Turtle Farm stance difficult for champion diver Streeter

Champion free diver Tanya Streeter has become the public face of the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ campaign to highlight concerns about the welfare of turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm. 

Ms Streeter, who was in Cayman last week with the animals rights group to hand to government a 144,000-signature petition calling for an end to sea turtle farming, admitted that coming out in condemnation of conditions at the Turtle Farm was a difficult decision. 

The diver – born in Cayman to parents Jim and Sandra Dailey, who had been involved in the earlier iteration of the Turtle Farm when it was called Mariculture Ltd. – has supported the WSPA on other campaigns, but when the group called her about this one, it took her by surprise. 

“It was a very, very hard phone call for me to take. I probably sent those guys on a flat spin because when they stopped talking, I was in floods of tears,” she said. 

“I’m proud of Cayman’s history and culture … It’s hard to hear that things are not OK anymore. It’s hard to hear the truth and it’s particularly hard because of the involvement [in the farm] with my family, but I’ve been dithering for several months now [on] what is greater – my passion for my home or my passion for animals and I grew up an animal lover,” she said.  

Growing up in Cayman, Ms Streeter, who now lives in the United States, was a regular visitor to the farm and returned there last April and again last week with WSPA representatives. “Looking at it through the eyes I now look at it through, as somebody who was once terribly proud of the Turtle Farm and now has learned from reputable resources and scientific evidence … it’s impossible to deny that it’s an inappropriate way to keep an animal that should be solitary and should be diving deep and should be travelling great distances,” the diver said. 

On her recent visits to the farm, she said she did not see any of the larger turtles without skin lesions and many had a build up of moss and growth on their shells. “That’s not something you see in the wild,” she said. 

During her stay in Cayman last week, she swam and was photographed with wild turtles in local waters to help publicise WSPA’s campaign. “It’s truly the way to experience them, in the wild, exhibiting their natural instinctual behaviour,” she said. 

Ms Streeter argues that sea turtles are not domesticated animals, nor have they been genetically bred to withstand captivity. 

Some online comments in response to Ms Streeter’s involvement in the campaign have accused her of selling out and “having it in for Cayman”, bringing up that the diver has represented another country in setting her free diving records.  

“I’m not immune or blind to the comments that are made … It’s really unfortunate that when I started free diving, my government chose not to support me … I did not choose to dive for another county until my country refused to support me,” she said, adding that she was an ambassador for the Turks and Caicos Islands for a while simply because Turks and Caicos supported her at a time when the Cayman Islands government did not. 

She insisted she is not calling on Caymanians to stop eating turtle meat, but is asking them to look more closely at how the meat they’re eating is farmed and consider it in the same way they might choose whether to eat battery-farmed chicken as opposed to organically raised chickens, or grass-fed beef rather than intensively-farmed cattle. 

“I wonder what people would think about eating a turtle that clearly has skin lesions all over it?”, she asked. 

She also wants to see an “independent, non-biased survey of what the demand for turtle here is”. 

Ms Streeter supports WSPA’s highly critical report of how turtles at the farm are treated at the farm. “There’s a massive welfare issue and we want to stop the farming of turtles because you can’t do it while prioritising the welfare of the animal because of the nature of the animal,” the diver said.  

The WSPA is recommending that the Turtle Farm transforms from a farm into a dedicated sea turtle research and education centre, similar to Kélonia Observatory of Marine Turtles in Réunion Island. 

“I personally believe very strongly that what WSPA proposes as a transition is something that is appropriate within the realms of our culture, that it’s appropriate to shoot for and I think I know it is something that would allow many Caymanians, as myself, to go back to being fiercely proud of the Turtle Farm, and with good reason,” she said. 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. You have gone about it the wrong way Tanya, and now you want to get on our news to tell us that the threat from you and your band of merry crusaders is not real?

    It is only our imagination that you want to change a part of our culture to suit some politically correct view you hold. Sorry, you got no support from our govt, but a great many Caymanians got/get NO support from the govt or have you not noticed that.

    The turtle farm is JUST A NAME, they have done more good than harm, and it is there by the sweat and tears of a great many people of this country, long before you and others who claim to be looking out for the best interest of our country.

    Why not approach the people of Cayman before going to the Worldwide Community to protest this? No, this is not about helping, it is about using bullying tactics to get a community to submit to a small group of self important jerks!

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  2. Well, we can release the turtles as soon as all the zoos, worldwide, free their animals. And maybe one day in the futur, we will just look at turtles through history books.

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  3. The WSPA does not actually spend any money at all on animal welfare anywhere in the world.

    instead they raise funds based on ‘issues’ that they dream up – and then get to pay their staff out of these funds – including nice overseas trips to places like Cayman.

    I wonder how much Ms Streeter is being paid?

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  4. Sadly, the reasons for keeping the Turtle Farm going are just not good enough – biological, ecological, financial, historical, touristical etc – time to close it and make it clear that Cayman is up to date, cares for animals and will act accordingly.

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  5. Befudled I totally agree with you. Every word you say is the truth. But you see it is things like this why we have this Cayman against Expatriat issue. It will never stop or cool down, because of people like Tanya Streeter who anoys people with her bullying tatics. This is not your country. Did y6ou see anyone go to USA Europe or China starting a fight because of Mad Cow, or cloned chickens. We stay in our place so please stay in yours, and stop causing Cayman to continue this expat war foreign people. We have had enough.

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  6. Leave the Turtle Farm alone,it’s ours.
    Want to do something? Stop the raising/killing of cows,chickens,turkeys, fish the list could go on thank you.

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