The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of the UK Parliament released today its new report, Sustainability in the UK Overseas Territories, which includes an analysis of biodiversity in the Cayman Islands and highlights several concerns specific to the Cayman Turtle Farm.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has previously identified many problematic aspects of the Farm’s treatment of the endangered green sea turtles in its care, which WSPA continues to discuss with the Cayman Islands Government. The EAC’s report stated that it welcomes WSPA’s ongoing conversations with the Government.
The Committee visited the public section of the Cayman Turtle Farm, as well as its behind-the-scenes turtle breeding operations, in conducting its analysis. The Committee’s findings identified several noteworthy concerns, including:
Discrepancies surrounding the Farm’s claims related to demand on the Cayman Islands for turtle meat. As the report states, “there remains some dispute [over] whether the Cayman Turtle Farm is creating an artificial market in the tourist industry by encouraging visitors to eat a meat that the majority of indigenous people now shun.” While the Farm has argued that wild turtles would be poached were it not for the farmed turtles it raises, the Farm introduced a 25% price decrease for turtle meat on September 1, 2013, contradicting assertions about the ongoing demand for meat.
The costs associated with running the Farm, as the state-run facility currently relies on an annual subsidy [WSPA’s evidence demonstrates the figure to be an average of CI $9 million] from the CI Government that is four times greater than the annual budget of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and 20 times greater than funding for the Cayman Islands National Trust.
A specific animal welfare incident in August 2012, when some 300 green turtles at the Farm were “killed after a leak from a seawater pipe left them to dry out without water in a holding container.”
The attempts by several large turtles to swim from the sea up the sewage outflow channel from the Farm, observed by the Committee; according to the report, “It is conceivable that those were female turtles which had been released from the farm and which were following their natural instinct to return to where they were hatched to lay their eggs.”
WSPA submitted evidence to the Committee for its preparation of the report, outlining our concerns and body of supporting evidence with regards to the practices undertaken by the Cayman Turtle Farm. We highlighted the negative impact of these practices on sustainability, biodiversity, conservation and animal welfare. You can publicly view our evidence here.
The Cayman Turtle Farm is the last remaining sea turtle farm in the world, with over 9,500 endangered green sea turtles which are bred to meet a perceived demand for local turtle meat.
WSPA’s proposal is for the Farm to transition to a wildlife rehabilitation and rescue facility for injured turtles while still remaining open to tourism.
Dr. Neil D’Cruze, WSPA’s Head of Wildlife Research and Policy, stated:
“We are pleased that the UK Environment Audit Committee has brought further attention to the extensive ongoing problems at the Cayman Turtle Farm, including its significant drain on the public purse, considerable animal welfare problems, and creation of an international market for turtle meat which is stoking demand that would not otherwise exist for an endangered species.”
For more information on WSPA’s campaign on behalf of sea turtles in the Cayman Islands, visit:stopseaturtlefarm.org