Herein lies lesson 2: learn the true nature of our colleagues. The tasks can only be accomplished if individuals combine to form a whole greater than the sum of the components. This is a team. Removed from their comfort zones, cliques and cabals dismantled, the individual skills within the group come to the fore and are recognized. Leaders who are appropriate to the situation are accepted, even acclaimed. Mutual assistance is offered and accepted without boundaries. Everyone and anyone may hold the key to solving any problem. All inputs are equal and worthy of discussion. There is no other way to survive and succeed when all around you is unexpected and strange. Herein lies lesson 3: learn the true nature of teams and team-work. The fourth lesson in nature is the most important. In our concrete cubicles, surrounded by technology, where all we touch, see, hear and breath has been created or altered by people, we are remote from Nature. We do not experience, feel or know a natural environment, or any place free from the influence of humans. And in that separation, in that ignorance, lie the seeds of environmental inaction, the seeds of environmental destruction, the seeds of delegation of environmental caring and the abrogation of personal responsibility to protect and conserve our natural environments for our own sakes and for all other life forms. If the individuals who make up our corporate bodies are ignorant, than the corporations themselves cannot do business wisely. As the teams walk, jog, cycle and kayak through our wildernesses and waterways, the accompanying leaders interpret the surroundings and explain Nature’s interrelationships. With their senses sharpened by exertion, their observation enhanced by proximity, the participants feel the true nature of Nature. Lessons in Nature aims to make businesses more efficient, more pleasant, with fewer stresses and clashes, but above all it intends to make them more sensitive to their environmental impact and to create the corporate climate where the teams work to make that impact a positive one.


TEAM BUILDING The Pathmaster will show you the way tel: 1(868) 621-0255

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North Coast Treasures

he our for y e to tell t m r o c f lat you han is a p tion; a c nd what ard a a s o s i l , b n a g e a o n c eg Noti unity org you doi Thes ng . e s r l m a a go use uti com y what your s contrib tainable tr e n v u e s i e o h c su iti to ac activ tion and e need include a h v t r e d s n ld n lt shou s the co sources, a and bui rd e al towa natural r ur cultur o r of ou vation of gh r throu ate prese e. d n a ag priv ory herit WORDS & PHOTOS: NADINE HOSEIN ur st blic, the o y s u u rs, , tell tell the p rs, helpe em on n o o e donated by people in the Even within its small space, the h l So, g n we wil tial fund any of t n m a area. museum is still the home of some very e , a t s r m o o a p S at r, the acilit But the museum precious historical items. The layout has secto ers and f . id walls are slowly closing been carefully designed to ensure every f prov iling list ess o a in. Not only is it packed artifact is seen in light of its importance. busin e h our m t is in n to capacity, but the Apart from the anchor, which leans o i e sat US: gani ve on can artifacts are being against a wall at the back of the a h TELL t your or lic, f you a destroyed by salt, museum, there are numerous snake ion i f the pub s * Wh s i dm ro g s dust and congestion pelts set up against a wall. A small stage doin vision an membe issue y r n u a o unity making preservation covers the centre of the room and r o m *Y , m e l/co ww and restoration one holds numerous “ole time” items like he enta ea t * Ho t you m e r n a iro h ar ac of the museum’s irons, clay jugs, mortar and pestles, cont t the env in your se? Whic e a re biggest obstacles. ancient kettles and even old fashioned * Wh ncerns a oritise th e co pri hav u t a o Some years hats. and y h t es w do iness s ago, local fisherGlass displays have been sectioned * Ho rgent? u w b o or u kn most nisations me way le to men found an off to show different aspects of Toco’s p o e a p o * Org you in s ou’d like anchor lodged history: military medals and bullets, y le ed help hing else as possib in their nets. This Amerindian tools, insect and bug f t * Any it as brie has become one of the specimens and the bones of various p e * Ke most prized items for the animals and fishes. museum, but it has been slowly The museum is also dedicated to degenerating. giving the people of the area a voice. “The anchor is being slowly eroded Prominent villagers are recognized for by the salt on it. We need to get a fresh their achievements and contributions to estled within the laid back water tank to submerge it in, but this is the history of Toco. Pictures and articles town of Toco on the north quite expensive,” McSweeny said. documenting the achievement of east coast of Trinidad, is an The museum is hoping to attract people like Predrito Marcano, Albertina unassuming hut holding the funding from a number of local sources Pavy, Cyprian Rivers and Earl Lovalace town’s entire heritage. The Toco Folk to help with its growing problems. cover an entire wall. To the villagers, Museum is barely bigger than most Tidco has already donated $50,000 these people are the heroes that walked bathrooms, but it has been lovingly put to the purchase of audio/visual equipamong them. together and cared for by the people of ment. This will aid in one of the key The museum also cultivates one of Toco. objectives, a reading, research and the few remaining medicinal herb Situated on the grounds of the archive area. gardens, at the back of the building. Toco Composite School, the museum But, for now, the main goal is The herbs have been donated by began as a Royal Bank Young Leaders finding a new location. While the Albertina Pavy along with her knowproject in 1996, but has since grown school offers certain advantages like ledge on growing and using them. into a community initiative. security and electricity, it has also The first thing you notice when Nemme McSweeny, one of the limited expansion and public entrance walking towards the museum, is a large teachers involved in the initial school to the facility. dirt oven. This is not an everyday sight project, still plays an active role in the McSweeny, along with the two and the fact that it is still in use is museum. other teachers involved, have put something to leave you in awe. It has Since its formal launch in Novemtogether an interim proposal for the often been said that bread made in a ber of 1997 by the curator of the museum. It includes expanding the dirt oven is unforgettable. To the people Tobago museum, Edward Hernandez, current location to comprise an of Toco, who use the oven for this purits role in making Toco known, not only operational office. This is the best pose at their annual Heritage festival, to its people but to those outside the solution for the moment, until they are this is nothing out of the ordinary. area, has become indisputable. better able to present a case for Toco Folk museum is by no means “We wanted it to develop into a relocation. a thriving financial operation. It is quite fully fledged community based project, “We have a site in mind, but there obvious that is has survived on the love where everyone benefits and contriare other organizations in the area that and dedication of the Toco community. butes to its survival,” said McSweeny. may need it more than we do,” said But without additional aid, it will soon The museum documents the history McSweeny. It is quite clear from the find itself struggling to hold on to of all the villages within the Toco ward, museum itself that the villagers play an its possessions and unable to take in from Matura to Matelot. The historical important part in keeping it alive. anymore. material in the museum’s inventory was

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TOCO FOLK MUSEUM GOAL To use the history of the Toco ward to bring the community closer together.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES: 1. Create cottage industries using the natural resources of the area: papermaking, handcrafts, pottery and organic products 2. Promote creativity and originality amongst villagers in the form of arts and crafts 3. Preserve and restore the natural resources of the area 4. Encourage human participation in the building of Toco’s heritage 5. Document the history of the area 6. To provide an outlet for the sale of items produced in the area 7. Compile a library of material on the area 8. Encourage performance arts directly linked to Toco’s heritage

PROJECT IDEAS: 1. To find a new location 2. To be able to conserve and restore artifacts 3. To put in place an audio/visual room to hold film festivals 4. To expand current area to hold an office Contact Mrs McSweeny at the Toco Composite School: 670- 8261

on the ground

warden patrol

More people die in deserts from drowning than from thirst.


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don’t know why I assumed that spending a day with game wardens would be a walk in the park. The Rangers gather in the San Fernando office of the Forestry Division when the sky is still inky black and a little sliver of moon offers little light. We set off just as the sun begins its ascent. First stop, the police station. Ranger Seepersad returns with a 12gauge shotgun, which he loads carefully. Call me naive, but why do we need arms to go look at animals? The answer is quick and serious. "We may come across illegal hunters who may not want us to interfere with their livelihood." I’m beginning to think this is a lot more intense than I may have been expecting. Trinidadians have always had a taste for wild meat, and these days it has become quite fashionable, making its way onto the menus of many an allinclusive, regardless of whether it’s hunting season or not. Each hunter is supposed to apply for a permit to hunt wildlife during the open season, which runs from December to March. Technically. The permits actually expire at the end of February, so technically, hunters are not supposed to hunt during the month of March. In order to qualify for a permit for the following hunting season, the hunter has to return this season’s permit, giving details of how many animals he or she has killed. It is one of the few ways the Forestry Division has of finding out just how many animals we have in the wild. We make a last stop in civilisation, at a crossroads in Moruga where an old hunter returns his permit to one of the wardens. Predictably, he hasn’t filled in the information about how many animals he’s caught, begging off with the excuse that he didn’t really catch anything this season. There’s no law that can make him do it, like all environment laws in Trinidad, the ones to do with Wildlife are vague and damn near impossible to enforce. We enter the Trinity Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. At the gate, a sleepy security guard lets us in, without taking note of either the licence plate details or who is in the van. I get from the land this first sight of Trinidad that Columbus got in 1498. A wide expanse of rolling hills dotted liberally with flaming immortelles in the early morning light.

One of many hunting lodges lining a road running through the Trinity Hills Sanctuary, a “protected” area.

There is a gas-line running along-side the bumpy road. The wardens voice concern that plans are afoot to run the gas line through the extent of the sanctuary to the other end of the island. They fear that this will make it easier for poachers to gain access to the prohibited areas during the closed season. There are several permanent hunter camps, although, being state land, this is illegal. The gated, padlocked structures have stood here for years, and even have their own kennels for hunting dogs. I am told that some of the bigger permanent structures belong to highranking public servants, senior police officers, even a former Environment Minister. The kind of hunters that would never be nabbed for illegal poaching but probably are a lot more of a menace to local biodiversity than an unemployed Morugan armed with a torchlight and a cutlass. We stop at a hillside clearing where there are fresh tracks leading into the bush. I’m given a pair of bush tramping boots and we head off. We walk for twenty minutes into the forest, in which there is that noisy forest silence. Along the barely discernible trail there are signs that hunters have paid a recent visit. Some of the hints are subtle; a branch bent this way, markings on the bark of a tree. There are also big wet footprints thanks to a rather rain dry season and a littering of fresh orange peel. We stop under a sky high balata tree, the men whispering conspiratorially, making signs I can’t understand. I stand in the middle of the bush feeling very much like a target. If nothing else I take away from this journey to the bush with the game wardens, it’s a fashion tip: a white t-shirt is not the best colour if you’re

ATTILLAH SPRINGER does her best to blend in with the Forestry Division’s game wardens on the trail of illegal hunters in the Trinity Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. trying to blend in with the scenery on the trail of seasoned poachers, who, like the animals they hunt, are masters of camouflage and escape. We move on, driving through the sanctuary and out to the coast. Along the way we stop at the JR Animal and Pet Farm. At least here I see close up, and alive the animals whose lives would have surely ended in a curry. There is a friendly capybara, a temperamental agouti who I can’t see but can hear grunting and scratching defensively from inside a bamboo tube. Two ocelots pant in the mid-morning heat. A mother quenk being followed by three incredibly cute new-born babies. They are kept in cages, separate and safe from their enemies, which most often walk on two legs. As hunters become more daring and the animals retreat further, perhaps farms like these will be the only ways for us to know what our own wildlife looks like. We continue our journey, with the sun baking overhead. We come across a man, a known hunter, carrying a crocus bag full of provision. The wardens are not convinced that he’s simply come here to dig up some yams, but there is nothing they can do without more damning proof. We're making our way back to base, back through the Trinity Hills sanctuary. Sleep comes as the heat gets to that unbearable early afternoon point and just as I think I am relieved but slightly disappointed that there wasn’t much poaching action this morning the van screeches to a halt. Liming with a group of workers is a known poacher with tools of the trade; a cutlass, torchlight and a crocus bag. There is an exchange of words, a lot of grandstanding and cutlass pointing. The exchange ends in arrest and we make our way silently to a police post in Moruga where the officers on duty are less than keen. It’s almost as if they don’t see the crime in a little hunting. In the stifling heat outside the police station I see what it’s really like to be a game warden. This is the unglamorous part of the job. The part that never makes it to wildlife documentaries. The faces of tired, over-worked wardens who have nothing but ambiguous laws on their side to protect the biodiversity of islands richer than they think.

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Issue 2 of the Caribbean environmental magazine, featuring the region's unique marine life


Issue 2 of the Caribbean environmental magazine, featuring the region's unique marine life

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