Monthly Archives: March 2016

Gentically-Modified Leeches To Solve Blacktip Island Medical Woes

medical leeches

Genetically-modified medical leeches cling to the rubber waders of a Tiperon University-Blacktip researcher in Blacktip Island’s booby pond nature preserve. (photo courtesy Christian Fisher)

 

A dearth of medical professionals on Blacktip Island has prompted local geneticists to breed strains of medical leeches to address the isolated Caribbean island’s health needs, island health authorities announced Thursday.

“Health care on Blacktip Island is hit-and-miss,” Public Safety director Rocky Shore said. “We don’t have full-time doctors or nurses, so we rely a lot on volunteers. You’re never sure who you’ll get at the clinic.

“Talking with researchers at the university, this back to the future approach seemed our best bet,” Shore said. “They’ve engineered seven different types of leeches to take care of the most common island ailments.”

Tiperon University-Blacktip scientists say the throwback to Medieval medicine is a natural on Blacktip Island.

“Blacktip’s pretty rustic, and it’s lousy with leeches,” said Dr. Azul Tang, head of TU-B’s nuclear biology department. “Not the ones hanging out at resort bars. The ones that crawl out of the booby pond after a good rain.

“Standard wound cleaning leeches were a given,” Tang said. “We’ve also bred specialized strains to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, depression, food poisoning and perform liposuction. They’re local, holistic, reasonably natural and you don’t get much more organic that the booby pond.”

Some locals, though, are leery of the new protocols.

“There’s major bio-ethical concerns here,” government watchdog Wade Soote said. “They’re creating new species, then slapping them on people without any clinical trials or any sorts of safeguards. This isn’t medical care. It’s a bad horror movie.

“We’re picketing the university labs this afternoon,” Soote said. “We’re urging everyone to boycott the clinic, too. Unless it’s something life threatening.”

Shore was quick to allay residents’ concerns.

“With no doctor on island, it’s this or nothing,” Shore said. “And these leeches come out of the pond muck already mutated. We just tweaked their DNA a bit more.

“We gave them plenty of trials, too, in the clinic,” Shore said. “These suckers make better financial sense than doctors. We don’t have to pay salaries or benefits, we can chuck them back in the pond when they stop working, and insurance pays for them.”

A handful of locals, meanwhile, have embraced the new treatment option.

“You can’t argue with success,” said island resident B.C. Flote. “Couple of swallowed leeches worked wonders for my wife’s eating disorder. And they cured little Shelley Bottoms of her anxiety attacks after her run-in with the mersquatch Christmas morning.

“Plus, come Sunday morning, there’s nothing like a leech to the forehead to get rid of a hangover,” Flote said.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Lionfish Shortage Sparks Blacktip Island Captive Breeding Program

Common Lionfish

An invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish rests on the bottom of Blacktip Island’s new captive breeding pond Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Daniel Dietrich)

 

A lionfish scarcity on Blacktip Island reefs has spurred local entrepreneurs to start a lionfish captive breeding program to supply the island’s restaurants. The facility, unveiled Thursday, is the first aquaculture program of its kind in the Caribbean.

“For years we’ve culled the hell out of lionfish to save the reef,” said Jay Valve, the program’s creator. “Local chefs put lionfish on their menus to encourage culling. Lionfish fingers, tacos, soufflés, you name it. It’s become an island staple.

“The cullers were so good, though, now there’s not enough lionfish to go around,” Valve said. “Both restaurants were going to have to take lionfish off their menus, or use dodgy substitutes.”

Island authorities say the shortage caused a public health risk.

“There’s a cutthroat black market for lionfish meat – real and fake,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Yobbos are selling parrotfish, day-old land crab, you name it, as lionfish. The clinic’s full of sick tourists. A supply of farm-raised fish should put an end to that.”

To create a suitable facility, Valve enlisted the aid of local marine biologists.

“We’re using an abandoned 20,000-gallon cistern out back of Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort,” said lead scientist Peachy Bottoms. “It’s the only place on Blacktip big enough. We tried doing it in the resort pool, but there were a couple of ugly incidents with small children. And a cat.

“The real trick was getting them to breed,” Bottoms said. “They’re nocturnal pelagic spawners, so we had to set up mirrors and video screens to simulate the open ocean. And a disco ball to simulate a full moon.”

Animal welfare groups, however, oppose the farm.

“These genetically-modified fish are raised in crowded, filthy conditions,” said Harry Pickett, president of Blacktip’s People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chapter. “Instead of the natural joys of seeing coral or hunting their own prey, they spend their lives in total confinement from the moment they hatch until the instant they’re slaughtered.”

The program’s creators say the fish are better off than their wild counterparts.

“Our lionfish have it made,” Valve said. “They have no predators, besides us, and we raise them free of ocean pollutants. We don’t use hormones or antibiotics or free-radical gluten like other fish farms, either.

“They get a nutrient-rich diet of wet and dry cat food,” Valve said. “And Oreos. It speeds their growth and gives the flesh a fresh, sweet flavor.”

Local businesses are jumping on the aquaculture bandwagon despite the P.E.T.A. protests.

“We’re building an interactive theme park around the place,” said resort owner Sandy Bottoms. “Calling it ‘Lionfish World.’ Gonna have lionfish feeding pools, lionfish petting pools, Kevlar glove rentals and the chance to pick out which fish you want speared for dinner.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Eagle Ray Divers Starts Depth-Based Loyalty Points Program

depth program

Eagle Ray Divers scuba diving guests like Kenny and Connie Chromis, pictured, now have the opportunity to earn free dives or better seats on dive boats based on how many feet they accumulate while diving with the Blacktip Island dive operation. (photo courtesy of noblejoanie)

 

Blackip Island’s Eagle Ray Divers has instituted a frequent diver rewards program, similar to airlines’ mileage rewards programs, based on the cumulative depths their scuba diving guests accrue during dive vacations.

“We call them ‘frequent-diver feet,” said Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner. “Log enough depth points on our boats, you’re eligible for an upgrade. Twenty-five thousand feet gets you a free dive or a seat on the bow. Fifty thousand, you can talk to the boat captain. If you don’t ask any stupid questions.

“Your average dive guest racks up 1,000-1,200 feet per week of diving,” Latner said. “More if they night dive. That kind of thing ads up.”

The program is proving popular with the resort’s guests.

“We just signed up, so we don’t have many points yet,” said Eagle Ray Divers guest Kenny Chromis. “But I guarantee we’ll be doing all our diving with E.R.D from now on. Just today I racked up 220 feet on three dives. Our buddies diving with Club Scuba Doo are majorly jealous.”

Critics, however, say the plan will result in divers going unreasonably deep solely to earn reward points.

“This is gonna get divers hurt,” said Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick. “Our guests already add 10 feet to every profile we give them. Ger’s divers’ll be going 150, 200 feet just for the points.

“What’s next, people doing two-hour dives to earn frequent diver minutes?” Kiick said.

Eagle Ray Divers management bristled at that criticism.

“Our divers’ll lose a point for every foot beyond the profile they go,” Latner said. “And they don’t get credit for their depth unless they show their gauges to one of our divemasters.

“Finn’s just muddying the water, blabbing about dive time points,” Latner said. “That’d be crazy. We’d never get back in time for lunch. Or by the time the bar opens.”

The Eagle Ray Divers dive staff, meanwhile, has embraced the plan.

“We’ve got a system to keep our wallies in line,” said Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Alison Diesel. “They lose double points if they go into deco. They lose all their points if we have to break out the O2, the defib or send them to the chamber.

“We dock points for wearing a Speedo, too,” Diesel said. “We’re not gonna encourage that sort of thing.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Sand Flea Festival Highlights Blacktip Island’s Weekend

sand fleas

Sand fleas swarm over seaweed strewn on the Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort beach in preparation for Saturday’s Blacktip Island Sand Flea Festival. The festival culminates with a winner-takes-all naked crawl across the flea-infested beach. (photo courtesy of Lamiot)

 

Blacktip Island residents are bracing for Saturday’s annual Sand Flea Festival honoring local monks slain by Norse raiders.

“It’s the first gala fête of the Blacktip Island party season,” said event’s organizer Payne Hanover. “It’s a great mid-winter pick up. And having it during Lent means everyone can suffer, regardless of religious affiliation.”

The festival has its roots in Medieval times.

“For Lenten penance in the 13th and 14th centuries, island monks would fast, drink coconut mead, then strip naked and roll on the beach at sunrise and sunset to get as flea-bitten as possible,” Island historian Smithson Altschul said.

“In 1557 Norse raiders were blown off course, landed on Blacktip and slaughtered all the monks wriggling in the sand,” Altschul said. “After the Vikings left, locals kept up the sand flea tradition to honor the fallen monks.”

Recently, the festival morphed into a celebration of an island scourge.

“We figure if we can’t beat the no-see-ums, we might as well embrace them,” festival committee member Kay Valve said. “We throw a big party in their honor. Of course, on this island, we’ll throw a party in just about anyone’s honor.”

The festival, at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort this year, will feature flea-themed food and drinks, a flea circus and a flea-bite henna tattoo stand.

Live music will be provided by local favorites The Social Morays, TURTLE!!!, and Young Jacques and the Double Hose.

As ever, the highlight of the festival will be the 100-meter naked beach crawl at dusk, with the winner being the contestant who takes the most time to complete the course. The victor will receive a case of Benadryl and be compensated for all medical expenses.

Prizes will also be awarded for most sand flea bites, largest bite and most painful-looking bite. Winners of each category will receive a Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort tank top and a year’s supply of calamine lotion.

“This is such a wonderful event,” Sandy Bottoms guest Suzy Souccup said. “I met my husband at Flea Fest years ago. We were on the beach in our skivvies, our eyes met, and fireworks went off.

“These were actual fireworks, you understand, from the resort,” Souccup said. “We stood staring at each other for so long, the sand fleas about ate us alive. We spent the rest of the night side-by-side in the clinic, getting IV cortisone and rubbing calamine on each other. It was magical.”

The festival is sponsored by Benadryl.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean