Today’s Editorial November 22:Turtle release a rite of passage

A handful of people got a chance of a lifetime last week when they granted freedom to yearling turtles.

It was part of the annual turtle release on Grand Cayman.

Through this year’s release 20 yearling turtles were turned out to the sea.

Their release helps to ensure that green sea turtle populations thrive.

It’s part of the overall programme at the Turtle Farm at Boatswain’s Beach where about 45,000 turtle eggs are produced by the captive turtle breeding colony each year.

These turtles are used for research and meat for locals.

By releasing turtles and facilitating research the Turtle Farm is helping us Caymanians keep our tradition of eating turtle while ensuring wild turtle nests go unmolested.

Since the turtle release began 26 years ago, more than 30,000 hatchlings have found their way into the sea.

It is hoped that these turtles will return to the Cayman Islands to nest when they mature.

In addition to preserving the green sea turtle, the Turtle Farm also ensures the rest of the world is educated about the turtle and its brush with extension.

Thousands of tourists travel to the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm each year to see and be seen with the turtles.

While visiting the Farm these tourists spend money, thereby putting cash into Government coffers.

At the Farm visitors learn that in the 1600s and 1700s the Cayman Islands became a provisioning stop for vessels sailing the Caribbean because of an abundance of green sea turtles, which could be caught and kept alive on board as a source of fresh meat.

As permanent settlements developed, turtling became a means of income as well as providing a local source of food.

Turtles in Cayman were depleted in the early 1800s, sending turtling fleets to the Miskito cays off the coast of Nicaragua.

The turtling industry as a whole came to an end in the 1900s as national and international regulations were adopted to protect turtles and alternative sources of income were found.

The green sea turtle means so much to this country that it can be found on our flag, seal and currency.

Through the annual release programme and research at the Farm, we can ensure that future generations understand the importance of protecting the green sea turtle.

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