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January 15, 2013

Farming Sea Turtles

A threat to a peaceful species

Humane Society International

  • Turtles climbing on top of one another, competing for food from tourists. Kevin Degenhard/RSPCA

  • Crowded tanks can invite the spread of disease. Kevin Degenhard/RSPCA

  • Wounds can result from overcrowding. Rebecca Regnery/HSI

  • Another wounded animal. Rebecca Regnery/HSI

  • Signs encourage tourists to pick up and touch the turtles. Rebecca Regnery/HSI

  • Handling baby turtles. Rebecca Regnery/HSI

A sea turtle farm opened in the Cayman Islands, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, in 1968 to breed green sea turtles for local consumption. Today it is also a major tourist attraction, but it appears to have some significant animal welfare issues.

A myriad of problems

An undercover investigation by World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA) produced video footage and photographs that reveal thousands of sea turtles kept in shallow tanks full of dirty water. Visitors are permitted to handle them despite the health risks to both humans and animals. Deprived of the opportunity to migrate, swim and dive through the open ocean, a number have injuries of the type that could result from overcrowding and competition for food.

Take action now to help.

Despite these conditions, the park is a popular destination, especially for cruise ship passengers. Although it is clearly stated on the park’s website and in its education center, visitors may be unaware that the park slaughters turtles for consumption. Turtle meat has been removed from the menu of the park’s restaurant, but the meat and shells from these turtles are still sold locally and to tourists at other island restaurants. This helps to keep the taste and market for sea turtle meat and shell alive and thriving in the region.

Finally, documentation from the government of Costa Rica claims that some eggs used to set up the breeding program at the Cayman Turtle Farm when it first opened were taken illegally from a Costa Rican nature reserve.

Take Action

Conservation programs in the Caribbean and elsewhere are working to protect wild sea turtles from threats on their nesting beaches, reduce pollution and interaction with the fishing industry, and, most importantly, ban international trade in sea turtle products. The Cayman Turtle Farm could join these efforts by improving animal welfare issues while continuing educational programs.

Please sign our petition to end the cruel practice of turtle farming. The Cayman Turtle Farm should not profit from the slaughter of sea turtles, especially if its animals languish in substandard conditions.

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