Gov’t gives Turtle Farm $28M

    Payments made over three years


    Recently completed audits reveal that the Cayman Turtle Farm received just more than $28 million in “equity injections” – essentially government subsidies – between July 2007 and November 2010 to keep the government-owned tourism attraction operating.

    In addition, auditors with KPMG noted in their report on the financial statements for the Turtle Farm for the years ended 30 June, 2007 and 30 June, 2008 that government also provided an interest-free loan of $939,000 to the facility during the 2007/08 budget year.

    “Without this ongoing support a material uncertainty exists that casts significant doubt about the [Turtle Farm’s] ability to continue as a going concern,” auditors wrote in their independent report, which was released Monday in the Legislative Assembly.

    The 2006/07 and 2007/08 financial statements were among the dozens of overdue reports to be filed in recent months as the government tries to catch up with its financial reporting responsibilities under the Public Management and Finance Law.

    Auditors noted that the Turtle Farm did not meet reporting requirements under that law.

    According to the reports, the Turtle Farm facility received about $8.5 million in equity injections during the 2007/08 budget year.

    In 2008/09, it received more than $8 million in subsidies; in 2009/10 the facility received about $9.3 million in subsidies.

    For the current budget year, 2010/11, the subsidy amount approved was just under $9.7 million.

    Records compiled by KPMG as of November 2010 stated that about $2.1 million of the equity injection had been received by the Turtle Farm.

    Also, auditors noted in February 2009, government provided additional guarantees of US$5.5 million for a bank overdraft facility.

    “Cost overruns of the Boatswain’s Beach project (a name that is no longer used at the facility), lower than projected visitor numbers and operating costs in excess of initial budgets, have given rise to significant business risks,” the auditors’ report stated, adding that those losses have plagued the facility since the 2005/06 year.

    Although the report was done for the 2007/08 year, auditors took a more comprehensive look at the Turtle Farm’s operating position and noted that several cost-cutting measures had been implemented since the middle of last year.

    “In May and June 2010…the company made 20 employees redundant,” auditors wrote. “Total redundancy payments made to these employees amounts to CI$107,471.”

    The report noted the facility’s board of directors has considered the sale of turtle shells locally, has increased the price of turtle meat, and has weighed the potential closure of certain areas of the tourist park at the Turtle Farm site that aren’t making a profit.

    Discharge permit

    Another major issue identified at the Turtle Farm in the audit report was – through the date of approval of the financial statements – the entity had not met certain criteria for reducing the amount of effluent discharge from its grounds.

    Effluent discharge is the sum of everything, including water, food, waste and the like, that flows from the Turtle Farm property into the sea.

    In 2007 the Cayman Islands Office of the Complaints Commissioner revealed that the facility did not have the legally required discharge permit from the Water Authority and was, in effect, violating Cayman’s environmental protection laws.

    A two-year effluent discharge permit, granted in October 2008, required the Turtle Farm to reduce its effluent discharge by some 50 per cent by 1 July, 2009.

    The auditors said that didn’t happen, largely because of cost constraints.

    “In addition, management has looked further into the system design that the external consultant has proposed, and management now considers that design would not be appropriate as its anticipated adverse impact on air quality in the community would, in all likelihood, be much more noticeable and objectionable than the status quo,” the report stated.

    Auditors noted that the Turtle Farm is continuing to work with the Water Authority to lessen the impact of its waste discharge.


    The Cayman Islands Government continues to subsidize the Turtle Farm.
    Photo: Stephen Clarke


    1. We really must ask ourselves: is the Turtle Farm (whatever name it passes under) worth it? Is there any independent evaluation of it as a tourist attraction, and what income it generates from tourists, as against expenditure? Is it just a West Bay albatross round the neck of the Islands as a whole? It continues to require massive financial injections while its managers seem unable to make reliable financial projections; it is environmentally illegal; is it time to consider closing it – unless some generous research/dwindling species institution can help to fund it on a re-organised, properly financed basis?

    2. Here is a huge money sink. That shark tank!. Ask any salt water tank owner. You must put in your tank, fish and aquatic life, that help balance the water chemistry.

      But as you can see, they have algea floating in the water all the time (VERY bad for fish). Meaning nothing is being done properly to control this expensive pest.

      So they have many huge nurse sharks (when there should only be one). And many fish. yet not ONE ALGAE EATER (ie, tangs, you know the kind of fish we have thousands of in Cayman). We could also incorporate turbo snails/generic snails, star fish, sea urchins and other types of algea eaters (cant use conks cause the nurse sharks will eat them).

      And this is why i say this peice of smart advice.
      I guarentee you, that alot of this turtle farm money is going up in smoke due to the algea scrubbers that try (but are failing) to help keep that tank clean (next time your there, ask them to show you what the algea scrubbers are, they are HUGE energy consumers that must be run 24/7 or the fish die).

      Yet, to halve the energy usage of these scrubbers would only take the animals we already have around here. Place them in the tank, add to the beauty of the tank, and give them a safe home.

      Instead, they get PAID divers in the tank to clean the over abundance of algea caused by the wrong type or too much type of fish in a closed tank system.

      They chemically blinded the fish one year, thinking chemicals would fix the algea.

      Maybe the currator of that tank, needs to own an enclosed salt water fish tank, to learn the biology of keeping fish in a tank.

    3. The turtle farm is a real asset to Cayman and a great educational facility. In retrospect, was probably a bad idea to build the new facility in West Bay — a more central location would have netted more guests – in South Sound (instead of those hideous gas tanks) or Prospect.
      Tourism is down all over the island, so naturally, visitors to the turtle farm are down too. What about a 2.00 departure tax to support the turtle farm?
      Will the turtle farm ever be self-sufficient (let alone make money?) Probably not. But because of all the good it does, including the release of all the baby turtles into the ocean yearly, we should keep it open.

      You do need to hire a marine biologist though, even if just on a contract, to figure out how to naturally get rid of the algae (above reader has some fantastic ideas) because when I went to the turtle farm recently, I too, was appalled at the algae in the tank — it was disgusting — I have never seen anything like it. Cayman Compass: take some pictures and put it on the front page so everyone can see what it looks like!

    4. More money down the drain for something that is not run properly – other things that could be money makers, or at least nice attractions if run properly, are the National Museum and Pedro Castle.

      Time to privatize?

    5. mermaid has a great idea as well. Tax the incoming tourists. Even a dollar a tourist would subsidize that place fine.

      And to explain what makes the algea in the first place in that tank (something i forgot to educate the readers about) Basically…fish poop and sunshine.

      The more fish you have in there, the more algea you have to control or get rid of. The problem is, they were sold on the magic bullet theory (algea scrubbers) without doing a fish vs available gallons of water ratio. Then thinking of natural more cost effective ways of ridding the algea. Its time they need to revist that strategy.

      I have been in the salt water tank hobby for many many years.

    6. In January 2010, I came to Cayman and of course went to the Turtle Farm. We went on a Sunday since everything else was closed. We figured we would do the touristy things first – Hell and Turtle Farm. I was shocked and depressed when I left the Turtle Farm. There are WAY TOO MANY turtles in one tank. They cant even extend their arms. It was very sad! I would rather see something different done with the turtles. The turtles I did see were the ones out on display, I would hate to see the ones that are set aside for eating purposes. I am sure that there tanks were more deplorable than what I saw. If they are doing conservation, they should definitely limit the amount of turtles that they have in one tank. The turtles will not grow at normal paces when they have no room to grow. Isnt there a bay or something that could be used for these turtles to grow unharmed? If not, give them more room to move!!

    7. Should have left the Turtle Farm alone instead of making it like Disney. Ok, it could still have been turned into a great educational facility without making an amusement park out of it.

    8. The whole thing is unbelievable. The new management talks a good game, but it apparently makes no real difference who is running it. We used to have Snake Farms back home where the alligator ponds looked as nasty as that. I guess people got a little more sophisticated, and you dont see that kind of thing anymore. time to give up and shut down this decades old disaster.

    9. Cayman has enough large lagoons that could easily be made turtle farms, shallow mangrove areas that could be fish farms also. The idea for the attraction was sound, but the turtle farm has always been a training area and food source for Cayman. If anything the turtle breeding program should be expanded/co-located in a larger natural way. Still able to accommodate visitors but in a more outdoors type safari.

    10. It appeals to me to see the turtles in a natural setting as caymanian-on-guard suggests as well as giving them more room as visitorfrnj suggests but in terms of hurricane season there would be need for a holding tank/shelter.

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