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Conch, Coral and Turtle products

All of these are covered by CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and, in theory, an application should be completed before any such products are taken out of Cayman. Application forms are available from the Department of the Environment (DoE) website as an html page at and as an Adobe Acrobat form at

The completed application form should be submitted to the Department of Environment at the Marco Giglioli Building, 580 North Sound Road (see the map at, by Fax to (345) 949-4020 or by e-mail to . It usually takes up to a week for the permit to be issues, but it is then valid for up to six months. There is no fee for the permit.

Traditionally, CITES Permits are more often requested by the Customs agencies of the destination country than in the country of export.

Conch (CITES Appendix II)

Conch shells taken from Cayman waters and sold (or given) to tourists as souvenirs are obtained as a by-product of fishermen collecting the conchs for their edible (and very tasty) meat. Because the shell is incidental to this activity, and because there are currently laws in place to limit the amount of conchs taken from the wild, the use of shells as souvenirs is not considered to be a very great threat to the local conch populations.

Some countries, such as the United States, understood this and normally did not request CITES Permits for a tourist returning home with one or two shells from their holiday in Cayman. Some other nations, however, are not as nuanced in their application of CITES Permitting requirements and require a Cayman Islands CITES Export Permit for any amount of conch product being brought into their countries. Because of this the DoE still recommend that, except for three or fewer shells, people apply for a Permit for the transport of any conch products to or from the Cayman Islands.

There are a couple of instances where the need for a permit does not fully apply. The first is instances of transport that do not involve "trade". If a Cayman resident were to transport conch products from Cayman to another country for non-commercial purposes and as a part of their personal belongings. This exclusion clause is sometimes applied on a case by case basis, depending on the circumstances. However, the DoE normally recommend people to apply for an Export Permit anyway, so that there will be no confusion upon their arrival in the other country.

The second class of exclusion is for the transport of three or fewer conch shells, regardless of owner, again for non-commercial, personal, purposes. This is applied most frequently in the case of tourist souvenirs but would apply to Cayman residents as well. This is a fairly commonly applied exclusion, as you can imagine. If you have three or fewer shells per customs declaration as tourist souvenirs, you do not need CITES Permits for them.

I guess that if you know you want to collect (more than 3) Conch shells to take home, then e-mail the Department in advance with your details as per the form and the number of conch shells that you expect to take home for the whole party travelling. The DoE can then have your permit ready for collection.

Coral (CITES Appendix II)

It is illegal to take coral from Cayman’s waters and, for this reason, no local coral is used in the jewelry business. The coral jewellery sold in stores all use coral from other countries. Sometimes this jewellery is imported already made, but more often the raw coral is imported and turned into beautiful jewellery by skilled local artisans. However, a CITES permit is still required for any jewelry/sculpture/art work made from coral

For raw coral, such as might be picked up by beachcombing, a permit will not be issued as the DoE wish to discourage the collection of local coral in any manner.

Turtle (CITES Appendix I)

CITES also applies to turtle products, and currently no CITES permits will be issued for any Turtle products. The Management Authority of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland tried in 2002 to get the Turtle Farm to become a CITES registered Captive Breeding Facility, which would allow some of their products to be exported, but their campaigning was unsuccessful. Because of this, no turtle products are sold at the Turtle Farm. However, you can try turtle steaks and fritters at a number of local restaurants on the island, including the Cracked Conch by The Sea next door to the Turtle Farm.

Should you want clarification on any query relating to CITES and souvenir/ purchases from the Cayman Islands, please contact: .

I have also uploaded a copy of the current (as of December 2006) Marine Park Regulations & Marine Conservation Laws. This Adobe document has a map showing the marine parks and various protected areas, and the rules on fishing/catch limits.

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