GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- Following her public support for the World Society for the Protection of Animal’s (WSPA) campaign against the Cayman Turtle Farm, the Farm has clarified several aspects in regard to statements made by free diver and WSPA celebrity spokesperson Tanya Streeter.
One article stated that during her recent stay in Cayman, Streeter swam and was photographed with wild turtles in local waters to help publicise WSPA’s campaign, and she commended the wonderful experience of seeing them “in the wild, exhibiting their natural instinctual behaviour.”
As most divers who have been in these waters for many years can attest, there are now many more sea turtles seen in the wild around Cayman than there were decades ago. The Cayman Turtle Farm has contributed significantly to that increase, making it possible for more visitors and residents to see turtles in the wild.
Data collected by the Department of the Environment shows a trend of exponential increases in the number of green sea turtles nesting in the Cayman Islands in recent years, and recorded sightings have confirmed that several of these nesting turtles originated as turtles released from Cayman Turtle Farm.
Another factor that has enabled the increase in the wild turtle population is that Cayman Turtle Farm provides a legally and readily available source of farmed turtle meat. There is much less incentive to take turtles from the wild than would be likely if local demand for turtle meat were not met from farmed stocks.
In her letter to the editor published in a local newspaper last Friday, Streeter stated that she fully believes “that a combination of education about, conservation efforts of, and protection measures for, the wild population of green sea turtles will allow for Caymanians to continue eating turtle while respecting their status as an endangered species.”
Cayman Turtle Farm managing director Tim Adam said, “A review of our turtle meat sales data shows local demand for turtle meat increasing significantly each year in 2011 and 2012. For example, for 2012 it took over 900 turtles to satisfy local demand. If the Cayman Turtle Farm does not supply the local demand for turtle meat, which has increased to over 900 turtles in 2012, where does Ms Streeter or the WSPA suggest that amount of turtles will come from to allow Caymanians to continue eating turtles?”
Adam said, “We are saddened that Ms Streeter, who grew up in Cayman but now lives overseas, has now chosen to align herself with the WSPA, an organisation that appears to be fuelled by sensationalising misleading information about the operations at the Cayman Turtle Farm. We are also disappointed that the WSPA appears to be continuing to expend its resources and funding on a promotional campaign to discredit the Farm, rather than working directly with us to support the improvements we are making in response to the inspection report, or even putting their resources into undertaking actual work in the conservation of sea turtles. We would like to see evidence of tangible conservation efforts the WSPA has contributed on behalf of the green sea turtle in the Cayman Islands.”
By contrast, the 150 research papers the Cayman Turtle Farm has been instrumental in over the years, along with requests it receives annually for educational internships and research partnerships, the ongoing research partnerships it has in place, its release of over 31,000 turtles into the wild, and the collated evidence of increased numbers of turtles returning to the Cayman Islands to nest, all underscore the internationally recognised success of the Farm’s research and conservation programmes.
Adam also pointed to the results of an intensive three-day review of the Farm undertaken in December 2012 by four internationally-recognised sea turtle experts and conservationists, which found clear value in the Cayman Turtle Farm’s research and conservation programmes. While the report identified some areas for improvement, which the Cayman Turtle Farm is acting upon, the assessment team’s findings also disproved several of the WSPA’s allegations against the Farm.
Adam said, “The WSPA is using Ms Streeter to represent a view that is obviously biased toward WSPA’s objectives, however the Cayman Turtle Farm urges any interested parties to come and visit the Farm to see our turtles for themselves, view the educational video and displays, and learn about the commendable work we undertake to research and conserve green sea turtles.”