Turtle Centre finally pays off $50M debt

| 07/03/2019 | 35 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): Almost 15 years after the original Cayman Turtle Farm started borrowing the more than CI$50 million it needed to build what is now the Cayman Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, officials said the debt is now clear. The loans have been serviced from money given to the Turtle Centre from the public purse over and above the annual operating subsidy of around $5 million that the facility needs to remain open each day. Officials said in a press release that the final payment on the debt was made on 1 March and it could now focus on attracting more visitors.

“It’s a monumental day in an organisation’s history when it not only has paid off one major financial debt instrument but multiple loans, and when that organisation can call themselves debt free where all long-term debt has been fulfilled,” said the tourism ministry’s chief officer, Stran Bodden in a press release.

“Being debt free puts an organisation in a much stronger position to be able to negotiate with stakeholders, develop new partnerships and establish new opportunities to grow,” he added.

Bodden said government has supported the Cayman Turtle Centre financially because it was both innovative and creative in its efforts to increase revenue streams.

“We applaud the continued determination of the Centre to serve the Cayman Islands both as a top-notch tourist attraction as well as the leader in the area of sea turtle conservation, education and scientific study. We have seen many improvements in operational costs through the continued drive to move forward and find new ways to advance.”

He added that the Turtle Centre was “driven to uncover new options”, and is looking at new ways to diversify.

Officials said the Turtle Farm was forced to borrow to build a new facility after Hurricane Michelle destroyed most of the original farm at the seaside location in 2001. The decision was made to have a new centre across the North West Point Road on the less vulnerable land side.

While the centre continues to court controversy because it breeds turtles in captivity to supply local demand for the meat from the endangered species, officials continue to tout its conservation credentials, having collaborated in over 150 published scientific studies and projects. It also says it attracts around 300,000 visitors a year.

Although the centre is now debt-free it will still require funds from the public purse to remain open. Officials said this money will be used solely for the day-to-day running of the facility, which employs more than 100 local people, as it pursues its goals of reaching out to more visitors.

The centre says it plays an important part in the economy, supporting a large number of tour operators, tour boats, taxis, restaurants and stores as Cayman’s premier land-based attraction.

The centre’s CEO Timothy Adam, said that paying off the debt was a significant milestone.

“It has been achieved by the ongoing support of the Cayman Islands Government through all these years, especially the Ministry of Tourism. They understood the importance of sustaining our mission both in attracting large numbers of tourists as well as in marine turtle conservation, scientific study, and education,” he said.

“This success is also a testament to the wise guidance of our Board of Directors, our management team and our staff who year after year have dedicated their time and energy in fulfilling our mission.” Adam added that being free of debt means the facility can now directly focus on its mission.

“We can continue improving the island wildlife encounter experience as Cayman’s number one land-based attraction,” he added. Adam said the centre was grateful to government and the people of the Cayman Islands, “who have never stopped believing in and supporting us”.

Brian Wight, Chairman of the Board for Cayman Turtle Centre, said it was now free to focus on providing an even better experience to more people.

“We want people to enjoy the fun and adventure when visiting while learning more about how to conserve these majestic creatures that have swum through the worlds’ oceans since before the time of the dinosaurs,” he added.

The end of the debt comes shortly after a genetic report showed that centre’s historical releases have helped increase the population of wild turtles now nesting on local beaches.

Nine out of every ten green turtles coming home to breed in local waters are genetically connected to those released from the Turtle Centre. The study found, however, that of the 30,000 turtles released by the Farm in the 1980’s and 1990’s, only a small percentage actually survived into adulthood to come home and breed.

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Category: Business, Government Finance, Politics, Tourism

Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just another day in Absurdistan.

  2. Anonymous says:

    ‘Bodden said government has supported the Cayman Turtle Centre financially because it was both innovative and creative in its efforts to increase revenue streams.’ And I say, ‘That’s complete BS!’ The reality is it’s a financial black hole that sucks public money in and gives nothing back.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ii am shocked by those who are shocked that taxpayers paid off this loan through annual Government subsidies!

    The Govt. (taxpayers) decided to build the new Turtle Centre as an turtle themed “amusement park” in 2001 at a cost of $50M. Government (taxpayers) entered into a loan agreement and borrowed the $50M and built the facility. Government (taxpayers) paid off the loan, with interest, by means of an annual “subsidy”. Government (taxpayers) now owns the entire physical plant, NOT Cayman Turtle Centre. Government now shows the CTC plant as their asset on their books, not CTC. Cayman Turtle Centre is the Company that runs the attraction, not the owner of the $100M asset.

    This “Loan” was never a Cayman Turtle Centre debt in the first place, it was always a Govt (taxpayers) debt and was always meant to be paid back by the taxpayers!
    Why it was set up on CTC books is beyond me, and shows an ignorance of accounting or economics by the person setting it up, or, an intention to deliberately fool the taxpayers by keeping it off Governments books as a Government long term liability, which is exactly what it became in real life.

    What was done here is tantamount to you building an apartment building by taking out a loan, with a fixed monthly morgage. You then rent out the apartments to tenants and arrange for them to deposit the rent monies into your bank account.
    You then turn around each month (or year) and deliver to your renter a check for the exact amount of your mortgage, and ask them to deposit that to your loan account as well.

    Now to thise who commented that the facility should be expected to make an operational profit and that the business case for operational profitability was wrong from day one, all with inflated visitor totals and inflated gate entry prices, I COULD NOT AGREE WITH YOU MORE!
    There is no good reason why, the largest tourism attraction facility in the Cayman Islands, attracting some 300,000 visitors annually, should not be expected to, and achieving operational profitablity on its own, thereby REMOVING ITSELF FROM ALL GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES, and indeed paying its profits annually into Government (taxpayers) coffers, notwithstanding its considerable contribution to the Cayman economy and employment market.

    With its change of mission to expand education and conservation; and its recent success in bringing back the Green Sea turtle population in the waters around the Cayman Islands, a profitable CTC is something we can continue to be proud of, for years to come.


    • Anonymous says:

      Thank Big Mac for the whole shambles. Just think what all those millions could have been used for. I guess someone would have to attempt to explain the concept of opportunity cost to him tho’.
      One hundred votes were more important to him and always will be.

    • Anonymous says:

      I call bullshit tha’s wa I say.

  4. Anonymous says:

    $ 5 million per year for 100 jobs?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow they doing very well. Employees stealing thousands of dollars. And they can afford to pay off this debt.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Here is a tip to increase visitors. Let locals bring there visitors for the same rate. Local and foreign visitors will increase.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “Officials said the Turtle Farm was forced to borrow to build a new facility after Hurricane Michelle destroyed most of the original farm at the seaside location in 2001. The decision was made to have a new centre across the North West Point Road on the less vulnerable land side.”
    True but the development was for Big Mac’s edification. It could have been more appropriately sized and operated without this huge debt. Without the need for continuing tax payer subsidy.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Tomorrow’s announcement:
    “The Cayman Turtle center has turned its 5 million dollar annual losses into a 5 million dollar annual profit by receiving 10 million dollars from the government. This is a monumental day in the organization’s history”

    • Anonymous says:

      They only survive by big subsidies from Government which are regarded as capital injections. These capital injections consistently provide a negative return to Government and only serve to keep the Centre open to provide exorbitant salaries for already wealthy individuals.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “Officials said in a press release that the final payment on the debt was made on 1 March and it could now focus on attracting more visitors”.

    Presumably then for the past 15 years management have been moping around, wide eyed and clapping their heads going “how’re we ever gonna pay back this loan?”.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Do you really believe they paid off that debt? With money from the public purse? And they still need MILLIONS from the government to remain open? This has got to be one of the shadiest operations CIG has ever foisted off on the people off the Cayman Islands! Shame, shame, shame.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Who else remembers when the loan was originally floated? I recall the forecasts for repayment were incredible. It was something along the lines of 5,000 people per day paying $$ each, generating huge cashflow. At the time I said to myself this projection is insane. I tried to finding the original press release online in the Compass archives but struck out. If someone could locate this it could be a case study for business school…..what not to do

    And if you think this won’t happen again, just wait and see who pays back the port debt when reality doesn’t meet projections.

    CNS: If anyone finds it and sends it to us we can post it in the Library for future reference.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Now close this barbaric place once and for all so no more turtles suffer unnecessarily.

    • Anonymous says:

      Haters gonna hate while we enjoy our cultural turtle stew. Hope the prices drop a lil.

      Somehow tying up cows in hot sun all their life then hanging them, slitting their throats or shooting them in the head is more humane than raising turtles. Either vegan or hypocrites.

  13. Anonymous says:

    we the people paid that and career politicians salaries…..duh

  14. Anonymous says:

    boycott the turtle farm until they close this vile facility down

    • Anonymous says:

      We should close you down. If an expat, please go home and find something in your country to close down, I am sure there is an abundance of choices. If a caymanian,.. well try go fishing or sweep-up your back yard and swing in your own hammock and stop forgetting who you are.

      When was the last time you visited? Nothing barbaric about this magical attraction. The educational aspect alone is worth its weight in gold. Well done to the Turtle Centre and its management for forging on to a brighter day.

      • Anonymous says:

        only caymanians could try and justify the eating of endangered species

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, only Caymanians do this…

        • Anonymous says:

          Green sea Turtles are threatened and not endangered. (https://cnso.nova.edu/seaturtles/endangered.html) Did they count them? How do you count turtles in cloudy water to the north of the Caribbean? Did they all sit still like roll call in a classroom? 1 in 1,000 eggs made sense to me not 1 in 10,000. How does anyone check to see if the turtle nests were laid by a mature 25 yo turtle that can produce threatened an egg into a live baby turtle? Turtles can lay eggs from 5 yo. We don’t know how many turtles are in the world, and we can’t count them. We only count the nests. A mature turtle can hold its breath for up to 12 hours and sit at 300 feet while doing it.
          We need more research where humans live in the sea around the world. Did you know a Frigate bird can eat 100 eggs a day? We have about a thousand of them here in the Cayman Islands alone.
          The Turtle Center is the only place in the world that has proven that populations increase by producing them on land. They get a chance to survive by placing them in the sea at an older age so fewer predators can eat them.
          Why is it barbaric to eat a turtle but not cow or chicken? Ocasio from NYC says that cows fart methane gas and we should get rid of them. Shouldn’t we? “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

        • Cess Pita says:

          1.30pm At least they are not eating expats.

  15. Anonymous says:

    only the cig civil service could celebrate such a non-achievement

  16. Cheese Face says:


  17. Anonymous says:

    How much do the board of directors get paid for this foolishness. Can the farm not appoint anyone that understands basic finance?

  18. Anonymous says:

    What utter nonesense! The government (tax payer) settled this debt. Not the Turtle Farm.

    The turtles have more financial acumen than these fools.

    Beyond belief. Way beyond.

  19. Anonymous says:

    so turtle farm pays off it loan with cig yearly subsidies???
    welcome to wonderland……

  20. anonymous says:

    This is double talk, Cayman Airways style – it’s the taxpayer who repaid the debt.
    On another tack what has happened about the suspended employees, the taxpayer needs to know!.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yea ,and cal just bring in another new plane today ,what is this ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Misleading headline! For a few seconds my heart leapt with joy at this encouraging news. Wow! This will prove the critics wrong (I thought!).
      Reality set in when I started reading the article, my heart sank and I tried to re write the headline. “Tax payers pay off Turtle Farm debt”

    • Anonymous says:

      9:12 It’s what’s commonly known as ‘creative accounting.’ Management shuffles the figures around until they balance then bangs on about what a great job they’ve been doing.


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