300 Green turtles die at Cayman Turtle Farm06/08/2012 18:56:49 Questions raised about safety of turtle farm
August 2012. After a leak of seawater from a pipe, 300 Green turtles have died at a turtle farm on the Cayman Islands. The turtle farm is a controversial turtle breeding centre that also sells turtle products to raise money. Not everyone agrees with this style of conservation, and although much good has been done in boosting local populations of turtles, there is much disquiet in some quarters about their methods.
The Cayman Turtle Farm has issued a statement (see below) that leaves several questions unanswered.
We have not visited the farm, but Wildlife Extra question why 300 turtles are kept in one tank, and extremely unnatural environment and one that would open the turtles to the risk of disease. Additionally, when there was a known leak, how on earth did a tank containing 300 turtles become empty without anyone noticing? The turtles must have suffered terribly as they are perfectly capable of living outside water for a time, they must have been left with no water for an extended period.
This is not the first time that the Cayman Turtle Farm has been at the centre of a controversy. A few years ago the Cayman Turtle Farm tried to export live sea turtles to Europe. However because the Cayman Farm was not recognized by CITES as a legal breeding facility, any international shipment of its turtles was in direct violation of CITES. In providing turtles for display at Sea Life Centres in Europe, the Cayman Farm hoped to generate public support for its controversial agenda of creating markets for turtle products. Conservation groups, meanwhile, claimed that the main reason green turtles have finally begun to rebound from near extinction is that international demand for turtle meat and shell has been all but eliminated. These groups have good reason to fear that any re-opening of trade would create the kind of demand that fuels illegal poaching and black markets for turtles caught from the wild.
The following is a statement from the Cayman Turtle FarmOn Monday, 16th July at around 11am the operations at the Cayman Turtle Farm were affected by a major leak in a main sea-water pipe. One of the large pipes carrying seawater from the seaside pumping station into the farm and which lies under Northwest Point Road developed a large crack underground, and began flooding the road. In order to repair the pipe break and avoid a worsening flooding situation, the decision was made to cease pumping sea water into the farm through the main pipe system. Several hundred thousand gallons of fresh sea water are required to be pumped into the farm on a continuous basis to maintain daily operations and ensure the safety and optimal living conditions of the sea turtles housed at the Cayman Turtle Farm, and this water flow ceased during the diagnosis and repair of the pipe break.
Once the pumps were turned off, repair work immediately began on the broken pipe. However, this was a major break which required heavy equipment, external contractors, additional manpower, layers of fiberglass work followed by concrete work, and took many hours to complete. While repairs were being made, alternative water pumping systems were obtained and put into place in efforts to maintain adequate water levels and some water circulation in the turtle tanks. The pipe break was repaired and water was back on by 10pm on Tuesday, 17th July.
Immediately after repairs were completed and water pumping operations returned to normal, the management team at the Cayman Turtle Farm met to review the incident and put improved mitigating procedures and systems into place based on the lessons learned.
We are now implementing new procedures and emergency back-up water supply systems aimed at avoiding a similar loss of turtles in any future main water loss situation. Additionally, the core water pumping and piping system at the Farm is being monitored and some key valves that failed are being replaced, with new parts and components already on order to be installed upon arrival.
The responsible stewardship of the animals in our care is a responsibility that we take very seriously and our crew works hard and diligently every day to ensure that safe and optimal operating conditions are maintained. We remain saddened by this recent loss - the first of its kind in the Cayman Turtle Farm's 40-plus years in existence but we are energized about improving our crisis response and resiliency systems moving forward.
The new procedures, and some of the new system setups that were put in place since the incident with the broken pipe, have proven their worth and effectiveness during an island-wide power outage which resulted in our sea-side pumps being out of operation from early on the morning of Wednesday, 25th July till around 1:30 pm that afternoon. We were able to get through that without any resultant loss of any of our animals.