Wrong fine given to Scarlet Ibis poachers

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.

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