Turtle farm keeps lid on reports

| 17/12/2019 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service
Cayman Turtle Centre and Island Wildlife Encounter, West Bay

(CNS): Following significant public support for the Department of Environment’s turtle conservation plan, the National Conservation Council has ratified the proposal and sent it to Cabinet for approval. But while the public was fully behind the plan, the Cayman Turtle Centre (CTC) has been less than supportive and refused to share critical data with the NCC or the DoE regarding the risk of disease being transferred to wild populations during turtle releases.

According to documentation accompanying the agenda for the latest NCC meeting, which took place on the Brac recently, the public and all of the relevant government stakeholders have offered their support to the proposed species protection plan. However, during the period of consultation the Cayman Turtle Centre has been uncooperative, made false allegations against the DoE, objected to several parts of the plan and confused the concept of tourism and marketing plans with the goal of conservation of the endangered species.

The CTC also refused to show the DoE reports it has done on the potential diseases carried by farmed turtles that go on to be released, an issue in the DoE’s conservation plan that needs to be addressed.

During a meeting in the summer with the DoE, the CTC and the environment and tourism ministries, Dr Branson Richie from the University of Georgia told the DoE that the report he had completed was confidential and would not allow it to be released, even to an independent reviewer. According to the minutes, the DoE pointed out that what information Richie was producing fell short of what was required, such as necropsies and testing of animals selected for testing. The DoE said that decision-making regarding releases cannot be based on a ‘secret report’.

However, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, who attended the meeting, expressed his support for the DoE’s request that the CTC conduct an independent review by experts, identified by the DoE, to pave the way for a legal system that will allow for release permits to be granted by the National Conservation Council once the conservation plan is approved and implemented.

The documents show a significant degree of tension between the CTC and the DoE, with the tourism attraction not willing to support the species conservation plan that is at the very heart of its business. Pulling no punches, the technical experts at the DoE point out that the management at the CTC has throughout the consultation confused the issue of tourism management and conservation.

The DoE said the CTC’s decision to submit what it claimed was a conservation plan to Cabinet, despite not having the legal authority to do so, and submitting what was actually a marketing plan succeeded in delaying the lawful and technical-based genuine conservation plan from the DoE, based on its more than two decade long research into wild turtle conservation.

Experts at the DoE had noted that there “is an obvious conflict of interest in a business developing a Conservation Plan to regulate and endorse its own activities”, even if it had been a real conservation plan. The department explained that this risks reputational damage to the Cayman Islands at both a local and an international level.

In discussions with the CTC, the DoE explained that a permitting process for releases would require an independent review to assess and mitigate any risk of disease introduction into wild populations. But the DoE said the CTC had refused to participate in any independent review of their release procedures and instead has accused the DoE of slighting their veterinarians.

The NCC and DoE, however, have consistently said that best practice requires that the release of farmed sea turtles into the wild be independently reviewed by sea turtle disease experts. They maintain that vets drawing a salary from the farm or consultants to the CTC cannot be viewed as independent.

Despite CTC’s efforts to stall the plan, the release procedures are now part of an independent review, and once the conservation plan goes live the CTC will need to ensure that eggs, yearlings or mature turtles are disease and pathogen free before they are released into the wild.

See the relevant documents here or in the CNS Library

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Category: Local News

Comments (27)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It would be helpful if the DOE could document just one case in which a released farmed turtle had infected a wild turtle. A case of “innocent until proved farmed”.

  2. Anonymous says:

    To More (or less) we are respected and envied. Jealousy is a bad thing .

  3. Anonymous says:

    While we are taking apart the CTC remember that cows would be an endangered species if it wasn’t for the lobbyists who protect the industry from environmentalists. If tomorrow the environmentalists were to get the upper hand most western style countries would be a third world country. Imagine this for a moment no more beef industry. No more fast food restaurants, no beef sold anywhere. Probably would be better for health and the environment. Poor cows they are just like dogs, they love music they can be very loving. Turtles are just not the same. Don’t get me started on diseases.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This place is terrible. Eating an endangered animal is insane. It’s not even enjoyable. Tourists don’t even like to go, turn it into a rescue center and save the dolphins across the street.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tourists don’t like to go? There’s a fix for that, it lets you enjoy it when you go.

    • Anonymous says:

      3.25pm they are not endangered they’re being conserved by farming.People eat baby sheep and cows and fish eggs which could make them endangered if they were not farmed.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Public funding millions into eating turtles and releasing sick ones back into the wild.

    Lol hoomans so stupid…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Your tourism department down there seem a little crazy. You should put them on a lease. Even though tourism is bad for the world, most Americans don’t want to think about it, so you should hide your greedy, ecologically unsound practices.

  7. Anonymous says:

    another story that makes a mockery of the caymankind mantra.

  8. Anonymous says:

    close this sick vile facility down asap

  9. Anonymous says:

    any comment mr governor?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Time for CIG to fire all managers at CTC. Get the place reviewed with 2 years to break even or shut it down

    • Anonymous says:

      Just shut it down! It has been a drain of around $10,000,000 per year for years, and there’s no records to show where all the money goes!

    • Anonymous says:

      Shut it down, or make it a first-class conservation and educational facility. Add water park attractions to make it profitable. Educate the next generation of Caymanians about the ludicrousness of killing and consuming an endangered species.

    • Anonymous says:

      cig doesn’t do firings…there is no such thing as accountability in the civil service.

  11. Anonymous says:


  12. Anonymous says:

    It would be nice if the DOE could do this without making the Turtle Center an even bigger money loser. Assuming they are real vets, I fail to see why “independent” vets are necessary.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is why the CTC don’t want to be accountable. Basically their entire business model is based upon cruelty, held up by the CI Animals Law.

    2. In this Law-
    “animal” includes live mammals, reptiles (other than marine turtles),

    This law is entirely what the Cayman Islands people and the CTC in particular rely on to avoid charges of cruelty against sea turtles. The barbarism demonstrated by Caymanian turtle farmers and poachers alike must have consequences, yet because of this law they can be inhumanly cruel to these endangered wild creatures without legal consequences.
    The transference of disease is a very real possibility from this disgusting facility and the law should reflect that farming these free swimming reptiles is inherently cruel whilst penned up in filthy tanks awaiting their fate at the butchers hands.
    Hand the whole facility over to the DOE and utilise it for research and wild release breeding only. But most of all, change this ridiculous law.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Hand the whole facility over to the DOE and utilise it for research and wild release breeding only.” And free the dolphins across the street while they’re at it!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Only one logical reason for this – they’ve got something to cover up.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It bears repeating that the CTC is a public-funded entity, and as such, is subject to full public accountability, scrutiny, and regulatory oversight. It’s not some top secret biosphere lab that can redact reports and accounting as it sees fit as a matter of national military security (if we were even a grownup country). When are voters going to decide to shut down the heavily institutionalized patronage systems in the Cayman Islands?!? …and this regime hopes to get the “all-clear” in the next CFATF report, when they can’t even be trusted to be transparent about turtle conservation!

    • Anonymous says:

      Best comment ever!

    • More Cayruption says:

      Well said, this ducking transparency is the norm in Cayman. Reports redacted, destroyed by hurricane, still in draft, my kids have fewer albeit more compelling excuses for not doing their homework. We now know that our Premier’s campaign promises to instil transparency in government turned out to be exactly the opposite. Any wonder why we, as a so called “world class“ financial centre are not trusted in the global community?


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