THA Environment Secretary: Tobago beaches are safe

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

People enjoy a day of relaxing at Buccoo beach on May 5, two days after it was reopened following a shark attack at Turtle Beach on April 26. – Visuals Style

Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Secretary Nathisha Charles-Pantin says Tobago’s beaches remain safe for both locals and visitors.

This response comes after UK and Canadian authorities issued travel advisories concerning the safety of Tobago’s beaches.

The advisories were prompted by the wounding of UK national Peter Smith, 64, by a shark at Turtle Beach on April 26 and the subsequent closure of several beaches on Tobago’s West coast.

In a statement via WhatsApp Charles-Pantin said, “I am very proud of our quick response and we want to assure all persons that Tobago remains a safe and welcoming destination for both locals and visitors to experience our beautiful beaches and marine environment.”

She added, “I wish to state that shark attacks are unusual in Tobago, in fact, this was the first time in our history that a human attack has been recorded.

“But immediately, our authorities moved to close all beaches along the coast as well as the reef for one week to undertake a thorough assessment of the threat to users of our marine space.

“We have since revised our marine emergency plan and are in the process of enhanced training and capacity-building initiatives for lifeguards and reef tour operators.”

Pantin said although the incident was unfortunate, it allowed the authorities to update marine safety and security plans and embark on a public education campaign.

She said the beaches were reopened on May 3 and new safety guidelines are being widely publicised to ensure public awareness and preparedness.

In her statement, she also wished Smith a quick recovery.

“I join with all of Tobago in sending sincere wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr Smith.”

On May 6, Newsday checked the UK government travel advice website and the notice about the temporary closure of the Buccoo Reef Marine Park following the shark attack on its national was removed.

Up to press time, the warning for Canadian citizens remained the same. It said, “Coastal waters can be dangerous. In certain areas, sharks pose a risk to swimmers.

“Avoid unsupervised beaches. Follow the instructions and warnings of lifeguards. Respect the flag warning system, which provides notice of water conditions and safety risks on beaches.”

After being treated at the Scarborough General Hospital, Smith was airlifted to Florida for further medical attention.