Policy Initiatives: International Issues: CITES: Cayman Islands Turtle Farm Proposal Fails

November, 2002: The Sea Turtle Conservancy, then known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, received word from the CITES conference in Chile that the UK/Cayman Islands proposal to legalize the international trade of green turtle products from the Cayman Turtle Farm has failed. This proposal would have registered the Farm as a legal “captive-breeding” facility under CITES regulations and allowed for the international export of products made from the shell. STC and other groups opposed the measure because of concern over the impacts of the farm on wild sea turtle populations and the potential for an increase in illegal trade.

The proposal was defeated during a preliminary vote, however, the UK could have brought the measure up again in the final CITES plenary session today or tomorrow. The UK Environment Minister, after being lobbied hard by numerous NGOs and range states, just announced that he will not allow the proposal to proceed further. The decision was based in part on the revelation by Costa Rica that some of the Farm’s stock was likely obtained from Costa Rica without documented legal authority.

A lot of individuals and organizations contributed to this outcome. STC wants to thank all of you who wrote letters to delegates. Having participated in the last CITES meeting in Nairobi, STC knows how challenging and stressful these meetings can be. Those NGOs and individuals who actually attended the meeting to work on this issue deserve our thanks. We may accidentally miss one or two, but some of the key groups working with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation included The Ocean Conservancy, International Fund for Animal Welfare, WIDECAST, Species Survival Network, Defenders of Wildlife, and The Humane Society of the U.S. Special recognition goes to Roxana Silman, STC’s Costa Rica Director, who attended the meeting as an official delegate of Costa Rica and was instrumental in solidifying range state opposition to the proposal.