Written by Joanna Moses-Wothke, Blue Flag & LEAF Trinidad and Tobago Asclepius Green
Las Cuevas Beach, located on the North coast of Trinidad, is the only Blue Flag certified beach in the Southern English-speaking Caribbean since January 2015. This means Las Cuevas beach has met internationally recognised standards for safety and environmental awareness and is among 4,000 beaches in over 50 countries that promote good environmental practice identified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), the Denmark-based non-charitable organization.
Las Cuevas Beach has twice complied with the 33 Blue Flag beach criteria, including monthly water quality testing. The Blue Flag National Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Asclepius Green, continues to work diligently with the Tourism Development Company (the beach operator for Las Cuevas), the Ministry of Tourism and the 12-member National Blue Flag Jury to ensure the beach maintains its acquired status and working on the establishment of other Blue Flag beaches.
Although Blue Flag is synonymous with beach cleanliness and safety, it is recognized as an avenue to reinforce existing legislations. Bathers at Las Cuevas are now empowered to report any lawbreaking activities such as driving on the turtle nesting beach. Las Cuevas beach is a prolific nesting site for the endangered Leatherback turtles. The local population of the nesting Leatherback is one of the three largest in the world and a few beaches around the country’s coast are the best managed and monitored. Five of the seven sea turtle species in the world, feed in waters around Trinidad and Tobago or return to lay eggs.
Although the turtle nesting generally occurs outside of the Blue Flag area, the ease of accessibility to drivers led to driving along the beach especially near turtle nesting areas. The turtle conservation group, Las Cuevas Eco Friendly Association, has been pleading with these lawbreakers but the use of the social media has gotten the attention of law enforcers responsible for the protected species leading to the erection of signs restricting driving access on the beach. Families to Las Cuevas can now enjoy a true eco-tourism experience; a safe environmentally- friendly beach with turtle nesting viewing.
Hotels and tourism organizations that manage beaches are called to action to support an environmental cause that promotes sustainable tourism management. Blue Flag offers the opportunity to champion an inter/intra-sector programme in your country that adds value to beach-front properties, create confidence in seaside attractions and provide a competitive advantage.