Public efforts aimed at protecting the lives of the Cayman Islands’ two most iconic forms of marine wildlife have begun after shocking reports in recent weeks regarding the apparent kidnapping and mistreatment of those animals.
The first petition, launched by Guy Harvey, asks the government to immediately put the National Conservation Law into effect; thereby ensuring that stingrays will be protected in all of Cayman’s territorial waters, not only in designated Wildlife Interaction Zones.
The second, started by the United Kingdom-based World Society for the Protection of Animals, seeks support to end commercial farming of green sea turtles at “the last sea turtle farm on Earth” – referring to the Cayman Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman.
Mr. Harvey’s petition can be found by clicking here.
The WSPA petition is located here.
Save the stingrays
Mr. Harvey said that two zones within Grand Cayman’s North Sound – known as Stingray City and the Sandbar – are the only protected zones for the rays.
Within the last few weeks, four stingrays tagged for study were found at Dolphin Discovery and later released into the wild. However, Mr. Harvey said six other stingrays remain in captivity at the facility.
“The well-being of stingrays affects every single person in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Harvey said, adding that some 500,000 people each year interact with the creatures in their natural environment within the North Sound.
The petition seeks to obtain 10,000 signatures.
The Guy Harvey Research Institute, based at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, conducted a stingray census in January 2012 and “sampled” only 61 rays at the Sandbar area, which it said represented a 38 per cent decrease in the rays since a similar count was done in 2008.
This summer, Georgia Aquarium staff returned to the Sandbar with the research institute and sampled 57 rays at the Sandbar, with only five males.
“The low number of males generally is cause for concern,” Mr. Harvey said. “These iconic animals have given so much to benefit the Cayman Islands that it’s time the government returned the favour.”
A range of animal welfare issues uncovered during an 18-month “investigation” at the Cayman Turtle Farm by the WSPA led to its call to end commercial harvesting of green sea turtles.
The animal rights group clarified a position it claimed was misstated by Turtle Farm representatives last week, that WSPA wished to shutter the tourism and research facility. “The commercial production of sea turtles cannot be done humanely,” the WSPA wrote in a recent statement. “It has unproven conservation benefits, represents a potential threat to human health and is of unproven economic viability.
“Other former turtle farms have changed their practice. For example, Kelonia has transitioned from a turtle farm to become a world leading turtle education and research centre.”
The WSPA said its research, aided by open records requests made by United Kingdom Member of Parliament Greg Knight, revealed that more than 300 turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm have died each year between 2007 and 2011.
“This is far greater than the 11 known Cayman Turtle Farm tagged sea turtles that have been recorded nesting on Grand Cayman beaches,” the group noted, citing FOI data given to Mr. Knight.
Sir Paul backs WSPA
One of the supporters of the turtle farming ban effort is legendary Beatles front-man Paul McCartney.
On his weblog, Mr. McCartney has attached links to the WSPA webpage on the subject and urged volunteers to support the groups efforts.
“Paul has lent his support to the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ (WSPA) campaign to stop turtle farming in the Cayman Islands,” the site states. “The Cayman Turtle Farm is the last place on Earth that breeds endangered sea turtles for food.”