Fishing Pond Beach Clean
Every second night a team of four members of our Trini Family venture down to Fishing Pond to film the nesting process of a leatherback turtle and to clean the beach for half an hour. It always amazes us what we manage to shift in that short time – the cool nights, clean sea air and fresh coconut water reward helps! However; this is not enough to save the vast number of hatchlings scrambling through the sand to the surface and then attempting to find their way to the sea. The rainy season, ferocious tide and choppy Atlantic ocean sweep an assortment of jungle wreckage and plastic onto the narrow stretch of sand trapping many hatchlings. It is reaching the end of the nesting season and it will soon be peak time for the emergence of the hatchlings! We therefore needed to act quickly to prevent more being tangled and lost in the debris.
The whole team drove one afternoon to Fishing Pond to tackle the beach during the day. As we set off the rain turned torrential but we crossed our fingers and waited it out – luckily Malcolm has his pink umbrella just incase! This was the first time we had seen the beach in day light and we could appreciate its beauty even more – roaring sandy waves, white horses jumping out of them, diverse flora of the mangrove and magnificent frigate birds, Fregata magnificens, gliding over our heads on the look out for hatchling lunch.
It was beachcombers heaven – Shells, donkey eye seed pods, eagle and elephant shaped driftwood! And hard work – With the help of Sookraj and Rishi, the local Turtle Village Trust staff, we hauled fishing net of all sizes and colours free from the sand which if left, turtle flippers would have become tangled and whole nests would become trapped. We walked a couple of miles of the beach heaving the long bamboo stems, rolling tree trunks up the beach and scooping the debris further inland.
We were able to carry bags of plastic bottles back to the car to recycle but due to the poor access to Fishing Pond beach we had no choice but to discard the debris of wood, soggy shoes, polystyrene, bottle tops, rope, net…. further up the shore and in the mangrove. This has been accumulating for years as the local workers have no option but to also do this. The 200 metre board walk to Fishing Pond beach was build in 1995 and despite being rebuilt in 2004 is now lying in disrepair, preventing access for clearing the beach properly as well as the public easily reaching the beach. This has been hindering eco tourism developments in the area as in similar leatherback nesting sites around Trinidad, turtle viewing tours have supported the local economy by encouraging tourism and jobs for local people.
Back to the Mangrove: Pollution from the washed up rubbish has been leaching into the rare mangrove ecosystem and it is unknown what effect these chemicals are having on the fragile balance of this habitat… It is home to iconic species such as the West Indian Manatee, Red Howler Monkeys and The Washer Woman birds. Investment is needed in order to clean this area up properly and maintain its wealth of biodiversity.
We plan to continue our beach cleaning every night we are there – approx 4 times per week. Feeling like proud parents on their kids first day of school, we watch the hatchlings emerge and reach the sea safely – makes it all worth while!