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Govt looking at more protection for turtles

Thursday, February 24, 2011
Vasant Bharath

Government’s upcoming legislative moves to further turtle preservation will include consultations with all stakeholders, Agriculture Minister Vasant Bharath has said. Bharath spoke following a meeting on Monday with New Zealand anti-whaling conservationist Pete Bethune. The latter is in Trinidad to speak at a workshop yesterday, hosted by groups, including the TEW, at the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. Bharath said Government already had been committed to initiate steps to safeguard certain local species, including turtles.

He said an anomaly existed in current legislation since the Wildlife Conservation Act under the Environment Ministry forbids turtle-hunting, although the Fisheries Act of 1916 allows an open season between March 1 and September 30. Bharath said Government would move to address the loophole later this year. Under current legislation governing an open season, a number of persons make their livelihood from hunting the species in both islands. Controversial conservationist Bethune, an oil exploration engineer, had been prominent with the Sea Shepherd (SS) anti-whaling group of Animal Planet’s, Whale Wars series.

According to Wikipedia, Bethune’s connection with SS was severed after an incident last year in which Bethune clashed with a Japanese whaling vessel. Wikipedia records state he was arrested and charged with “trespassing, assault, illegal possession of a knife, destruction of property and obstruction of business.”
Bethune received a suspended sentence, was banned from Japan for five years and deported. He later formed his own group, Earthrace. IETV which interviewed Bethune last Friday on his arrival, described him as “militant.”