Farm to release 150 turtles in face of controversies

| 08/11/2012

1012778.jpg(CNS): Against the backdrop of international controversy the Cayman Turtle Farm has said it will release 150 turtles into the wild this weekend in its 32nd Annual Pirates Week event. The largest release for many years comes at a time when the facility is coming under increasing pressure to move away from farming and towards conservation. The World Society for the Protection of Animals has launched a full scale campaign against the farm in its current form and is drumming up support across the globe but in particular in the UK parliament. The Cayman Turtle Farm returned its annual release to Pirate’s Week in 2009 after several years of modest numebrs and  a ceasation of the release altogther in 2006.

Last year the farm released 40 hatchlings but this year it is more than tripling the number to 150. Since 1968 what the farm calls its ‘headstarting’ programme has placed over thirty-one thousand farmed green sea turtles into the wild.

Meanwhile, in London the WSPA is continuing with its campaign with the help of British MPs from both sides of the political divide. A dozen or so parliamentary questions have been submitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, MarkSimmonds about the Farm and there are two Early Day Motions which are picking up support in the House of Commons. The website campaign has also generated more than 83,300 signatures. While Richard Branson offered his backing last week to the Turtle Farm, Paul McCartney in the UK has thrown his weight behind the WSPA campaign which has been picked up in the British Press.

The research undertaken by the WSPA that documented myriad shortcomings at the farm from the water quality and overcrowded conditions in the tanks in which the turtles are kept to cases of disease, congenital defects and even cannibalism, was rejected by the Cayman Turtle Farm. It has announced its intention to undertake an independent audit next month to show that the findings of the WSPA are unfounded.

Criticised for releasing farmed turtles because of the dangers of disease being passed to the animals in the wild, the farm is nevertheless pressing on with this significant release next week. Officials said that turtles are quarantined and reviewed for any disease or defect before release.

“Our release programme is dear to our hearts and a central component of our conservation activities as we continue to preserve the Green Sea Turtle population,” Adam said. “This is a very important event for us, as we are releasing a larger number of turtles than we have in several years.”

This year’s significantly higher number is due to a highly successful nesting season, officials said, which saw a record number of eggs laid and an increased hatching rate.
“The Cayman Turtle Farm’s release programme is an important aspect of the organisation’s conservation mandate,” the Farm stated as it invited everyone to come along to the release on the shores of the North Sound across from the North Sound Golf Club on Sunday, 11 November at 4pm. 

“Members of the public are invited to join the Cayman Turtle Farm in our conservation efforts,” said Managing Director Tim Adam. “This year visitors to the Cayman Turtle Farm and the Pirates Week Office leading up the event can enter a raffle for a chance to release one of 15 turtles into the sea.”

This year’s release will include yearlings and advanced hatchlings. Yearlings will be fitted with Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT tags) which are micro transponders encased in a glass case about the size of a large grain of rice,” the Farm explained. These electronic tags are injected under the skin and can only be detected with a scanner — similar to wand scanners used at the grocery store. 

These and other types of tags allow researchers to identify individual animals and better understand migration and nesting patterns.  The most recent observational data shows that 14 females tagged andreleased from the Cayman Turtle Farm in the 1980s, have returned to lay their own eggs on Cayman beaches.

Historically, the Cayman Islands boasted one of the largest green sea turtle populations in the Caribbean and possibly the world but by 1900, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had deemed this population to be extinct in the Cayman Islands.  Today, according to the Department of Environment, there are less than thirty adult female green sea turtles nesting in the Cayman Islands each year.  The Farm said its release programme is to help replenish the local population of reproducing green sea turtles.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Another waste of time and millions.  Close the turtle "farm"; use the millions to build good schools.  Much better investment.  Let the turtles go free.  

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well there will certainly be plenty of Turtle on the menu at WB heritage day!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would gladly approve of a subsidy to keep the turtle farm as it was before Mac tried to turn it into West Bay Sea World. The old farm with a few tanks and some education about turtles, selling of meat and products to help subside the research and running costs was fine. I object to subsidising a fake reef whose fish can be replenished again and again from the sea, a shark tank and another pool and a waterslide. We simply cannot afford 10 million a year for this.  

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Management of the CI Turtle Farm should really clarify the misinformation related to the releasing of turtles, but as a citizen who does not have a one-month (or less) memory span as seemingly is exhibited by some posters, I will take the liberty to remind the public:

    1. Turtle releases are not just for this Pirates Week – it has been a tradition since the early days of the festival, almost 30 years! Additionally, the Farm releases numerous turtles during other occasions throughout every year. I would venture to say that hundreds of turtles are released every year.

    2. Despite the WSPA's and Sir Paul's assertions, the evidence that the Farm and their release program has been successful is out there in the water. Just boat around our island and see how many wild turtles can be spotted. Mind you, they're not "standing up to be counted" they are wild animals after all and shy away, but I have personally seen a particular location where I have observed 8 turtles blowing at the same time – factor that as a ratio around our entire coastal waters and get an idea of theh turtle re-populating over the past 30 years. Every time I go out, I am sure to spot at least one turtle! BTW I am not a poacher, nor do I even eat turtle – never have! Just an observant citizen.

    3. Sir Richard is clearly no fool – note his stand on the matter. Granted he did not visit the Farm but neither did Sir Paul! at least Branson, spoke to people who know, unlike the WSPA dudes who Googled or, at best, may have visited as tourists and formed their misguided impressions from the little that they saw.  



    • Anonymous says:

      This lore of seeing "plenty of turtles" is unscientific. I'm sure the DoE must have census numbers – Let's see …. 6 million when Columbus sailed by, and how many now?  Turtles migrate all over the area. The turtles you have seen may have come from far away or maybe from the turtle farm – but there are scientists who measure this stuff. How about some facts and not random observations from someone with no training or knowlledge? 

  5. Anonymous says:

    Are they going to release any of the Snakes?

  6. Anonymous says:

    well done 09.47, you successfully managed to basically accuse Paul McCartney of being responsible for the Industrial Revolution. Nice.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don't see how you made that connection from what the author wrote. But, I suspect it hit a nerve with you; usualy the truth does that.

      Facts are always disbuted, but hard to discredit, when they are the facts!!!

  7. Anony says:

    "What is the success rate of survival?" That is the question and the objection. For the farm releases you're probably looking at a survival rate of less than 1 in 140. Wild survival is often projected at 1-in-1,000. Upgrade the probability a bit for the ones lost in hatching failure and upgrade it even more for the yearlings. But a released hatchling is still more likely than not to be eaten. Its why turtles naturaly produce hundreds of babies; thousands in the course of their lifetimes. To put this release in perspective its about equivelent to one good wild nest. (Or, taking hatching success vs. yearlings in to account, about the equivelent of one nesting female's three clutches for the season.) And that's the problem. Any release between 1-1,000 is just not going to have much of an effect. (Note: not no effect, just not much effect. We're talking probabilities here.) However, if they can maintain and even improve this 100+ released per year rate for a few years, then we'll be getting up to numbers that matter. As it is now the releases are just (a) PR and (b) stock management. Both of which are important, but don't try to sell it as 'saving the species'. That would be akin to trying to sell 'conservation whaling'.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Any updatre on our imprisoned Stingrays across the street?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Oh good,  realesed just in time for Pirates week festivities!! They will be taken from the sea to be eaten great way to save the turtle…lol

  10. Savannah Resident says:

    Close this damn site already.  All residents of this country are paying to subdise this entity which is no longer viable.   I don't see how saving 10 million annually can be viewed as a     negatively by anyone.  

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is great news!  Those 150 will have freedom from tight quarters at the farm.  There were 1000's there when I was there last year, can't they release more.  At least give them a fighting chance to make it.  Staying in those tiny pools is no life for a turtle!!!

  12. Truth says:

    When CIG took over the turtle farm it then became more about the money funnel and not much to do about the turtles.  $10 million a year over what comes in means its still working well toward the Caymankind CIG welfare fund that directs public funds into the waiting hands of the intitled reciepiants.  For CIG to continue running it it must still function as a money funnel to some extent or they have no reason to keep it open.  The only way it functions as the puplic intended is if it taken from the CIG and given over to those interested in conserveing the turtles.  What would Bush do?  Yep thats right.  Might need the UK to step in and stop the continued finacial waste.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Delicious little delicacies!

  14. Anonymous says:

    WPSA's website has one interesting statement:  "This horror is all in pursuit of profit."  Turtle Farm turned a profit?  When was that?

  15. Anonymous says:

    I picked up an info. sheet at the Turtle Farm a few weeks ago and was appalled at what I read.  Out of multiple thousands of eggs collected on the nesting beach only 6% hatch?  To me that seems like an epic fail or an epic typo?  Can someone find out or is this just one of the many things WSPA is up in arms about.  It makes me sick if this is correct and if it is there is NO point in keeping the Turtle Farm unless these numbers can be increased to at least 96%.

  16. Anonymous says:

    boycott the turle farm…..

    it is an horrific experience for everybody involved…….

    • Anonym ass says:

      Yeah right, Boycott the slaughter house and it'll be costing us 15 million a year.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Anything less than a thousand a year is bull. Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. This pathetic scrambling around to put lipstick on the pig is revoilting.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s raining…oh and just a little more rain c’mon ah there you go rain all done

    • Anonymous says:

      I wonder how many whales were released by Japan or Norway this year???? Hmmm..that's right they are realeasing ZERO, but slaughtering hundreds every six months. But hey, it's for "scientific research" right?, right?!!!!

      I for one do not eat turtle, or even like the idea of having them farmed. But at least this country is actually releasing some into the wild. There are questions that must be answered, such as are they tested and given a clean bill of health before they are released?, what is the success rate of survival?.

      When I first came to Cayman 30 years ago, I accepted that this was not my country and I would not try to change it or the culture. Considering where I came from in Europe, and the environmental disasters that had taken place over there, and still do, I must say that Cayman isn't as bad as some.

      Sure, we could all do better. But we should all clean up or own backyards before peeping over the fence and accusing others of not doing the same.

      Deforestation, fragmentation and destruction of the earths ecosystems is a serious concern and a threat to our very survival on this planet. We all have to understand that if we don't change our ways, nature will remove us from the equation and start over. Sure, it may take a few billion years for her to make a come back through natural selection and spiciation, but it will happen.

      Harvesting of turtles is the least of our problems!!! I find great humor in SIR Paul condeming Cayman, but yet his (and mine) home country is one of the great offenders of the environment. Going all the way back to the Industrial Revolution, the UK burned coal and spewed toxins into the air with no care or concern. They got fat and wealthy off of the industrial revolution (aided by the fact that they had colonies around the globe to supply natural resources). This gave them the position of economic dominance they have today!!!

      So, to the people of this small country, be more inclined to listen, follow or accept input from countries who are practising what they preach!!!!


      • Anonymous says:

        whodatis mentality…… 2 wrongs make a right…….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

        • Anonymous says:

          Yeah, so ignore one wrrong and pick on the other right?!

          Insincerity; the way of many nations with what we shall call a "would prefer if forgotten and not mentioned" past.