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File picture: Glass bottom Buccoo reef tour boat taken from, Pigeon Point, Tobago.

Buccoo Reef Boat Tour Operators say although COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed allowing them to resume operations, this may be impossible as more thought should have been put into the logistics for the Tobago tour operators.

On Saturday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that restrictions would be altered to allow people to tour the Buccoo Reef in Tobago and the Caroni Bird Sanctuary in Trinidad. These tours must however only be at half occupancy and persons must wear protective gear.

The Buccoo Reef Boat Tour Operators say they are happy to return to work but may not be able to benefit from these new guidelines.

President of the Buccoo Reef Boat Tour Operators Association Dexter Black said the amendments to the Public Health Regulations places them at a disadvantage as according to the new guidelines persons are not allowed to get into the water. This would be particularly difficult as people can only access boat tours from Store Bay where there is no jetty and the Pigeon Point jetty is still closed off to the public.

“At Store Bay persons will still have to get into the water. At Pigeon Point the Jetty is in need of repairs, it cordoned off if you go there now you will see caution tape some of the thatch blown off the jetty so the jetty at Pigeon Point is not an option for now.”

Under the amended public health regulations, tours to the Buccoo Reef and the Caroni Bird Sanctuary are only permitted where the tour does not exceed fifty per cent of the ordinary capacity of a tour. People on both tours must also wear an appropriate facemask, face shield or face covering. And those on the tours are not allowed to disembark from the vessel to bathe or swim.

According to the Public Health Act, it’s also an offence for people be found at any beach or any body of water off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago for any recreational purposes.

According to the president of the association, these guidelines may prove counterproductive, as traditionally bathing in the waters is a part of the experience.

Currently, there are 22 registered boat owners operating tours at the location. In March of this year when the site was closed as part of COVID-19 safety regulations, the Tobago House of Assembly used the opportunity to implement a ticketing system to put an end to touting by boat owners. Boat owners signed an MOU with the Tobago House of Assembly, which now governs how the Marine Park is used and managed

Several calls to the Secretary responsible for that Division, Hayden Spencer went unanswered.