Environmental Management Authority (EMA) chairman Nadra Nathai-Gyan yesterday admitted it was regrettable that the new $100,000 fine for poaching of a Scarlet Ibis, an Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS), took too long to be gazetted.
Her comments came hours after trio Jiang Hui Feng, Jin Feng and Alion Ramkhalawan were each fined $800 by Port-of-Spain Magistrate Sanara Toon McQuilkin on Monday, having been found with a dead baby Scarlet Ibis, although the new fine of $100,000 had been gazetted on October 11. The trio pleaded guilty to the charge.
Nathai-Gyan said it was only after the men were fined in court that the EMA found out the new fine had been gazetted, by which time it was too late to reverse the court’s decision.
“It was only on Monday morning this was communicated to the EMA and we would have informed the Forestry Division subsequently. By then, the matter would have already been heard in the court and men would have been fined the $800 instead of the $100,000. It’s not the Forestry Division’s fault. They just acted on what was existing at the time,” Nathai-Gyan said in a telephone interview.
Asked who was at fault, Nathai-Gyan said, “I don’t want to say that anybody was at fault. The gazette would have sent it to the Chief Parliamentary Council and they would have sent it to us.”
She admitted it took too long from the time the fines increased to when it was gazetted.
“Regrettably, it took too long to be gazetted. The process could have been a lot shorter.”
Nathai-Gyan said now that the fines are law this should deter all poachers from killing any protected birds.
In June, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat increased the fine to $100,000 for poaching of the Scarlet Ibis.
That designation offers additional protection with punitive measures, specifically in accordance with section 70 (2) of the Environmental Management Act, Chapter 35:05, which states “any person who knowingly or recklessly endangers or adversely impacts the species will be liable to a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment of two years.”
In a Whatsapp message, Rambharat said his ministry had only been notified about the fine being gazetted yesterday.
Rambharat insisted the game wardens who caught and charged the trio “did not commit any blunder” or erred in any way.
“They sought advice and were told that the changes had not been gazetted,” Rambharat said.
He said the EMA and the Attorney General’s office hold responsibility for gazetting, adding his ministry was no way involved in this process.
Rambharat also revealed that paltry hunting fines of $200 and $300 will now be increased to $10,000 from January 1, adding the current fines are “too minuscule” and have been in place for decades.
Asked if these fines will accompany jail sentences, especially to repeat offenders, Rambharat said, “Where jail terms are provided, the final decision rests with the court. I believe there are cases where jail terms are appropriate.
“The new fines are meant to serve as a deterrent to behaviours that may have become commonplace to some people.”
As to what measures his ministry will take to catch poachers in the act, Rambharat promised to continue working with the Service Commission to hire more game wardens.
Last year, Rambharat said about 50 hunters were caught hunting outside of the official hunting season.