The Ministry of Agriculture said there will be stiffer penalties for illegal hunting next year now that President Paula-Mae Weekes has assented to the Finance Act 2018, which increases fines for infractions under the Conservation of Wildlife Act.
From January 1, poachers will face fines as much as 50 times higher than currently exists. The minister also has the power to increase the limit of prescribed fines.
In a statement, the ministry said while there are tougher fines for environmentally sensitive species (ESS), including the scarlet ibis, there is a need for an increase in fines for illegal capture of wildlife which have not been declared an ESS. This, it said, is to demonstrate the severity of an offence, the potential impact it has on conservation efforts and the intention of the government to deter illegal hunting.
The ministry also expressed concern about recent reports of illegal hunting and consumption of protected species, including the red howler monkey and the lesser anteater, as well as an upsurge of smuggled wildlife from neighbouring Venezuela and Guyana.
“These and other indiscretions must be met with the appropriate legislative action to increase: fines, surveillance and co-operation amongst the Ministries of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; National Security; and Health, especially as there is a real threat of the introduction of zoonotic diseases,” the ministry said.
The release also stated that Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat is committed to monitoring activities during the hunting and closed seasons to determine what further actions are required to strike the balance between hunting in the open season as well as the need for the sustainable management of wildlife resources and public safety issues.
From 2019, the fines for hunting activities include: $10,000 for hunting in a game sanctuary (up from $1,000); $10,000 for hunting protected animals without a special game licence (up from $1,000); $1,500 for failing to produce a State game licence (up from $100); $4,000 for failing to obtain a State game licence (up from $400); $10,000 for hunting while disqualified (up from $2,000); $10,000 for hunting during the closed season/exercising dogs during the closed season (up from $2,000); $5,000 for failing to give place of abode/giving false place of abode (up from $100); $10,000 for assaulting, obstructing/resisting a game warden (up from $1,000); $10,000 for payment of compensation instead of fine (up from $200); $10,000 for export of animals without permission (up from $2,000); $5,000 for offences without fines specified (up from $200) and a $10,000 limit of the minister to prescribe fines under the regulations (up from $200).
This month, T&T acceded to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the only global convention specialising in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes.