Recent poll for turtle meat in the Cayman Islands shows limited demand

February 21 2014

The Cayman Turtle Farm, the last facility in the world that farms endangered green turtles for their meat, has long cited continued demand for turtle meat in justifying its activities. However a recent poll shows that in reality most people in the Cayman Islands do not eat turtle meat.

Since 2012, World Animal Protection has been campaigning to encourage the Farm to move away from commercial meat production to becoming a rehabilitation and release facility for sea turtles in the Caribbean.  

According to the recent poll by Cayman Islands newspaper the CayCompass, many Caymanians never eat turtle meat, calling into question the strength of ongoing demand for the meat.  A clear majority -- 54.7% -- of poll respondents selected “Never”, when asked “How often do you eat turtle meat?” 

The study’s results illustrate the need for a formal, long-term study on local demand for turtle meat. The Cayman Islands Department of Environment has recently agreed to undertake this research, with its study to be funded by the UK Government. 

The newspaper also highlighted specific comments of respondents showing strong concern for the preservation and welfare of endangered green sea turtles. One commenter stated: “I don’t eat endangered species. Not even farmed ones.” Another agreed, “Why would I? Their population has decreased to a point of worry for their future existence.” Other respondents also voiced concerns over conditions at the Cayman Turtle Farm, with comments including, ““In the past I did [eat turtle meat], however, on realizing the conditions at the Turtle Farm, I have stopped” and “I would never support such an inefficient government entity. Close down the turtle farm and use that money to step up marine law enforcement.”

Dr. Neil D’Cruze, World Animal Protection’s Head of Wildlife Research and Policy said:

“These poll results clearly show the need for a formalized, long-term study on the true existing demand for turtle meat.” 

“We’re grateful for the Government’s commitment to carrying out this research as this information will be vital if the Cayman Turtle Farm is to transition to a turtle rescue, release and rehabilitation facility.”

In addition to surveying demand for turtle meat, the Department of Environment’s study will also assess the effectiveness of the Cayman Turtle Farm’s annual turtle release program, which releases turtles into the wild each year despite limited conservation impacts. The Government also agreed that the release program will be suspended altogether until the study’s findings are completed, expected to be in 2017.

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