Red Herrings Invade Blacktip Island Reefs

Non-native red herrings have overwhelmed Blacktip Island in recent months, confounding scuba divers and angering residents.

Non-native red herrings have overwhelmed Blacktip Island in recent months, confounding scuba divers and angering residents.

Blacktip Island residents are scrambling to combat invasive red herrings causing dangerous levels of confusion on the Caribbean island’s reefs.

“No one’s sure how they got here,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said Thursday. “Where’s stuff like this ever come from? Our guess, they got dragged here, either unintentionally in a boat’s bilge, or on purpose by some yahoo.

“Either way, they’ve got to go,” Latner said. “They’re gobbling up our native species and wearing out our divemasters.”

Other scuba professionals are concerned about the threat the herrings pose to scuba diving guests.

“They’re beautiful and all, but they get our divers into some pretty gnarly jams,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “They shimmy and flash and you chase after them. Then they head for deeper water. We got guests going into deco left and right.

“There’s way more divers getting lost, too,” Kiick said. “They zone out following some bogus fish across the reef, and bang-o, next thing they know they’re three dive sites over. And out of air.”

After attempts to cull the herrings proved futile, government officials have shifted tactics to control their damage.

“For whatever reason, red herrings seem to thrive on this little island,” Marine Parks spokesperson Basil Kipper said. “We tried leading them into nets, but they wouldn’t follow, and quick as we would spear one, two more would take its place.

“Currently we’re urging divers to simply ignore them and hope they go away,” Kipper said. “Really, they’re only dangerous if one pays attention to them. The herrings, not the divers.”

Island leaders are demanding more proactive measures.

“These things are destroying our tourism product,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “All this talk about these damn fish’s got folks sidetracked from the important issues facing Blacktip. Just spear ‘em all, pronto, and restore diver confidence so we can refocus on extending our airstrip and expanding our resorts.”

Other residents are taking a more inclusive approach to the pests.

“We serve up red herrings at just about every meal,” said Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens. “Like it or not, they’re part of our island’s ecosystem. We tell our guests ‘accept them, embrace them, then eat them.’

“We’re all red herrings at heart, when you think about it,” Havens said.

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Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

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