Beautiful Soup



Check out this tale of the rise and fall and semi-statist rise of the Cayman Turtle Farm:

Wild sea turtles were declining rapidly when Cayman Turtle Farm Ltd. was created in the West Indies in 1968. The farm, located on Grand Cayman Island, hatched green sea turtles in captivity and raised them for meat. By selling these turtles, it reduced the incentive of poachers to take endangered wild turtles. The farm also released year-old hatchlings into the ocean and supported turtle research.

The farm quickly gained fame as an example of "enviro-capitalism"—entrepreneurial protection of the environment. "The net contribution to the survival of the green turtle has been enormous," wrote R. J. Smith.

Unfortunately, because of restrictions on the international sale of turtle products (did you know turtle oil used to be a component in perfume?), the farm wasn't profitable. It's now government-run and aims mainly at tourists, but it's still an excellent example of profit-motivated stewardship.

Turtle soup, in additional to being quite tasty, also inspired this obscenely whimsical fragment of verse from Lewis Carroll, sung by the morose Mock Turtle:

"Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!


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  1. Is this what happened to Turtle Wax?

  2. In Costa Rica, one of the things people like to see are Quetzals, an incredibly beautiful and pretty rare bird. Most people hear that you go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Most people I’ve talked to had a hard time seeing even one. My wife and I went to a private place south of San Jose, up in the mountains where someone has developed their own private reserve, where there have little A-frame cabins and a couple of trout ponds. Early in the morning they take you on a walk around the mountainside, where we saw probably a dozen quetzals. It was freakin’ amazing, and had nothing to do with a government national park. Nice little business, because people will go there to see the bird- but meanwhile, you pay (a very reasonable rate) for a night in a cabin and a couple of good meals.

    Note that Costa Rica has an excellent national park system, and I mean in no way to be disparaging them.

  3. During the interlude when when turtle meat could be imported Green Turtle steaks from this farm were the house speciality at the Green Turtle Inn in Islamorada in the Florida Keys. At times you had to wait two weeks to get a reservation there.

    Some locals blamed the reimposition of the ban on widespread rumors that poachers were supplying meat to unscrupulous restauranteurs. At one time turtle catching was a major industry in the Keys. They were primarily caught wild but there were some attempts at farming. These were unsuccessful.

    Whether it was overfishing or destruction of breeding sites due to development or a combination of the two it is a shame that turtle meat is not available. It is delicious.

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