Report on Socio-Economic Survey related to Protected Areas
The project entitled, Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in Trinidad and Tobago (IFPAMTT) was the direct response of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to a request by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to support the prevention of biodiversity loss in T&T and help in improving the governance of environmentally sensitive and protected areas.
The six (6) Pilot Protected Areas (PPAs) were selected for focus in the IFPAMTT project as they represented issues that presented a range of challenges for local protected area management. The profiles of the six areas are presented below.
Covers an area of 8,340 hectares and is a well-known nature tourism site.
Largely composed of mangrove forests, it is located on the west coast of Trinidad and is at the outflow of the Caroni River which drains one-third of the population of Trinidad on the east-west corridor. Recreational fishing is confined to areas outside of key nesting sites of the Scarlet Ibis a national bird and since 2018, an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) – and there is also a fair amount of oyster and crab harvesting. Small areas of private lands and leased land are located on the eastern boundary alongside the Uriah Butler Highway.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve
This site enjoys the accolade of being cited as the oldest declared forest reserve in the Western Hemisphere, having been protected by legal ordinance in 1776. Hunting is permitted in the open season. The site is home to several endemic species including the Environmentally Sensitive Species – the white-tailed sabre-wing hummingbird – and the forest reserve has gained many international awards as a leading ecotourism site over the years.
Several individuals and groups conduct nature tours along trails within the Main Ridge Forest Reserve year-round and there is a growing demand for extraction of non-wood products, such as mud that is used in Carnival celebrations locally and further afield.
Matura Forest and Coastal Zone
Located in northeast Trinidad, the forest constitutes the Matura National Park Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA); there are private landholdings within the ESA. The coastal zone hugs the east coastline at the villages of Fishing Pond, Vega de Oropouche and Matura which are predominantly agricultural areas. Hunting is not allowed in the ESA, however poaching takes place. In the village of Matelot to the north west of the ESA, agriculture is practise and may encroach into the ESA. Community groups engage in tour guiding in the forest and coastal areas, particularly along trails to the Rio Seco waterfall and tours/patrols on beaches which are seasonally prohibited areas during marine turtle nesting.
Nariva Swamp and Coastal Zone
Located south of central on the east coast of Trinidad, the Nariva Swamp spans 11,343 hectares and is the largest freshwater swamp in Trinidad, with an assemblage of six different forest types. This is also an Environmentally Sensitive Area and includes the Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary where entry is by permit only. Agriculture is practised by tenanted farmers in the northern portion of the Nariva Swamp at Plum Mitan. Near the eastern coastal zone area there are private landholdings on which farming takes place (south) and at which the only known local habitat of the West Indian manatee is found (north). Nature tourism also takes place in the Swamp and agricultural squatting is known in the area.
NE Tobago marine area
this site, which stretches around the eastern tip of Tobago from Castara in the north to Roxborough in the south is proposed for inclusion among the country’s protected areas.The site extends outwards from the coast by 6 nautical miles and includes offshore islets of St. Giles, Goat Island and Little Tobago which are critical seabird breeding colonies. Spectacular coral reefs are present offshore of the Speyside area and several dive shops operate at the village. There is a growing guest house industry in the village of Castara and thriving fishing communities at many of the coastal villages found within this site.
Trinity Hills and Eastern Extension
The site comprises the Trinity Hills Game (Wildlife) Sanctuary and the area to the east of this known as the Victoria-Mayaro Forest Reserve. The Game Sanctuary has restricted access by permit only. Of the six sites, this is furthest from community settlements; Guayaguayare to the south-east is closest in distance. A 2017 knowledge, attitudes and practices survey undertaken by the IFPAMTT project revealed that only 45% of 1074 respondents were aware of the site. The Sanctuary contains representatives of all of the country’s local land mammals and several of its bat species. In the Forest Reserve, several land-based oilfields are located and it is a heavily hunted area in the open season.