Sea Turtles have an amazing journey from emerging from their eggs to making it safely into the ocean.
Around the Treasure Coast property owners near the beach are encouraged to turn off their lights which distracts the young turtles from their path into the ocean.
Sadly nobody can protect the turtles as ranchers west of town protect their cattle or the owners of Save the Chimps help protect chimps.
When livestock is owned there is an inherent interest in preserving the stock (capital value) and thus conserving the species owned.
Whereas with common ownership (no real ownership) there is misuse as a result of the common ownership policy. Since nobody has a claim to the stock of the species, in this case sea turtles, there is no incentive to not deplete the stock. Since John does not own it he must maximize the income attainable by harvesting as many as possible before the next person does so. This is famously known as the tragedy of the commons.
As Lew Rockwell points out in Against the State:
If left in common ownership, there will be misuse. If put in private hands, we will have the right amount; supply will meet demand.
However, the turtles around the islands were depleted by the early 1800’s and the turtling industry focused around the Miskito Cays off the coast of Nicaragua. The Cayman turtling fleet continued operating at a sustained level until the early 1900’s. By this time turtle populations were dwindling and, in subsequent years, national and international regulations and alternative sources of income reduced the turtling industry to a negligible level
Why do we allow chimpanzees, who are not native to the Treasure Coast, with greater care than we do sea turtles, which are native to the area?
In the Caribbean there is a shining example of how sea turtles can be saved through private ownership known as the Cayman Turtle Farm.
Lew Rockwell continues:
The green sea turtle was considered endagnered, thanks to over-harvesting due to common ownership. The Farm was able to hatch eggs and bring the hatchlings to maturity at a far higher rate than in nature. It’s stock grew to 80,000 green sea turtles.
How successful has the farm been in releasing sea turtles into the wild? According to Wikipedia:
Between 1980 and 2006, the farm released some 30,600 turtles to the wild, and these individuals have subsequently been found throughout the Caribbean.
Yet their success has not been without criticism as a anti-property organization WSPA has criticized the CTF:
What the WSPA chose not to mention in their release is the huge upswing in the number of sea turtle nests in Cayman in recent years. There were approximately 20 Green sea turtle nests here in 2000, whereas in 2012 there were approximately 180: a nine-fold increase in the twelve year span. CTF has contributed to this in two ways. Increasing numbers of turtles released from CTF decades ago, are now finally reaching the age to breed and reproduce in the wild, and some of those are returning to Cayman to nest. Equally if not more importantly, the Cayman Turtle Farm provides a conservation benefit in providing farmed turtle meat to the local population, as it supresses the motivation to poach turtles from the wild, and this effect has been affirmed by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment. That benefits the wild population of all species of turtles around Cayman, as seen by the gains in the number of nests and the increase in sightings of sea turtles around Cayman by snorkelers and divers in recent years.
Is it perfect? No. But private owners of sea turtles such as the CTF has had a profound impact on increasing sea turtle population and educating locals and tourists about the importance of sea turtles in the ecosystem. Furthermore the economic impact of the CTF is estimated by Price Waterhouse Cooper to be between $70-220 million (depending upon cruise port expansion).
The Property and Environment Research Center concludes:
The ongoing story of the Cayman Turtle Farm has several important lessons for environmental protection efforts around the world. The early experience under private ownership demonstrated how creating a market for products from a species can enhance the species’ chances for survival. The collapse of that market following the ESA and CITES listings showed how even well-intentioned government solutions can lead to less environmental protection rather than more.
The integral role of sea turtles in Caymanian culture also offers another important part of the story. We regularly hear complaints that global markets reduce cultural diversity. But by providing turtle products for the local market and keeping Caymanians employed in the turtle industry, the farm is helping preserve a unique aspect of Caymanian culture.
Cayman Turtle Farm’s recent revitalization gives hope that you can’t keep a good market down. By creating a method for tourists to enjoy sea turtles on the island, the farm found a way around the roadblocks to commercialization created by international and American regulators.
Unfortunately, the new market is not a complete substitute for the old market. When turtle meat and other products could be marketed internationally, the farm was able to produce a wider range of turtle products for sale. Sea turtle shells, for example, can be made into many decorative items, but most of the shells from harvested turtles now have no market and are simply wasted. Turtle oil, from the fat, was once widely used in the cosmetics industry but can no longer be sold internationally.
Cayman Turtle Farm Ltd. deserves praise for its entrepreneurial efforts. However, its success cannot distract us from the devastating impact of American and international regulators’ unwillingness to accept a role for markets in preserving endangered species.
Watch the video about the Cayman Turtle Farm
Watch the video on the journey of the sea turtle