The Boatswain’s Beach/Cayman Turtle Farm project has sustained an operating loss of more than $20 million over the last three years and continued to lose tens of thousands of dollars even at the height of tourist season this spring.
The total number of turtles there has declined from an estimated 100,000 in 1980 to 7,700 at the beginning of this year.
Now comes word from the Office of the Complaints Commissioner that high-ranking farm officials knew about potential violations of Cayman Islands laws at the facility aimed at protecting the environment and public safety but were unable to correct the problems.
The Department of Environment has produced at least anecdotal evidence that coral reefs around the area are being destroyed by effluent discharge.
On top of that, Complaints Commissioner John Epp’s report revealed that the facility has been illegally obtaining electrical power for years.
To sum up, the turtle numbers are declining, costs are skyrocketing and the environment, which is a major reason why many tourists come to our beautiful Islands, is being destroyed by the very facility which was built to celebrate that beauty.
This is not the type of thing people on this island like to read about, but its happening and we can’t bury our heads in the Seven Mile Beach sand any longer.
Government must make a decision to either: a) create a measured, long-term, environmentally-friendly fix for these embarrassing problems or b) eat the rest of the turtles, fire 100 people from their jobs and turn off the lights.
The Caymanian Compass would like to take its hat off to Mr. Epp and Mr. Billy Adam for their tireless work in bringing these problems at the Turtle Farm into the public domain. It was the all-important first step.
The second step in such a process, which we were also encouraged to see, was the admission by Turtle Farm Acting Managing Director Joseph Ebanks of major problems, and possible law-breaking at the facility. In no way are all of the above problems Mr. Ebanks’ fault and he easily could have foisted blame onto any one of a number of people in answering the OCC’s questions.
But he didn’t. He started by stating mea culpa, talked about his desire to fix the problems, save the turtles and get the facility at least to a break-even point.
It’s the right attitude, and the government, whatever its faults in this issue, has not failed to fund the Turtle Farm adequately.
Now the country needs to make a choice: run the Turtle Farm the right way, or don’t run it at all.
That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a truck load of money at the problem. But it does mean spending what’s available on a long-term, workable, sustainable solution; instead of the previous quick fixes.