Turtle conservation may stop CTC releases

| 02/07/2019 | 33 Comments
Cayman News Service
Hatchling turtle released into the wild by the Cayman Turtle Centre

(CNS): The Cayman Turtle Centre’s release of yearlings into the wild and more recently the eggs placed on beaches around Grand Cayman may be stopped under a species conservation plan for all turtles, which is now under public consultation, unless the CTC allows an independent verification of its standards and protocols. Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie told the media last week that her department has identified an expert familiar with the facility that could undertake the work, but the CTC has not responded to its requests that would pave the way for the review.

CNS asked the CTC about its willingness to accommodate the independent verification needed to ensure that the release of young farm-reared turtles and the placement of eggs from the CTC do not pose a threat to wild populations in local and international waters.

In response to our enquiries, Renee Howell, Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, stated, “We look forward to beginning the discussions on the Turtle Species Conservation Plans with the two ministries and the Department of Environment.”

However, the questions remain unanswered, and the CTC has not yet commented on its lack of cooperation with the DoE to allow an independent expert to check how it ensures that the turtles and eggs are free from diseases or pathogens before being released.

Ebanks-Petrie said that research over more than 20 years of wild turtle populations nesting in Cayman shows that they travel significant distance and do not remain in local waters. Given the range they have, the release of farmed turtles poses a threat to turtles nesting in other jurisdictions as well as those that return to Grand Cayman to nest.

She explained that this poses a risk for Cayman’s reputation and the continued release under the conservation plan would require independent verification that the CTC is doing all it can to ensure the animals it releases or the hatchlings emerging from the eggs being placed on local beaches do not carry disease.

If the conservation plan for all turtles becomes law, it will include a requirement that “all eggs, hatchlings or turtles introduced on Cayman’s beaches or released into Cayman waters, regardless of source, must comply with terms and conditions set out in a permit issued by the (National Conservation) Council to ensure that best practice is followed”.

Unless the protocols are reviewed, the conservation council will not be able to issue such a permit. A starting point for issuing it is the independent verification by a turtle expert. However, Ebanks-Petrie indicated a reluctance on the part of the CTC to engage over this issue.

“We have been trying to get the turtle farm to cooperate with us on this for some time and until we can get a qualified and independent body to evaluate their protocols and ensure there is no risk from pathogens or other organisms we can’t support the releases,” she said.

In addition to the risk of disease, Cayman’s own credibility in turtle conservation would be at stake. “We know that turtles cross international boundaries in the wild and we have an obligation and responsibility to ensure those released from here do not pose a threat to the wild population,” Ebanks-Petrie said.

She explained that there was nothing unusual about requiring such a review; the process of release for the blue iguanas is regularly reviewed by independent zoologists. She also welcomed the work the CTC has done with the Department of Agriculture on standards as well as with expert vets. And while Ebanks-Petrie said she had no reason to believe that there would be any issues, the need to independently verify the protocols remained.

However, the CTC has had issues regarding husbandry and problems with turtles suffering from diseases and genetic mutations in the past. While standards are understood to have improved, given that the DoE and NCC are now moving forward with what will become a legislated species conservation plan, once it is approved by Cabinet, the need for independent verification is even more important.

In addition to the need to ensure the releases are safe, the conservation plan also calls for the meat sold by the CTC to be properly labeled and sealed in tamper-proof packaging to help enforcement officials differentiate from meat illegally poached from the wild and that produced legally by the CTC. This method of identifying legal turtle products will help cut poaching, which is a major threat to the survival of wild turtle nesting populations.

The proposed species conservation plan states: “All turtle products for sale, gift, donation, etc. must have a permanent unique non-reproducible marking system (e.g. barcode). Additionally, products for consumption must be sold, gifted, etc., in sealed containers with a tamper-evident seal and remain in these containers until they are opened to be cooked.”

DoE research officer Janice Blumenthal told the media, as she presented the details of the conservation plan, that it has proved very difficult to prosecute suspected turtle poachers because when suspects are caught with meat in their possession, they are able to claim they bought the meat at the farm, which is almost impossible to disprove.

Given that the battle against poaching is one of the key elements that will be essential to the conservation of turtle in Cayman waters, DoE enforcement officers need more weapons in their arsenal to deter those who take wild turtle for profit. In general, illegal harvesting of turtles remains high, despite the availability of farmed meat, and the DoE believes the sale of farmed meat has made the sale of illegal meat “significantly easier”.

See the full details of the proposed conservation plan and the public consultation on the DoE website here.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (33)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The irony:

    Everyone of these leftists concerned about turtle hatchlings and in favor of closing the turtle farm for humanitarian reasons…

    .. Are all pro abortion.

  2. Herbert Whittaker says:

    What about the turtles that come to play their eggs in our beaches. Who does the check in these eggs to see if they are healthy? Nobody right? and thats ok and they want to jail anyone that touches one, and now telling us we have to have special turtle friendly lights. We cannot reap anything from those that lay their eggs on our beaches so please tell me why we should do all of this to help THOSE POOR LITTLE TURTLES. The whelks,lobster,conch and groupers have a time when we can get a few but not turtle.

  3. Anonymous says:

    XXXX But the plan to shut down the Turtle Centre is flawed, no sustainable legal farm raised turtle meat = increased poaching of wild turtles. Let us not fool ourselves, it is historical and cultural that Caymanians from all walks of life enjoy eating turtle dinner. DOE needs to focus on poaching, plastics and damaging costal development and stop harassing the Tim Adam and his team.

    • Anonymous says:

      Except there is no plan to shut down the Farm. The plan is actually to help them defend from accusations that they’re putting diseased turtles out into the wild.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for this perfect example of what happens when you lack basic reading comprehension ability but still choose to comment.

  4. Da-wa-u-get says:

    And…since there aren’t very many commercial Sea Turtle farms in the world, one has to wonder where the (no doubt foreign) independent expert earned his or her credentials!
    Further, who says; it is nearly impossible to differentiate between meat from a farmed Turtle versus that from a wild (poached) one? Anyone that has ever tasted turtle meat from a Turtle that grew in the wild, will know immediately when being given a meal with farmed Turtl meat! (I hope it was not the independent Expert )

  5. Anonymous says:

    Liberal: “The turtles are in danger of extinction, only 1 out of 100 survive out in the wild because of huuuuumanszzzz”

    Normal person with a brain: “Let’s built a turtle “farm” that will produce 100’s of turtles back into the wild”

    Liberal: No! Because you will eat some and that’s WRONG according to my sanctimonious virtue signaling moral superiority! We will shut you down even if we have to bullshit people to do so!

    Normal person with a brain: “Whaaa?”

    • Anonymous says:

      Fact: 12,000 hatchlings…6 released. That’s not conservation, that’s 1 medium-sized Barracuda’s 4pm amuse Bouche.

      • Anonymous says:

        The true facts are: 12,000 hatchlings last year, 1,300 released last year alone.
        In nature it is estimated that 1 in 1,000 survive to adulthood, so had those 12,000 hatchlings would have resulted in 12 new turtles surviving instead of 1,300 head-started turtles which have been grown beyond the predictor size.

        Total turtles released by CTC over the years: 32,000+.

        Percentage of nesting turtles in the wild around Cayman Waters that came from CTC, proven by DNA sampling: 92%.

        The proof is in the FACTS. Cayman Turtle Centre is doing far more for the actual conservation and re-population of the Green Sea Turtle in the wild, than any other conservation effort, worldwide, or any laws by DOE or other “conservationists” have ever been able to do.

        Putting people in jail does very little to conserve turtles as the reason they are being jailed is because they already have committed the act.

        These facts are not that hard to come by with Google.

    • Anonymous says:

      Idiot: you

      Liberal: us

  6. Anony says:

    I hope the CTC stop slaughtering turtle for human consumption.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nothing like a plate of stew turtle with white rice to along with it. Turtle meat when cooked properly is one of the tastiest meats I ever had the pleasure of eating.


    • Anonymous says:

      @8:45 you may as well say I hope we stop slaughtering cows for human consumption or chickens or tomatoes. At least the CTC releases more than it farms. Can that be said for cattle farms or chicken farms?

      • Ron the Observer says:

        The comparison between cows and turtles would only make sense if turtles weren’t an endangered species, which they are. I understand turtle meat is a delicacy; however, looking at the over-crowed tanks and unsanitary conditions that the CTC has these turtles in, I cannot in good conscience say that all is well since they release some turtles… If you must butcher turtles for meat…cool, but release enough turtles so that they aren’t crowded to a point that they are nearly swimming in fecal matter – simple, in my opinion.

        • Anonymous says:

          CTC is an ‘intensive’ farming operation. Any other ‘intensive’ operation, e.g., battery chickens, are going to look similar. It aint pretty but it keeps the cost down. The majority of food consumers have voted that they don’t care about how the farm looks as long as it keeps the price of chicken (or turtle) to something affordable.

          However, the CTC does not release more turtles than it slaughters (“farms”).

          As for wild turtles being an endangered species that is meaningless considering that the Farm has not taken in wild stock (adults or eggs) for decades (turtle generations) and is basically a self-sustaining ecosystem separate from the endangered wild population. You might as well say that green iguanas are ‘endangered’ in the wild in parts of Central America so we shouldn’t cull the ones we have here in Cayman.

          Where the CTC operation ‘touches’ the wild animals is their releases. So its reasonable to ask ‘what are the health checks’? – One could even more reasonable ask ‘what are the controls on pollutants and pathogens from the CTC being flushed out into the sea via their outflow pipe(s)?’ (They run a flow-through system AFAIK, where seawater is pumped in, through the tanks, and then back out. Easier to manage than a recirculating system but it is a bit like diluted sewage water being pumped out of the downstream end. In other countries with these kinds of outflows – sewage, streams from pig farms, etc. – the pollution output becomes an issue over time. No reason to suspect otherwise here, unless there are some controls in place? (N.B. Just because turtles are natural in the sea doesn’t mean that that much concentrated turtle waste isn’t a risk like farm waste getting into the Mississippi, etc. Its just a matter of scale.))

          • Anonymous says:

            the sewage coming from turtles is different than from chickens and cows. One is an animal from the land the other from the sea. The sea turtle is eating a scientifically created food made from the US. A company which makes food for other sea animals in farms and Aquariums. I don’t believe that our sea turtles could have a disease. I do believe that wild turtles have diseases because where they come from is very polluted. Just look at the garbage coming in the Eastern districts.
            This constant anti turtle rhetoric is depressing as our only Caymanian industry is constantly being bombarded by liberal emotion. We have scientists working at the Turtle Center believe in them.

            • Anonymous says:

              Excellent. Let those scientists working at the CTC publish:
              # of hatchlings per year
              # of releases
              Health checks carried out on those releases
              health checks carried out on the animals slaughtered for meat (and number slaughtered)
              # & age of the turtles and the results of the health checks carried out on them

              What’;s that you say? They don’t have that information? I thought you said there were scientists working there so we could trust them?

              PS> I support the Farm. Its not anti-Farm to say that I expect them to be world class and transparently so.

            • Anonymous says:

              Those chickens and cows are eating scientifically created food made in the US (I assume American animals eat American food anyway) by companies which make animal feed for those animals. (Actually there’s a good chance that the same animal feed company the Farm uses also makes land animal animal feed as well.) None of that, nor the difference between land and sea animals, has any bearing on whether the sewage coming from them is unhealthy for a given environment or not. You wouldn’t want the cow you’re going to eat to be standing for very long in its own sewage, or for it to be pumped into a public park? Yet we use cow manure for fertilizer. The point is how much and how treated or processed it is. Or isn’t. And we don’t know how much or how treated the turtle sewage going out of the turtle farm is. Because they won’t say.

              I don’t believe that the Farm turtles have a high disease rate either. But, again, we don’t know. (Actually, we do know that they have had large numbers die from disease in the past. But hopefully that was a one-off.) What we do know is that the same sea carrying garbage to the Eastern districts, which you think is “very polluted” and believe would give the wild turtles diseases, is being pumped into the Farm. So if it’s going to make the wild turtles sick won’t it make the Farm one sick as well? And then make the wild turtles sicker when its pumped back out loaded with turtle sewage?

              This isn’t liberal emotion. This is just expecting the Turtle Farm to be run right and to show its being run right. (Actually a very conservative philosophy. Reagan said “trust but verify”.) We expected CAL to ground the new planes when it looked like there was a problem with them crashing, right? That wasn’t anti-CAL. That was just saying is there a problem and if there is let’s fix it. That’s the same thing being said of the Turtle Farm. Is there a problem? If there isn’t why can’t they provide the answers to some simple questions like ‘what health checks do you do?’ And if they don’t do health checks, well, let’s fix it.

              • Anonymous says:

                The difference between the wild and bred turtles is the ones that are not eating plastic, seaweed covered in tar etc. Have you been to the turtle Center? Go by Tortuga boundary line and see how the Turtle Center pumps sea water into the Center. Also notice the water is going up an incline. Then go inside the Center and look into the Large breeding pool. Do you see anything floating like garbage, plastic, Sea weed? Well what you see is a well run Turtle Center by scientists.
                The difference I noticed right away after owning chickens and cows is smell. Pumps are constantly moving water in and out of the Turtle Center. So unusual for a large Center with over 11,000 turtles. Do you watch what chickens eat that are roaming through garbage and eating cock roaches and other wonderful things I won’t mention? Well look after you eat your breakfast, ask, has anyone in the DOE doing anything about them? Shouldn’t we check to see if they are carrying 1. Fowl Pox. 2. Botulism. 3. Fowl Cholera. 4. Infectious Bronchitis. 5. Infectious Coryza. 6. Marek’s Disease. 7. Thrush. 8. Air Sac Disease. 9. Newcastle Disease. 10. Mushy Chick. 11. Pullorum. 12. Avian influenza. 13 Bumblefoot.
                You can find more just google it.

                • Anonymous says:

                  How did wild chickens get into this conversation? The question is is the farm checking their 11,000 animals for whatever google says turtles get sick with.

                  And are you seriously worried that green turtles, which eat turtle grass off the bottom, are somehow eating floating plastic? If that’s the full extent of your concern then its not what you originally said which was “I do believe that wild turtles have diseases because where they come from is very polluted.”

        • Anonymous says:

          The fact that they are endangered amplifies the fact that we *should* farm them.

          • Anonymous says:

            yes and then release a few diseased ones with big fan fare to kill off the remaining wild endangered turtles

        • Anonymous says:

          Please point us to a few wild cows?

    • Anonymous says:

      And the day they stop is the day you see poaching sky rocket. Government is talking out of both sides of its mouth as per usual, they want to say they care about conservation while destroying massive sections of our islands ecosystem. This is all just bread and circuses to try and appease the public with as little work as possible, if they truly cared or had conservation as part of there agenda then the DOE would be overseeing the port and other development projects. The sad Truth is that they are just looking for the easiest scapegoat at the moment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Turtle is one of the fattiest ‘meats’ our there. But you just keep shoveling that in to your gob. Yeah diabetes!

      This island has a huge population of cancer patients compared to the ratio of people that live here. I imagine that goes the same for diabetes here too.

      • Anonymous says:

        And I imagine that we eat more vegetables than turtle meat.

        Therefore since we imagine we eat more vegetables than turtle meat and we imagine we have an abnormally high ratio of diabetes then we can imaginatively deduce that vegetables cause diabetes. – Shut down the farms!

      • Anonymous says:

        Turtle has less saturated fat than any meat including chicken. The fat does not solidify in the fridge, so it is a “good fat”.

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