The Turks and Caicos Islands Conch Farm
By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- In a rare move, the principals of Trade Wind Industries (TWI), who own the business and property known in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) as “The Conch Farm”, have filed a law suit claiming damages of up to $85 million from current Governor Ric Todd and the TCI government.
According to sources close to the investors, the government backed off on an agreement that was signed in May 2010 by former Governor Gordon Wetherell.
The development was said to have invested $18-plus million in enlarging and rebuilding the facility. The new development is said to have included a resumption of conch farming and an enlargement that was to have included “fin fish” production. The sources claim that there were plans to employ 75 local workers.
This marine farm is located on eastern end of Providenciales (Provo) on the channel known as Leeward Going Through. This location, it seems, put the farm in jeopardy from nearby developments. The law suit only mentions two of these developments, which include a marina that is also home to Caribbean Crusin’, a fast ferry service that serves to transport people and baggage to and from the family islands of North and Middle Caicos and Provo, the home of the international airlines and international port.
According to the claims made in the writ filed on August 27, the permitted dredging for the nearby marinas has destroyed the crop of embryo and young adult conchs presumably by smothering them with sand from the dredging. The closest marina is that of Caribbean Cruisin’, which includes floating docks. The mega yacht marina further up the channel is located at the ill-fated Nikki Beach resort, which closed shortly after it opened.
Caribbean Crusin’ is now reported to have been purchased by Manny Misick, a close relative of disgraced former premier Michael Misick. Manny Misick was reported to have purchased the facility well over one year ago.
Nikki Beach has now been taken over by the lender and is promised to be reopened under a different name.
Not mentioned in the law suit is the massive dredging and artificial creation of a new island named Star Island for its planned shape. This project was located at the end of the Leeward Channel. When the construction of this island began to smother the Provo reefs international uproar shut it down.
The project was rejected by the planning authorities, who were then over-ridden by then premier Misick.
The law suit gives the governor and the interim government 14 days to respond or have judgment entered against them
According to the documents, the TCI government has violated agreements dated as early as 1985 and 1988, as well as the current new development agreement. This, it appears, has to do with current Governor Ric Todd’s position that fish production had not been part of the agreement. The suit claims the statements made by Todd were false and damaged the development. The dredging, the document claims, killed 4 million conch.
By naming the governor and the government as supervised by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) it appears the developers are holding the British Crown itself responsible, seemingly for lack of oversight.
In fact, the law suit names the Crown as responsible. TWI is seeking damages between $50 and $85 million.
In related news, the public relations arm of the Progressive National Party (PNP) appears to be siding with the interim government, claiming the agreement was secret and therefore tainted. However, after signing, the agreement was reportedly published in the official government publication known as “The Gazette”.