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The Cayman Islands

Richard Branson

Some time ago I wrote to the Cayman Islands Government asking questions about its turtle farm and how it was being run. There had been a lot of criticism about its practices and its hygiene. I decided to find out more about it and come to the Cayman Islands for a quick trip. While there I talked to students; played in a celebrity tennis tournament with Stefan Edberg, Greg Norman and Martina Hingis and got to ask and answer a lot of questions.

As I mentioned in a blog a week or so ago, the Cayman Islands has been very brave in creating marine reserves to protect the breeding ground for the groupers and other species. The local fisherman are now beginning to realise the benefits of this in the areas outside the marine reserves. What I’ve learnt from my visit is that unlike many other islands in the Caribbean, the Government have banned the hunting and killing of turtles in the sea. By breeding the turtles on land, they’ve created the biggest tourist attraction in the Cayman Islands and satisfied the few locals who continue to eat turtles as part of their age-old tradition.

Obviously for many of us around the world we’d prefer that didn’t happen but in my opinion it’s certainly better than taking them from the sea. I’ve met the Chief Minister about the farm and he agrees there are some improvements that need to be made. There are still too many kept in one tank at a time and the farm needs to ensure there are regular checks of the water quality and also monitor the health of the turtles. The local experts assured me changes were happening and the farm also releases a lot into the ocean which is building up the numbers in the wild.

To further protect the local waters, the Cayman Government has introduced a season for catching lobsters and conch. This is an excellent move since many of the Caribbean islands now have completely over-fished conch and lobster and it'll be difficult for them ever to recover.

All in all I believe the Cayman Islands do a fine job protecting their oceans, as well as the turtles and other species in them. There is still more to do but there are many bigger battles for the OceanElders and WSPA to fight.


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