Green turtles would disappear without farm, says MD

| 21/10/2015 | 56 Comments
Cayman News Service

Turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm

(CNS): With only around 60 nesting female green turtles in local waters, the demand for meat and the willingness of local consumers to eat wild animals, regardless of the law, the species would be extinct in Cayman within months if the Cayman Turtle Farm was to close, Tim Adam, the CTF’s managing director has stated.

Following several weeks of controversy regarding turtle deaths, cover-ups and very public HR disputes, Adam spoke with CNS this week about some of the challenges facing the CTF but justified the existence of the facility, not least because of what he said was its critical role in conservation and protection of the wild population.

Describing the wild population as “extremely fragile”, he said the numbers in local waters could never satisfy demand in a sustainable way. It would require at least 200 turtles a year from the wild to sustain even the lowest demand for the meat, he said, which was a “hopeless” scenario for the species.

The recent publication of the first ever baseline study in Cayman of the consumption of meat, “Socio-economic aspects of turtle conservation in the Cayman Islands”, highlighted that, while price has been a barrier to residents buying more of the meat, the taste for the national dish has not gone away.

70% of residents not eating turtle

The survey also revealed that 44% of regular turtle eaters would take from the wild if the farm closed, illustrating that the desire to consume the endangered species still leaves local wild turtle vulnerable.

Adam accepted that while not all of those people who claimed they would eat illegal meat would, in reality, turn to crime, he pointed out that with 8% of consumers admitting that they eat poached meat even with the farm, he estimated that without it, take from the wild would see the 120 or so turtles that spend their time in local waters caught and cooked within six months.

There has been a long history of troubles and controversy at the Cayman Turtle Farm, including the battle to make farming the wild sea creature viable, the significant financial losses, past management scandals and, more recently, human resource problems, as well as a global campaign to convert the CTF to a conservation facility spearheaded by World Animal Protection (WAP). Nevertheless, Adam told CNS that there had been many significant improvements in recent years that were now coming to fruition.

From the massive increase this nesting season to 40,000 eggs from a low of 8,000 as a result of improved feeding and health of the turtles to the CTF’s involvement in important research projects, Adam said it remained more than ever a major factor in protecting the recovering wild population.

He also noted the massive body of knowledge that the facility has now collected in relation to the management of turtles and farming the meat, which he insisted is a healthy and nutritious food. That knowledge could be used the world over to introduce farming in other places where people were short of food, and protein in particular, once the techniques in cultivating underwater fences were perfected, he told CNS, as he spoke about the potential development of free-range farm facilities in turtle grass beds such as those off the West Coast of Africa.

Adam said the Cayman Turtle Farm was already a true conservation facility, having been involved in numerous international research and scientific projects, which the MD said have assisted other conservation projects, including the Leatherback Turtle Trust in Barbados, that have used green turtles at the farm to test specialist tracing equipment.

He also revealed that the CTF will be returning to its release programme within a year and was targeting a release of more than 100 juvenile turtles at the Pirates Week festivities in 2016, once the genetic research and quarantine issues were completed. Adam said that given the increasing success in the breeding programme, in future the CTF would be in a position to release as many as 400 turtles over the course of a year at 90 day intervals.

Adam believes that the release of turtles from the CTF in the past, far from causing harm to the wild population, has increased it and together with its supply of farmed meat has protected and continues to protect the very fragile wild population.

The WAP’s stance against the CTF was not “intellectually honest” and not all of the research they used was credible, he said, claiming that those spearheading the campaign had failed to accept the significant husbandry and management improvements. He accepted that the animal charity was focused entirely on welfare, admitting that CTF was an intensive farming operation supplying a genuine and real demand, but maintained that their supply of meat had a critical role in the conservation of the wild population, which the charity would not accept.

The recent outbreak of disease has caused concern among the local population was an isolated incident, the MD said, and the first outbreak far more than 30 years, which he said illustrated the quality of management, since all facilities farming animals are susceptible to disease.

Walter Mustin, the chief research officer and the man behind many of the improvements in the breeding numbers at CTF, explained that he and his colleagues had not been able to isolate the source of the outbreak of Clostridium, which contaminated four tanks. However, the CTF was able to isolate and vaccinate the remaining herd, he said, and there was no way that any of the diseased turtles had entered the food chain because the outbreak was among younger turtles, not those ready for slaughter. Mustin said he was confident that there were no lingering issues relating to it.

Turtles at the farm are not routinely given antibiotics or any other drugs, such as growth hormones, Mustin said. The increase in the CTF’s numbers and success in the breeding was down to the improved feed that the formula which the farm itself had created to reduce the age at which the female breeding turtles begin laying.

Adam admitted that the CTF was not out of the woods when it came to its financial health. Despite some significant cuts in the operating losses recorded in the most recent annual report, he said the challenge was to manage expectations about cutting losses and managing the ongoing debt legacy.

The public purse subsidises the Cayman Turtle Farm and this year just over $9 million was budgeted to keep the facility open. Around $6 million is to service the debt from its redevelopment.

Since the CTF is unable to sustain itself yet without the subsidy, the sale of meat remains an important factor, and given the issue of price , Adam said he believed the price issue, which was highlighted in the recent report on meat consumption, was one of perception. He told CNS that turtle stew is $9 per pound, which compared favourably to any other meat on sale in Cayman, but many people still believed it was much more costly than that.

Socio-economic aspects of turtle conservation in the Cayman Islands, Key findings, October 2015

Summary document – Socio-economic aspects of turtle conservation in the Cayman Islands, October 2015

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (56)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why not spend that $10 million on educating and assisting Caymanian children rather than subsidizing 7,000 imprisoned turtles living in a butcher shop.

  2. JTB says:

    The plain truth is that the turtle farm does not perform any of its functions to an acceptable or efficient standard. The only things it is actually good at are consuming public funds and providing employment to constituents of Mckeeva Bush.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wendy – ask him about the “quarantine issue” with regard to turtle releases and see if Mr Adam will tell you that all of the turtles were failing quarantine once new standards were put in place after the WAP publicity and subsequent inspection. Ask him why they failed, if it has to do with a virus that the majority of turtles were infected with and if the farm has managed to control that yet. – yours truly, A former Turtle Farm employee who knows.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I remember when Whistling Ducks were almost extinct. Government passed a law saying that we could no longer eat them and then opened Cayman Whistling Duck Farm (CWDF) which raises Whistling Ducks and releases them into the “wild” at various condo complexes around Cayman. If we close CWDF then withing a year this island would be out of Whistling Ducks.

  5. Gray Matter says:

    TO ALL YOU TRANSPLANTS: We Caymanians bought our suitcases here , you all brought yours here. But out of our cultural business. WE EAT TURTLE.

  6. Anonymous says:

    wow, how insulting is Adams towards Caymanians.

    He is saying the good christian people of Cayman can not resist turtle, that they would destroy an entire god made species, just for their own greedy appetite if there was no farm.

    Why does he think Caymanians are so weak willed and greedy?

    • Anonymous says:

      Um, the historical record of overfishing turtle in our waters which led to the building of schooners in order to continue overfishing further afield?

      Overfishing is not anything uniquely Caymanian but we are as good at it as the rest of mankind.

    • Anonymous says:

      646am I love this post.
      “wah wah it’s our culture and we’re going to decimate our area turtles to prove it”

    • Anonymous says:

      They said it themselves in the survey. Not a majority by any means, but with turtle numbers so low it wouldn’t take many poachers to finish them off.

    • Anonymous says:

      Did you not read the posts from the last article. I think reading them would help you see why people would think that way. Eating turtle is apparently a god given right that no man can take away from you…even if that means poaching illegal meat.

    • Anonymous says:

      How can you still think they are not? You read the papers don’t you? Not all of them of course but the facts speak for themselves.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The village just called. It wants its idiot back.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Poppycock. Turtles abound in the waters of other Caribbean islands, you can swim with them all the time in their natural environment. There is no reason the same could not apply in Cayman provided sufficient conservation controls were enforced to protect the turtles from poaching, just as other islands do. When I go fishing I quite often come across wild turtles swimming in the sea managing quite well without the turtle farm already.

    Close the thing already, or accede to the WWF’s request, close down the farm and turn it into a proper conservation facility.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank God you have a right to freely share your opinion.

      Thank God you don’t have a right to have a say in the future of our turtle farm.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Last New Year morning as I was on the beach a large turtle was caught on a fishing line by ,Yes, an expat from a Caribbean country.
    I jumped in and freed the turtle from the hook and set it free.
    Would expats eat turtle – yes they do.
    Just as they eat iguana, dog, snake, kangaroo, shark, monkey etc.
    Who am I to judge their culture?
    Yup, we have over 125 nationalities here and the courts refuse to enforce the fishing licence laws.
    So, all people have an open season on all marine life.
    Ohh-yes that includes divers taking fish, lobster tail and conch on tanks.
    Only, that’s hush-hush

    • Anonymous says:

      Expat fishing from shore without permit is illegal – should have reported the expat so the DoE could check for permit and prosecute if necessary.

      I am right behind you on the divers taking fish, lobster and conch – have made the point myself previously about how this is kept hush hush not only by the divers but the DoE officers who repeatedly like to turn a blind eye.

  10. Tommy D. Turkle says:

    Timmy is confusing “green backs” with “green turtles”. If Boatswain’s Beach and the farm were run effectively the “green backs” doled out by govt would disappear…….

  11. Anonymous says:

    So let the turtle eaters eat the wild turtles. If they are gone in a year, they’re gone. Then let them go and poach them from some other country’s waters a see what happens. No biggie. It’s all over in a year.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Not believing anything that Adam has to say. Think of the improvements the subsidies here could be utilized for in education.

  13. Max Planck says:

    Why does the government subsidize CTF? What is the admission fee for tourists? What are the profits from sale of turtle meat? How much is made from other sales? Is this information available? How can they possibly need $10,000,000 a year to operate? Does anyone know where all that money is going? If all is above board, tell us where that money is going!

    • Anonymous says:

      Can you read? The article says $6m is to service the debt from building the waterpark. The remaining $3m is therefore the subsidy. The question is what was the subsidy, if any, before they built this foolishness

      • Max says:

        Yeah, I can read. But I’d still like to see how much the total take is from all their ticket and trinket sales, plus the subsidy and see who gets it.

    • Anonymous says:

      And it would be more accurate to say “why do the people subsidize CTF”, being as the government’s money all comes from us. How they can continue to support at a substantial loss, something that the majority of the people do not want, or want to pay for, defies belief.

    • Anonymous says:

      Most people I know can’t afford to buy meat from the turtle farm. When they do, it’s 😉 thru the back door!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Okay, let’s just let these idiots who persist in eating such an endangered animal to wipe out the last of the few. Then close the CTF and stop both disgusting activities in their tracks. Let the civilised world take responsibility for turtle conservation as Cayman is impotent in the face of their criminal citizens who only care for their pathetic ‘culture’ and their expansive stomachs.

    Better still, CIG grow a pair and fine and jail anyone caught in possession of local caught turtle. Employ more enforcement officers and go after the known poachers, their handlers and the outlets they supply.

    • Anonymous says:

      Erm what has growing a pair got to do with anything? Pretty sure anyone caught poaching is fined and/or jailed. The problem is it’s impossible to monitor every beach on the three Islands every night, and even more so the open seas. Hell the DOE can’t even monitor the marine parks for people poaching conch and lobster etc… you really think they can stop people killing turtles out at sea?

      • Anonymous says:

        They kill most of them within a short range of the shore, many within the reef.
        And that’s the point, employ more officers to enforce the existing laws and pursue the known poachers and their outlets.
        There are enough people on this island that will gladly give up a neighbour if they are offered a realistic reward for the capture and conviction of these well known criminals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here another thought, why don’t you take your arrogant ass back to the *civilized* world? Where they farm other animals closer to your stomach. like farmed caviar from endangered sturgeons you ignorant fool.

      • Anonymous says:

        Farming animals isn’t the argument. Keeping an endangered creature in insanitary and disease ridden tanks for human consumption is.
        If being an arrogant ass or an ignorant fool means that I object to a Stone Age mindset backed up with phoney cultural BS, I’m cool with that.
        The real ‘indigenous’ peoples of this part of the Caribbean were the Carib Indians, and surprise, they didn’t eat turtle.
        The reason? They believed that it was such a slow animal it must be stupid and consuming it would pass that stupidity on.

        Go figure, a slow, stupid animal……….that eats turtle. I think those Caribs were onto something.

        • Anonymous says:

          It always amazes me when the decendents of slave owners and barbarians who specialized in exporting hatred attempt to impose their superiority on the rest of the world.

          When you’ve fixed your country’s problems come back and help us with our little ones.

          Maybe since we are so much better at creating a welcoming environment we should come to your country and fix unna problems.

          We can’t do any worse than who you got leadin unna

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh yes, because the Norse countries still suffer for the crimes of their ancestors, the Romans and the Greeks the same. You idiot, only someone without history would say such crap.
            And surprise, you are the ancestors of slave owners as anyone that has even the slightliest hint of mixed race in the Caribbean must be, what a self denying idiot you are.
            And for your information, this territory, (not country) is our problem to fix, although most would rather leave you to destroy it yourselves.

            You see, British territory, British property, it is our country.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Job security – the only thing that will disappear is his job!

  16. Anonymous says:

    How about not eating the poor things?

  17. Anonymous says:

    bottom line is…you run a facility that promotes the eating of an endagered species…..
    we are caymankind…..zzzzzzzzzzzz

  18. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how they’re going to handle the backlash when people start getting sick from eating unhealthy turtles? Don’t say it’s not going to happen unless you’re willing to eat tainted mad-cow beef while predicting it’s never going to happen.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ironically, there would be multi-NGO funding, corporate sponsorship, happier tourists, and more conservation jobs created if the CTF and Caymanian people were willing to make a responsible and simple dietary and consumer choice. Even with the whole planet watching, year after year we plunge deeper into this state-funded embarrassment. Such an easy choice is made so hard by so few – and almost half of these consumers are admitted criminal slobs.

    • Max Planck says:

      Man you’re really down on those slobs, but they aren’t all slobs. Some of them are Neanderthals.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, no there would not. The only international NGO whinging about the Turtle Farm proposed shutting it down or ‘turning it in to a government subsidized turtle hospital’. Note that under their plan the Government was still subsidizing it, just like their example in Reunion Island.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Obviously, the endangered green sea turtle should be removed from national diet completely. They should be revered in schools as part of our national history, while appreciating their modern context on the IUCN Red List of Endangered species. It is unacceptable to disregard their vulnerable position on the planet. For its responsibility on the educational front, the CTF should not be promoting consumption as a state-funded national entitlement. The DoT should not be encouraging tourists to develop a palette for it in restaurants. This is a tradition that needs to end.

    Justifying their harvest using the anti-poacher argument is a bit weak when there is so little active enforcement and no cultural taboo on the consumption of illegally-sourced poacher meat. 44% says a lot about the moral fiber and criminal proclivity of our turtle eaters. 200 households routinely eating poacher meat tells a lot about how little protection and enforcement actually exists.

    • Anonymous says:

      Quote “The CTF should not be promoting consumption as a state-funded national entitlement.”

      Nor the North Side Primary School and Cayman News 27.

  21. Caymanian donkey says:

    Firstly Mr. Adam RESIGN! You are the top dog and over a 1000 turtles have been murdered on you watch… In fact PPM fire his A…

    I personally don’t eat turtle meat and don’t have a problem with persons eating it as long turtles come from the farm.

    Why was the release program stopped? Oh, silly question, the persons running the farm just let the turtles die in their pens.

    Again I will say it, why has someone not been arrested, charged for the slaughter of these turtles. They are an endangered species.

    CNS, can you please follow upnwith the DOE as I am sure this is the dept that would deal with this!

    Or is this incident just going to be swept under the rug.

  22. Just Sayin' says:

    There are some great shots of them swimming around the Balboa.

    • Anonymous says:

      The turtles that were around the Balboa swam into one of the cruise ship’s props and are no longer with us, what a pity the sharks got the meat as the ones from the wild taste better. Every expat on this site complaining and trying to run down our world class turtle farm are jealous of it and would like to see it close so that you’ll can open a farm wherever you’ll come from and then hope to export turtle meat back to us and make millions and millions of $$$. Please enjoy our high standard of living, our high wages, our excellent tasting turtle meat dinners and our hospitality but LEAVE OUR TURTLE FARM ALONE!

      FED UP.

  23. JTB says:

    Man who relies on public subsidy for his salary claims his job is vital.

    In other news, Pope claims catholocism is best, and bears adopt woods-based lavatorial solutions

    • Anonymous says:

      His aggressive performance on Mumbling Sterling Dwayne’s show today was awful -describing criticism as “foolishness” and of course refusing to answer the question that Dwayne “respectfully” (he uses that word every 5 minutes) put to him about whether there was a cover-up of the terrible deaths of turtles from disease.

  24. Anonymous says:

    ironically enough, the turtles are disappearing while the turtle farm operating as well..

    I don’t think we don’t need a turtle farm, I just think this one needs newer and better management.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Something needs to be done about street lights and home owner’s beach lighting if we want to get serious about saving the species. The artificial light is killing dozens if not hundreds of hatchlings every year. I have personally found dozens crushed on the roads in South Sound this year and I’m sure it happens every year.

    For more information on how lights affect turtle hatchlings see the link below.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Captain Obvious!

  27. anon says:

    Alas, with the state of the wild population what it is it seems inevitable that the Caymanian tradition of turtling is at an end, with or without the Turtle Farm. The wild population is still subject to poaching and seems to be in decline even with the production at the Turtle Farm.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Adam’s comments are riduculous.

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