EDITORIAL – Conservation: One debt paid, another owed

Anyone who has paid off a mortgage knows the giddy elation of making that final installment. One can only imagine the pure joy of finally satisfying a $50 million obligation, as the Cayman Turtle Centre recently has done.

Closing the books on loans that enabled construction of its current facilities will help the center focus full attention on the future – building the tourism product, supporting research and conservation, and helping to educate people about turtles and their unique link to our islands’ past.

The Turtle Centre is a valuable asset. It is our islands’ largest land-based attraction, drawing approximately 300,000 visitors each year. Its work has helped bring local green turtle populations back from functional extinction, bolstering wild populations through the release of more than 31,000 yearlings to date. Wild turtles, if not exactly common, are making a welcome return to our waters and beaches.

Not unimportantly, it employs more than 100 people, with economic effects that reverberate throughout our economy. At the same time, supporting the center over recent years has not been cheap – requiring as it has an estimated $9 million annual government subsidy to stay afloat.

That number will shrink significantly now that these loans have been paid. Still, it is estimated the center will rely on an infusion of approximately $3 million annually. Managing Director Tim Adam told the Compass his goal is for the center to be self-funding. That is a worthy aim.

For all the benefits the center brings to our islands, government has a responsibility to be fiscally prudent. Sustainability is not just important in nature, but in public spending as well.

So, congratulations to the Turtle Centre on reaching this milestone. We look forward to its continued success and hope to soon celebrate its first break-even year.

Ocean Conservation Month kicks off today with a “shark talk” at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre on Cayman Brac.

Over the next few weeks, readers will have plenty of opportunities to learn more about sharks and marine conservation by participating in this annual event. There will be other “shark talks,” of course – one of previous years’ most popular events – and opportunities to show off ocean and conservation smarts at Thursday’s pub quiz. One also can join a cleanup at SafeHaven or learn sustainable fishing practices at a fishing clinic. There will be opportunities to view several of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation’s conservation-themed films, including a new documentary about Cayman’s Stingray City and another featuring local high school students Josh Weaver and Cassandra MacDowell swimming with whale sharks.

A complete calendar of events is available at www.guyharvey.com/ghof-ocm/.

The theme of this year’s celebration, organized by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and supported by several local sponsors, is “Generations” and there are plenty of ways for all generations to take part.

As Mr. Harvey told the Compass last week, “Conserving marine life is a generational process.”

By educating ourselves and using marine resources responsibly, we can leave a clean and safe environment for future generations.

If we fail to do so, our children and grandchildren will pay the price.

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