Blacktip Island’s Sea Slug Roundup Sparks Controversy

Two head-shield sea slugs cavort in a kraal during last year’s catch and release Blacktip Island Sea Slug Rodeo.

Two head-shield sea slugs cavort in a kraal during last year’s catch and release Blacktip Island Sea Slug Rodeo.

A Blacktip Island fall tradition came under fire Wednesday when protestors occupied the beach where the two-day Blacktip Island Sea Slug Roundup is slated to launch this weekend.

“Our forefathers were farmers and fishermen,” said event organizer Led Waite. “Slugs were a threat to their fall seaweed crops and had to be culled from the shallow reefs.

“The roundup celebrates that heritage,” Waite said. “Those hippies with signs are just attention mongers. Last week they were all up in arms about development or some such nonsense.”

The protestors decried the roundup as inhumane.

“Forcing nudibranchs into those little pens isn’t natural,” said Harry Pickett, president of the local People for the Ethical Treatment of Slugs. “You get that much slime in that small an area, slugs suffer. Coral dies.

“The sea slug population’s just now bouncing back from near extinction,” Pickett added. “This so-called celebration jeopardizes that recovery process.”

Organizers refute those charges.

“The roundup’s been catch and release for years, and no slugs have ever been harmed,” Waite said. “Two goals of the event are to document sea slug numbers and preserve a viable breeding population. Harry knows that. He just likes saying ‘nudibranch’ in public.”

Local businesses are concerned about the protest’s economic impact.

“Guests plan their scuba vacations around the roundup,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Dozens jump in on scuba to watch the action. It’s a gold mine in terms of gear rental and t-shirt sales.”

“It can be a bit tedious for the uninitiated,” said longtime dive guest Max Straap. “You can’t hurry slugs. But for the aficionado, it’s as riveting as a grand master chess match. “We got the kids certified when they were 10 just so they could see the herding first hand.”

Organizers, meanwhile, stressed the roundup’s eco-friendly nature.

“Slugs must be herded in the kraals under their own power,” Waite said. “We’re not having a repeat of last year’s fiasco where Lee Helm nudged head-shield slugs into the pen.”

“Lee’s an idiot,” slug wrangler Alison Diesel said. “Everybody down there has cameras. You scratch your butt, 20 people’ll put it on YouTube. And there’s Lee, flicking slugs across the sand like paper footballs.”

“That’s precisely the sort of cruelty we’re protesting,” Pickett said. “And the children’s greased sea cucumber roundup Saturday afternoon shows how that ignorance is being passed on to the next generation.”

The roundup winner will receive the coveted Golden Slimy Doris trophy. All proceeds go to the Blacktip Island Retired Seaman’s Guild.

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