May 28, 2022

Turks & Caicos: Conch Farm officially closes [Fish farm to be developed in Cayman Islands]

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FromTurks & Caicos Sun

The Caicos Conch Farm on Providenciales, the only conch farm in the world, is now officially closed to the public. There will be no more Conch Farm tours. Most of the employees have been terminated and redundancy payments have been made. Only a skeleton crew remains.

This is a decision that was forced upon the Trade Wind Industries Ltd. (TWI) Board of Directors because of the constant and unrelenting obstruction and opposition to TWI farming fish in the TCI by Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and the PDM Government.

TWI’s shareholders have invested over twenty million dollars in the project since 2010, so retreating or giving up because of an uncooperative or temporary PDM Government is not an option.

Another round of costly arbitration against the TCIG is very possible but likely to require 5 years and millions of dollars in legal fees. Waiting for the extremely likely change in government (2021) based upon the PDM’s current performance, will only take 3 years, a much more cost-effective approach.

Therefore, the Caicos Conch Farm will continue to farm conch at the Leeward site in a very limited way with a low-cost skeleton crew until 2021 when, hopefully, a new PNP Government with more insight and better judgement will be elected and see the virtues and value of supporting a fish farming development that offers 100 new living wage jobs, a sustainable food source and a genuine opportunity to diversify the TCI economy in an emerging and sustainable field.

TWI’s fish farm, under the name Caicos Catch Ltd, will now be developed in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico or another Caribbean island.

TWI’s dispute with the TCIG over farming fish has been widely publicized in the Caribbean and TWI has received much exposure and many unsolicited invitations from investors, developers and politicians during the past 18 months, to develop fish farming in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.

Constant and unrelenting delays and stonewalling by Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and the PDM Government has prompted TWI shareholders and lenders to authorize and direct the TWI Board of Directors and Chief Scientific Officer to investigate and accept an offer to farm fish in the best of those alternate island locations.

In March of 2010 the TCI Bank announced its intention to make a formal demand on the owners of the Caicos Conch Farm, Trade Wind Industries Ltd, (TWI) for full repayment of a delinquent 2.3-million-dollar bank loan on which TWI was the guarantor. That demand would have prompted the bankruptcy, winding down and liquidation of the Conch Farm and the total loss of an important eco-tour on Provo and the TCI’s only opportunity for restoration of the dwindling stock of Caribbean queen conch.

In 2010 an in-depth and detailed analysis of the historical financial records of TWI indicated that the Conch Farm had never been profitable and that it would be nearly impossible to ever scale conch farming to a size that it could be profitable without additional and alternative income streams.
However, a provision in TWI’s Development Agreement that specifically authorized TWI to farm fin fish and stone crab, in addition to queen conch, was thought to have enough value to support and subsidize the continuation of conch farming.

A new TWI shareholder was successfully recruited to purchase the TCI Bank’s 2.3-million-dollar delinquent loan position and provide additional funding for the payment of delinquent employee wages, delinquent NIB and NHIP contributions, bad debts and operational capital.
Thereafter, TWI hired a World-class marine biologist and a first-class fish biologist to begin the process of developing the fish broodstock for reproduction of five distinct species of warm water fin fish native to the TCI.

From 2012 through 2017 the Conch Farm successfully grew snapper, grouper, pompano, cobia and amberjack in tanks on-shore and many tourists, Turks & Caicos Islanders and local students will remember taking the Conch Farm tour and seeing those fish. They may have even eaten them in our local restaurants.

In 2012 former Governor Ric Todd and Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles unlawfully breached TWI’s 2010 Development Agreement by refusing to honor TWI’s right to farm fin fish and a legal arbitration was commenced in London.

That arbitration proceeding concluded in 2016 with 1.) the TCIG acknowledging under oath that TWI did in fact have a valid Development Agreement that permitted fish farming, and 2.) the Government agreed to pay a financial penalty, and 3.) a portion of TWI’s “costs”, and 4.) interest on those funds and, 5.) to honor the 2010 Development Agreement and TWI’s right to farm fish.

It is now February 2018 and Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and the PDM Government have made it perfectly clear that despite a valid Development Agreement and an arbitration decision in favor of TWI, they have no intention of honoring TWI’s Development Agreement or allowing TWI to farm fish in the TCI.

Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and the PDM Government have made it perfectly clear by their deafening silence and refusal to act or respond in any substantive way on more than fourteen separate occasions to written requests for clarification, implementation or exercise of issues related to TWI’s Development Agreement and fish farming rights.

And, Attorney General Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and the PDM Government have steadfastly refused to provide any reason or explanation to anybody for their continued obstruction and refusal to honor the terms and conditions of a valid Development Agreement, a valid Development Order or the Government’s commitments and representations to the arbitration panel. They have lost all credibility.

When elected Government officials conceal or obscure the reasoning for the illogical or unreasonable government decisions that have been made, or when they rely on or reference false information, rumors, innuendo or hearsay when attempting to justify those decisions, we must be suspect of their motives, credibility and honesty.

Even though TWI has provided the PDM Government with an in depth and detailed business plan indicating TWI’s intention to grow 10 million baby conch per year, not for sale but for local stock enhancement at no cost to the TCI Government, they have refused to respond.

Even though TWI has committed to the PDM Government to develop fish broodstock for the reproduction of grouper, not for sale, but for local stock enhancement without cost to the TCI Government, they have refused to respond.

Even though TWI has advised the PDM Government that fifty-two-million-dollars in funding has been approved and is available to TWI from institutional investors for the development of fish farming in the TCI, they have refused to respond.

And, even though TWI made an offer to donate a 5% equity position in the fish farming enterprise to the fisherman’s co-op or the TCI educational fund, they have refused to respond.

The PDM Government has refused to respond to TWI and will not honor the Development Agreement or the Development Order that the TCI Government has already affirmed are valid. And the PDM Government will not honor a development that the TCIG has already declared to be a “Development Enterprise”.

Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and her PDM Government have unquestionably and objectively demonstrated their opposition and the fact that they do not support TWI’s fish farming project or the jobs it would create.

A fifty-two-million-dollar investment in TCI fish farming without PDM Government support is an unacceptable risk that TWI shareholders and institutional lenders are no longer willing to accept.

Consequently, the Conch Farm is now closed to the public but will continue to farm conch at the Leeward site in a very limited way until 2021, while actively lobbying, promoting, marketing and donating to the PNP Party during the next 3 years with the hopes and intentions of encouraging and persuading that party that commercial fish farming can bring quality jobs and value to Turks & Caicos Islanders and the local economy beginning in 2021.

It should be noted for the record that Governor John Freeman was formally asked to assist with this matter on more than one occasion, but he refused.

Trade Wind Industries Ltd.
Owners & Operators of the Caicos Conch Farm

For more on this story go to: http://suntci.com/conch-farm-officially-closes-p3203-106.htm

IMAGE: myseastory

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