Country Profiles

Trinidad and Tobago - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic State which consists of the two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands and islets. Trinidad is the larger of the two islands, with an area of approximately 4,827 km2 while Tobago has an area of 303 km2. Trinidad and Tobago boasts a rich biota relative to its size. The country’s rich biodiversity is attributable to its geological history and location to the South American continent. The past and fairly recent “land bridge” to the South American continent, and proximity to the Orinoco River Delta and outflow, are credited for the existence of relic continental species and the relative ease of colonization of mainland species in Trinidad and Tobago.

Because of its recent separation from the South American mainland, the biota and terrestrial habitats of Trinidad reflect the ecology of equatorial South America unlike the other Windward Islands, which have ecosystems dominated by island endemic species. The vast range of terrestrial ecosystems includes seasonal evergreens, littoral woodlands, montane rainforests, swamp forests, marshes and savannahs. These support rich species diversity, including approximately 420 bird species and 85 reptile species. In the marine areas, ecosystems include mud bottoms, coral reefs, sandy bottoms and rocky shores. These support a range of macro and micro biota, such as an estimated 36 species of reef-building corals. Endangered species include the manatee, the golden tree frog, the crab-eating raccoon and the blue and yellow macaw.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Rapid and sustained development in both Trinidad and Tobago has led to changes in the extent and integrity of natural ecosystems. These changes have been most apparent in forests and coastal systems (such as mangroves, coral reef and sea grasses), and have generally been more intensive in the western section of both islands. Land use and land cover changes are the main driving forces contributing to biodiversity loss in all biomes in Trinidad and Tobago. Deforestation and conversion of land principally for agriculture and housing have been the main drivers, and these have resulted in the reduction in forest cover and coastal ecosystems, as well as greater fragmentation of remaining natural systems. Industrial development in Trinidad, largely driven by the growing petrochemical sector over the last several years, has resulted in the conversion of significant tracts of coastal ecosystems, principally mangroves along the western coast of Trinidad, to industrial estates. Some coastal conversion is also occurring in the southwestern region of the island.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago produced its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 2001. The NBSAP was developed through extensive stakeholder engagement and consultations and identified a number of strategies and actions for improved biodiversity conservation in the following broad categories: Education and Awareness; Legislation and Enforcement; Institution and Capacity; Information and Research; Policy and Commitment.

Since the NBSAP was completed in 2001 and until 2010, progress has been made in regulating development which may have potential positive impacts on biodiversity through the Environmental Management Act and its Certificate of Environmental Clearance Rules. The protection of certain areas and species has been enhanced through their declaration as environmentally sensitive through the Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Environmentally Sensitive Species Rules. Additionally, many organizations and entities such as research institutions, NGOs/CBOs, certain communities, and some private sector entities have been taking responsibility for the development/advancement of biodiversity related programs.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Initiatives that are being implemented to conserve biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago include the National Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Program. This ten-year program started in 2004 and aims to replant 33,030 acres of forest, including 11,000 acres of forest in watersheds to allow for watershed development and the recharging of aquifers. The Program identified 72 sites throughout Trinidad and Tobago for reforestation and watershed rehabilitation.

The Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Species and Biodiversity Work Plan also aims to declare 10 Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) and to develop and implement management plans for them. Designated species to date are the Sabrewing Hummingbird, the Manatee and the Pawi. Other species targeted for designation include 5 marine turtles. Additionally, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) will make biodiversity a part of holistic community programs, emphasizing linkages between community activities and the environment. Other measures to restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species include the Macaw project, the No Net Loss Policy for forest replanting, and the cap on the number of fishing trawlers allowed.

The protection of agricultural genetic diversity is done through germplasm collections run by the Government and the University of the West Indies, which include approximately 300 varieties of hot peppers. The Forestry Division addresses sustainable consumption issues with measures such as the regulation of tree harvesting and issuing hunting permits along with monitoring of hunters by game wardens. The concept of annual allowable harvest has also been adopted, by which only the annual increment of the forest can be harvested. The Revised National Environmental Policy has a section on invasive species which states, among other things, that the Government must educate citizens on the risks of introducing exotic species and develop action plans to deal with invasive species.

The ecosystem service approach has taken root in Trinidad and Tobago. In April 2002, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) hosted a workshop on scenarios in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A number of local researchers and policy-makers were invited to this meeting, and their involvement sparked interest among a core group to initiate efforts to introduce ecosystem assessments to Trinidad and Tobago.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In Trinidad and Tobago, there are over 50 laws, policies, plans, strategies and programs which seek to address biodiversity issues which, directly or indirectly, are compatible with the aims and objectives of the CBD. There are four main pieces of legislation which are geared towards the management of biodiversity: Conservation of Wildlife Act; Environmental Management Act; Fisheries Act; Forests Act. There are also five main policies which compliment the current legislation: National Environmental Policy (2006); National Forest Policy (2011); National Protected Areas Policy (2011); National Policy and Programs on Wetland Conservation for Trinidad and Tobago (2002); and the National Tourism Policy of Trinidad and Tobago (2010). Plans are also in place to revisit a number of other policies, such as the National Environmental Policy (2006), a Draft Fisheries Policy (2007), a Draft Hillside Policy (2004) and various policies related to agriculture.

The Green Fund was established under the Finance Act 2004 by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. The Fund is capitalized by a tax on the gross sales and receipts of corporate companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago. The Fund has had a long journey to operationalization, and its actualization has taken close to seven years. The Green Fund is a grant facility available to Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and NGOs or according to the legislation “…any other body incorporated by or under a law other than the Companies Act.” The Fund’s resources are distributed by an agency established for that purpose (the Green Fund Executing Unit) under the supervision of an advisory committee. Groups qualifying for funding must be involved in activities focusing on environmental conservation, reforestation or remediation.

One important project which has been developed in Trinidad and Tobago and applies the ecosystem-service based approach to management is the Nariva Swamp Restoration, Carbon Sequestration and Livelihoods Project 2008. With funding from the World Bank, work began to track GHG emissions in the swamp and to re-vegetate regions of the swamp, thereby enhancing carbon sequestration functions and reducing methane emissions. This is being done under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC and it is the first of its kind in the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago is therefore set to engage in the global carbon market.

In education, there are notable efforts to integrate biodiversity into both the formal and informal sectors. Primary and secondary curricula now have a greater environmental component. One significant advancement has been the effort by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), a regional examining body, to better include environmental components into its science curricula at both the ordinary and advanced levels. There is also now an Environmental Sciences syllabus at the advanced level which recognizes the need for greater emphasis to be placed on the links between humans and the environment rather than the traditional, more ecocentric approach. This subject is gaining popularity in Trinidad and Tobago.

To varying degrees, government ministries, besides the Ministry responsible for the Environment, have a mandate to include environmental considerations into their work programs. Ministries whose portfolios have a direct impact on the environment, such as the Ministry of Works and Transport; the Ministry responsible for Planning; the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs; the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs; the Ministry of Tourism; the Ministry of Tobago Development; the Ministry of Public Utilities; and the Ministry of Local Government have been playing a greater role in the extent to which they include environmental considerations in their plans and projects.

There have been several attempts, both within the public sector and between the public sector and other stakeholders, to improve collaboration and coordination in support of biodiversity management. There are some 100 civil society organizations involved in championing, promoting and fostering sound environmental management. Many are engaged in partnerships with the Government to address environmental issues of mutual concern, and in the implementation of natural resources co-management projects geared at environmental enhancement or remediation of degraded forest lands. This sector is diverse and includes NGOs, not-for-profit organizations and CBOs. Trinidad and Tobago is committed to a number of multilateral environmental agreements which are of relevance in managing biodiversity. The Ministry responsible for the Environment has been seeking to foster a better relationship with international agencies and regional organizations in order to better meet international obligations, and to create better local to global links.

There are several public sector institutions in Trinidad and Tobago with statutory control related to the management of the country’s biodiversity. Among the more important institutions are the Forestry Division, Fisheries Division, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). The Forestry Division has responsibility for the management of Wildlife Sanctuaries, Forest Reserves, and Prohibited Areas designated under the Forests Act. Its responsibility has been traditionally limited to the management of forest resources on State lands through the Forestry Act and therefore has limited control on private forest. The Fisheries Division is directly responsible for managing fisheries and has legislative responsibility for designating prohibited areas in the marine environment of Trinidad and Tobago. The Tobago House of Assembly has responsibility for local governance on the island of Tobago. Its structure somewhat mirrors that of Central Government Ministries and so there are several divisions with responsibilities corresponding to the Central Government’s counterpart ministry. The EMA’s role is to “coordinate, facilitate and oversee execution of the national environmental strategy and programs, to promote public awareness of environmental concerns, and to establish an effective regulatory regime which will protect, enhance and conserve the environment”.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Trinidad and Tobago recognizes that monitoring biodiversity is not done within a comprehensive or systematic framework. Adoption of the Ecosystem Approach has begun to varying degrees, including research, policy formulation, and project design and implementation. Recognizing that ecosystem assessments are not well integrated in development planning and practice the Caribbean region, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago hopes to partner with the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre and other local entities to host a capacity development and awareness building workshop on ecosystem assessments and their applicability at the national and regional levels.