Archive for December 21st, 2010

Cayman Turtle Farm speaks

| 21/12/2010 | 22 Comments

The Cayman Turtle Farm appears to elicit an emotional response whenever anyone discusses it. Recent posts on CNS in response to a story about our November turtle release are an example of this. Some of the comments suggest a lack of understanding of what actually occurs at the farm. The Turtle Farm represents both a unique wildlife-conservation project and a commercial-breeding enterprise.

Housed, in a sense, under the same roof, the two functions at times appear contradictory, which is precisely where the controversy usually arises. From the farm’s inception however, the philosophy of “conservation through commercialisation” has been both inherent and explicit.

An analogy may help illustrate the logic: Consider the reaction should chicken farms suddenly vanish. Farming fowl for meat and eggs is widely accepted, and has been for thousands of years. An enormous source of protein in human diets would be severely curtailed if chicken meat and eggs were no longer produced.

The fundamental difference is the acceptability of farming chickens for food as opposed to farming turtles for food. The differences in acceptability, however, are mostly chronological and geopolitical: Chickens have been domesticated and farmed for thousands of years across global cultures; farming of sea turtles only started four decades ago — and only in one place: Grand Cayman.

We might point to another, perhaps closer, analogy: buffalo farming. One might argue buffalo farming helps conserve the species, expanding its population. One could choose almost any commonly farmed animal; a similar logic emerges.

Conservation and commercialisation are, however, frequently compatible: up to a point, of course. Annual turtle harvests must be carefully controlled, ensuring they are sustainable, measured against the numbers of new hatchlings entering the first stages of the farm herd — and allowing for the quantities of yearlings to be released.

Starting from early 2010, Cayman Turtle Farm has adjusted the price of turtle products to align demand and a sustainable annual harvest. What may be overlooked, however, is that even the sale of turtle meat has a positive conservation impact because it greatly reduces poaching in the wild, which is often otherwise uncontrollable, both in terms of numbers and indiscriminate in terms of age and sex.

Those who have been here since the early days of scuba diving will tell you that the chance of seeing a turtle on a dive in the Cayman Islands has improved significantly through the years. The increased numbers of turtles sighted aren’t just those released from the farm; many are in our waters because the incidence of turtles being caught and taken from the sea around our islands has greatly declined. The incentives for poaching have diminished since the farm has made turtle meat available locally. Since the farmed meat also supplies Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the conservation benefits also extend to those wild populations.

The unique management programmes addressing both conservation and commercial activities also enable better understanding and care for the turtles, their life cycle and their environment in the wild or in captivity.

Another misunderstanding that looms large is that the farm’s conservation efforts are limited to the turtles that have been released annually during Pirate’s Week.

The farm has placed more than 31,000 endangered green sea turtles into the wild since its 1968 founding. Some of those numbers were hatchlings and others were yearlings. Further information on the farm’s current release program may yield better understanding of at least one of the reasons for recent lower numbers.

Hatchlings, due to their smaller size compared to yearlings, are much more vulnerable to predators and other hazards. Unsurprisingly, hatchlings have a much lower chance of survival to adulthood. In recent years, Cayman Turtle Farm has released only turtles that are at least 1 year old. In addition, we now release them only after having carefully selected, quarantined and trained the turtles, gradually weaning them from hand-fed food, while acclimatising them to forage in our salt-water Turtle Lagoon, in surroundings that resemble the wild environment as closely as possible.

That process takes at least three months and a large number of extra man-hours of expert attention for every group of turtles to be released. This places practical limits on the quantities we can release each year, but we believe these meticulous protocols give the yearlings a better chance of survival to become parents in the wild.

But the turtle release program is only one part of our contribution to conservation.
Another has been the farm’s research efforts, producing approximately 100 scientific papers that have been published or presented since 1968. These papers have surveyed a range of topics regarding the care and husbandry of sea turtles.

Several new studies are under way: One planned for 2011 in collaboration with a university in the UK involves a new way of estimating the age of sea turtles. This study would not be possible without the Turtle Farm’s unique stock of turtles and the broad range of their accurately known ages. Such a resource exists nowhere else in the world.

Other projects include a study in partnership with a US pharmaceutical firm, a study in collaboration with a US university, and a hatchery incubation study designed to increase the survival of hatchlings.

Another issue frequently broached is the return of released turtles to the Cayman Islands.

After reaching maturity, which can take 20 years or more, nesting females seek to lay their eggs on the same beach — or as close as they can come — from which they originally left to enter the sea. We know that last year at least one female released close to two decades ago from the farm nested on a local beach; this year about half-a-dozen farm-released females were spotted nesting here.

Several other green sea turtle females also nested on the island’s beaches this year: Because trained spotters did not see them all, however, it is uncertain how many of those started at the farm. It is perfectly reasonable, though, to assume that as more turtles, released years ago, reach nesting age, many will return to Cayman beaches. While we do not mark every turtle we release, we are able to extrapolate trends from those that have been strategically tagged.

Finally, we are aware of concerns about what looks like overcrowded tanks at the farm. In the past several days, as part of our annual inventory process, display tank stocking rates were adjusted downward to reflect weight gain.

Our turtles range in size from 6 ounces to 600 pounds, apportioned among specifically designated tanks. Visitors are able to observe every stage of growth and development, including the release of the selected one-year-old acclimated animals.

We encourage visitors; we encourage interest in what we are doing, and we look forward to seeing Cayman News Service readers at the Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter.

Tim Adam is the managing director of the Cayman Turtle Farm
 

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Cops arrest suspect gunman

| 21/12/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police have arrested a 31-year-old man after he threatened a number of people with a gun in Bodden Town last night. Police said that the man brandished his weapon during a dispute, which occurred around 9.30pm outside Water Boyz Liquor Store in the Odessa Plaza. The dispute between the man and woman escalated when he suddenly brandished the firearm, threatening the woman and anumber of people who were standing nearby. No shots were fired and no-one was injured before the couple left the scene. The suspected gunman was arrested a short time later after a search was launched by police and he was located in Shamrock Road.

The man who is believed to be Andy Barnes the father of the five year old boy Jeremiah Barnes shot and killed in a West Bay gas station in February, was arrested on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm and threatening behaviour. He remains in police custody while enquiries are ongoing.

Detective Constable Elizabeth Berns of Bodden Town CID has appealed for any witnesses to the incident to come forward.

“There were a number of people outside the store at the time of the incident in fact some of them had just come from a nearby church. I would ask any of those people who have not yet spoken to the police to come forward,” she said.

Anyone with information should contact Bodden Town police station on 947-2220 or the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477(TIPS).
 

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Young entrepreneurs inspired by environment

| 21/12/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): One of this year’s Junior Achievement Companies is not just focusing on making a profit at all costs but is taking the environment for its inspiration. Eco-Freex is new range of eco friendly, non-toxic safe alternative products to use in the homes. The fourteen members of the Eco-Freex team said they realized that there was a large environmental issue occurring right outside their doors and decided that they wanted to be a part of the change. We successful sales events in the run up to Christmas the young eco-entrepreneurs are also planning another product launch in January in time for Valentine’s Day.

Their product line currently includes a natural window cleaner, a multi purpose cleaner, Christmas potpourri, a revitalizing and energizing room and linen spray, a recipe book for a wide range of natural and environmentally safe alternatives as well as new products yet to come.

Each product also comes with its own recipe and instructions on how to remake the product at home, reducing the need to purchase already packaged similar products, which hopefully will help to reduce the amount of plastic packaging going to the landfill.

The Eco-Friendly products range in price from CI$5.00 for the room spray to CI$25.00 for the complete set of those items listed above.

The team is sponsored by Dart and further information or product orders you can email the team at ecofreex@hotmail.com
 

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Local businesschooses unexpected scholars

| 21/12/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A young local businessman has taken a different approach with his contribution to scholarships for Caymanians. Victor Crumbley, owner of Dash Strategies, a boutique consultancy business created a grant system aimed not at straight ‘A’ students but at young men who would not otherwise have considered further education. Now celebrating its second year Crumbley said that the programme has provided scholarships to 13 young people to pursue further education locally. He said given that it costs around $40,000 for students to complete degrees overseas that same amount could fund 15 students in need of training here on island.

A scholarship from Greenlight RE made a difference in Crumbley’s own life and the reinsurer is now partnering with him and Dash to help with the specialist scholarship programme he explained. The programme reaches out to unemployed Caymanian men who are not enrolled in a higher education institution. It then identifies the courses that match their interests and mentors the young men as they go through their learning process.

Crumbley said that the programme has flourished due to the generous financial assistance of Greenlight and so far nine of the 13 students in the scholarship programme are still enrolled in more study or have gained meaningful employment.

Michael Gourzong who was able to attend and successfully complete a certificate course at the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) in Electronics and Electrical Insulation is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Auto Mechanics, Management and High Performance from the New England Institute of Technology through a student loan program.

“I’m thankful for the help I received from Greenlight Re and Dash Strategies. The scholarship helped my family and I a great deal. Victor played an important role in my year at UCCI. He was always checking up on how I was doing with my classes and was willing to help me find any assistance I needed in order to finish my course,” said Gourzong. “I had to do my part in all of this which was to keep up my grades and complete the course. I enjoyed myfirst year at college and the experience, and the environment that UCCI had to offer. It is another milestone in my journey to completing a college degree.”

Crumbly said the program has one goal and that is to inspire young people who would not otherwise consider completing or furthering their education. “The way we do this is by providing them with financial support and targeted academic and mentoring,” said Crumbley, explaining how mentoring is a vital part of the scholarship programme.

“Many of these young persons have complicated backgrounds. Many do not know how to access support or assistance or do not believe that it is available to them. In most cases, they simply need to know that someone on their side and wants them to have a bright future. It’s more than throwing money at young persons and saying, "do good". It’s about empowering them to take advantage of the opportunities available,” Crumbley added.

Len Goldberg, CEO of Greenlight RE said the firm had partnered with Crumbley for five years, first as a student and now providing financial assistance for his vision. “We are pleased that he is using his talents to provide opportunities for often overlooked young people,” Goldberg added.

The Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Employment Relations and Dash Strategies were among the agencies that referred students to the program. After receiving feedback from program participants, it was found that many were discouraged from enrolling full-time because they needed to contribute to their families. A voucher program for various necessities was instituted to facilitate the transition.

Crumbley said he is proud of Gourzong and all of the participants and said that the success of a scholarship programme is measured by the ability of those in the programme to gain meaningful employment of go on to further study. “Dash Strategies is hopeful that the programme will continue to grow and provide opportunities to break the existing cycle many youth face in the Cayman Islands,” the young business man added.
 

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Cops reformed Christmas crook back in jail

| 21/12/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): According to reports in the UK press a burglar who fronted a Greater Manchester Police campaign urging offenders to stay out of prison this Christmas has been sent back to jail. Tommy Rouse, 35 had posed earlier in the month for the police campaign holding Christmas cards with slogans such as "don’t be a pudding this Christmas". The cards were sent to repeat offenders warning them about the risks of straying from the straight and narrow. However, Rouse, a father of five, breached his own bail conditions by testing positive for drugs and was sent back to jail.

He had been convicted of a range of offences in the past 20 years, including burglary, car theft, assault and drug offences and has spent nine Christmases behind bars. He had vowed to stay out of trouble this year so he could spend Christmas at home with his children.

Supt Mark Granby from Greater Manchester Police’s Bury division said: "Tommy Rouse was given the chance to go straight, make something of his life and undo some of the pain he had inflicted on himself, his family andsociety. After 18 weeks on bail he shattered the faith people had put in him by returning to drug use.”

The senior officer said the message in the cards was clear that for people like Rouse, when they are given a chance to turn their backs on crime and become useful members of society there are conditions. "Fail to keep those conditions and you will find yourself back behind bars whether it’s Christmas or not," Granby added.
 

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Cayman gets long weekend as royal couple ties knot

| 21/12/2010 | 57 Comments

CNS): The Cayman Islands government has declared the country will join the UK in celebrating the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April with an additional public holiday after the Easter break. The royal couple will tie the knot on Friday, 29 April which will mean Caymanians can look forward to another long weekend. Officials said that the new holiday will officially become part of the schedule of public general holidays when a Public Holidays Order is issued next year, in accordance with the Public Holidays Law (2007 Revision). The wedding will take place at Westminster Abbey.

William and Kate announced their engagement last month when it was revealed that the prince, who is second in line to the British throne, gave his fiancé his late mother’s engagement ring.

The two have known each other for almost a decade having met at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where they both studied. Although the relationship has attracted some controversy because Middleton does not come from royalty, the engagement reveals a slow modernisation of the royal institution and perhaps lessons learned from the ‘arranged’ marriages of the past.

With Britain experiencing a period of austerity the wedding is not expected to be as lavish as that of the prince’s parents and more like his grandmother’s ceremony in the post war year of 1947. Kate is reportedly selecting an “unkown” designer for her frock.

As William is only second in line it will not be a formal state occasion so there won’t be a long list of heads of state attending, even President Obama will be resorting to the TV along with more than 750 million viewers around the world.
 

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Top cop points finger at US

| 21/12/2010 | 89 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands police commissioner has blamed the United States firearms policy for the deaths of young Caribbean men. In a presentation regarding crime in the region David Baines said that the right to bear arms there was directly contributing to the denial of the right to life for young men in the Caribbean. He also said America and western European nations were criticising the Caribbean when they themselves had failed to address the demand for drugs in their countries. Speaking at the Northern Caribbean Conference on Economic Co-operation last week Baines pointed to drugs and guns as the region’s most pressing crime problems.

The RCIP’s most senior officer told conference delegates gathered at the Ritz Carlton about the worrying proliferation of firearms in the region, which included military grade weaponry, assault rifles and heavy caliber machine guns.

“I have no interest in seeking to comment upon national politics and the laws and governance of US citizens and their constitution. However, at an international level, and specifically here in the Caribbean, the constitutional right to bear arms in the United States is directly contributing to the denial of the right to life for young men across the Caribbean,” he said.

Baines said that while every murder was a tragedy for the family, it was also a tragedy for the region, with tourism taking a bashing every time a serious crime was committed and reported in the press. He criticised an article in The Economist earlier this year which stated that Caribbean police forces were looking overseas to recruit officers. The article said: “There is good reason to import foreign managers. Caribbean police forces were set up in colonial times to catch mango thieves and quell native unrest. They are being overwhelmed bywell armed gangs, international drug traffickers and systemic corruption.”

Such commentary rankled the community, the commissioner said, adding that it failed to recognise the realities faced by the local and regional police services in small countries with limited funding and infrequent public support.

Turning the tables, he said that those countries receiving illicit drugs had not done enough to quell demand. He said the article overlooked the point that the violence in the Caribbean was down to its geography as a convenient hub for drugs originating from the South and Central Americas transiting to the main demand centres of the United States and Western Europe. Yet, those same developed countries had failed to counter their own drug problems "with a myriad of law enforcement agencies and unparalleled funding”, he noted.

The commissioner spoke about the region’s common criminal issues, which, he said, differed only in scale but pointed to the organised drugs trade as the most serious. The squeeze on organised criminals based in Jamaica meant they would "migrate to safer locales to continue their criminality", and, as a result, the importance of acting regionally to meet local threats could not be overstated.

Baines said organised crime usurped legitimate government and its criminal activity clogged up the courts. “The criminal justice system is then pressured with delays,” he said, which in turn were exploited by the criminals to intimidate or even murder witnesseses, so trials collapsed and the dangerous go free. In Jamaica, he noted, trials were still not concluded in some cases after ten years.

The situation in Tivoli Garden, Kingston, he said, showed how this organised crime undermined democracy. “The arrest and extradition of Christopher Dudas Coke to America required an operation equivalent to a military campaign to enter the area controlled by Dudas. Some 80 persons plus died during the operation to secure Dudas’ arrest and retake the area controlled by him for many years,” Baines said.

To understand the impact of how organised crime groups replaced legitimate government and law enforcements in this environment, the commissioner said that within Tivoli Gardens, 4000 homes existed, though only one percent paid utilities because the companies feared retaliation if they disconnected the supply.

Baines said crime fighting required a common approach at the regional level, including joint training initiatives and the sharing of information, assets and resources. He said that having Jamaica and FBI resources on standby, ready to deploy within an hour of request to somewhere like Cayman, when faced with a criminal threat outside of the norm was a real blessing as it was no longer sufficient to rely on a single department or unit, police or military.

“The threat is such that alignment of endeavour by government, judiciary, police, military and civil society are essential in order to exploit any opportunity to prevent organised crime gangs from establishing a base in our community,” the commissioner said.

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PPM: Stimulus disappointing

| 21/12/2010 | 17 Comments

(CNS): The government has offered nothing new, the opposition has said in response to the premier’s stimulus plan. With the exception of the announcement that government is talking to the banks about a possible loan moratorium, the PPM’s Alden McLaughlin said the plan was essentially a rehash of the various announcements and ideas government has made over the last year. What the country needed to stimulate the economy, the opposition MLA said, was a roll back of the massive fee increases imposed at the beginning of the year. McLaughlin also noted that in his plan the premier had again failed to appreciate the impact crime was having, especially as recent comments suggested he believed crimewas going down.

McLaughlin said that, with the exception of the issue over the East End Seaport, there was nothing bad in the plan but he suggested it was not really a stimulus package.

“It was not what it was hyped up to be,” the opposition member said. “It remains to be seen if it will have any real impact. What we have seen again is the stubborn refusal to accept that it was the hike in fees which have had the most damaging effect on the economy. If the government really wants to give investors help then it must roll back the increase in fees that took effect in January.”

McLaughlin said he was delighted that the school projects were being restarted but he noted that the year or more during which work had stopped had also had a detrimental impact on the local economy. He said that while the previous administration was condemned over the public sector projects it was clear that they had played a very important part in keeping people in work.

“When it was clear we were in for a recession it was our belief that government was obliged to keep the projects going to protect jobs,” he said. “Government has an obligation to its people, and if that means you can’t balance the budget that year well, that’s just what government has to do as we need to look out for the people.”

Although the premier has criticised Keynesian economic policy, McLaughlin said he was glad to see that the premier was still putting the principles into practice where the schools were concerned. He questioned why government had allowed the work to stop for so long and added that a lost year was lost potential trickle down and economic stimulation. As the man behind the projects, he noted that the two high schools would have been finished by now if the current government had fought as hard as the previous administration to keep the work going.

The opposition member also pointed to the continuing failure of the current government to face the crime problem, which was having a direct and negative impact on the economy. McLaughlin said that, despite the comment by the premier last week that statistics revealed a decline in crime, it was nothing short of insensitive not to recognise that the community was exceptionally concerned and fearful which it came to the day to day realities of crime in Cayman.

“These are desperate times and those who don’t appreciate that are insensitive at best,” he said. “Unless we can get some kind of check on what is perceived as the realities of crime in the community, we cannot hope to have any significant economic recovery.”

The independent member for North Side was also less than enthusiastic about the premier’s stimulus package suggesting there was “nothing in it” and wondering where the specifics were. Ezzard Miller told CNS that he was disappointed.

“I really was hoping to see more specifics and something to get the economy going over Christmas,” he said, adding that the premier could have actually made things worse. “I am concerned that the hint of duty reduction could even have a negative impact on the Christmas sales period. People who were going to buy may hold on now and wait to see if there is a significant duty reduction in the New Year instead,” he added.
 

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Jamaicans debate translating Bible into patois dialect

| 21/12/2010 | 1 Comment

(The Daily Mail): Plans to translate the Bible into patois – Jamaica’s unofficial language – have ignited a fiery debate that stretches beyond the shores of this island nation. Some Jamaicans object to the project because they say patois is an obscure dialect that dilutes the sanctity of Scripture. Others view the translation as an empowering statement that affirms their heritage. The debate continues as a Caribbean-based religious group searches for translators to help with the $1 million project. Religious leaders say the audio translation would make the Bible accessible to average churchgoers and to those who might not read it otherwise. It will take about 12 years to translate, said Rev. Courtney Stewart.

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Planning hopes changes will boost development

| 21/12/2010 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Although increases in planning fees passed by government earlier this year have been criticized officials are hoping that changes to the law to allow some fees to be paid on completion of the projects rather than during the process will boost development. One of the recent amendments made to the Development and Planning Law will take effect in the first quarter of 2011 and give developers additional time to boost cash flows from construction sales. Haroon Pandohie, Director of Planning in the Ministry of Finance said the initiative “would be welcomed by the development sector as it gives people more time to generate funds from sales prior to having to pay these infrastructure fees.”

He said that the planning department plays a major role in the development of business in the country so the policies and procedures that are put in place provide a framework to ensure that economic growth is stimulated and maintained.

Another change which is being well received by the construction sector is the reduction in the time-frame required to gain Certificates of Occupancies. Just last week the premier announced that these certificate are now a routine process that no longer require the Director of Planning’s signature. The task is now delegated to the Chief Building Control Officer and Assistant Building Control Officers.

Chairman of the Contractors Association, Rayal Bodden, said CCA was delighted with this decision to make it a routine process. “Time is money and the CCA believes this will speed up the process of completing a project and will thereby help to reduce construction costs. The Development industry is Cayman’s third largest industry and the Cayman Contractors Association is here to serve the community by promoting changes to existing policies and procedures that make the industry moreefficient,” he said.

The planning law amendments were broadly welcomed when they were changed this year though the fee increases were a notable exception. The decision to allow ten stories along Seven Mile Beach was also greeted with a mixed response. The first building that will pass the current seven story limit in the area will be the Watercolours development on Seven Mile Beach which will be nine stories high when it’s finished.
 

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