Blacktip Island residents are encouraged to drop off unwanted holiday fruitcakes at collection bins across the Caribbean island. Volunteers will mold the cakes into elkhorn and staghorn coral skeletons for the island’s new coral nursery. (photo courtesy of Stu Spivack)
Blacktip Island’s unwanted holiday fruitcakes will get new life in a program that repurposes them as frames for a coral nursery offshore from Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort. Volunteer scuba divers will install the first fruitcakes Saturday morning, under the direction of Marine Park personnel.
“The Jawfish Reef area’s taken a beating from loose supply barges, dump runoff and whatnot,” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “We’d talked about building an artificial reef there, but we didn’t have the material, the money or the manpower.
“Then the Blacktip Underwater Modelers asked for a permit to turn all those nasty fruitcakes into an underwater sculpture garden, and everything just dropped into place,” Valve said.
Island officials say the plan solves multiple problems.
“Fruitcakes have been stacking up on Blacktip for years,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “No one actually eats those things. Except little Shelly Bottoms, but she eats drywall, too. And smoked oysters.
“We used to have a fruitcake-flinging contest, where people built catapults to see who could launch one the farthest,” Cobia said. “But that was causing too much damage, and endangering the thrill seekers who’d try to catch them. This way, we’re getting rid of the cakes and helping the environment, too.”
Some environmentalists worry a fruitcake reef may do more harm than good.
“The dump won’t take them because they’re classified as biohazards,” said local activist Harry Pickett. “They’re indestructible. People in war zones use them to stop bullets. Who knows what’s going to leach out of them and onto the reef?
“Secondly, what happens if reef fish develop a taste for them?” Pickett said. “No only would we lose coral, we’d also have a bunch of dead fish. Or diabetic fish, at the very least.”
Local scientists, though, are optimistic about the plan.
“We haven’t identified any ingredients that are too toxic,” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine science professor Goby Graysby said. “And in our studies, no fish would go near them. Not even the yellowtail snappers. No, those cakes are durable enough to give coral polyps a good, solid anchor to take root on.
“The island needs green initiatives like this,” Graysby said. “Literally green, with some of those older cakes that’ve been passed down untouched for generations.”
Marine Parks has placed fruitcake collection bins at the Heritage House, at all island resorts, and also placed a fruitcake dumpster at Diddley’s Landing public pier.
“Hopefully this’ll work and spread to other islands,” Valve said. “With luck, we could have more coral and rid the world of fruitcakes within a few years. Now wouldn’t that make for a merry Christmas?”