Monthly Archives: January 2019

Wilderness Safaris Let Blacktip Island Visitors Hunt Mersquatch

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A 2014 photo of the Blacktip Island mersquatch, the only known picture of the elusive and secretive aquatic relative of the more widely-known sasquatch. (photo courtesy of Molly Miller)

Blacktip Island visitors will have a new adventure option starting next week when local naturalist Rocky Shore launches his Mersquatch Photo Safari on the Caribbean island’s sparsely-populated southern end.

“The mersquatch is the mostly-aquatic relative of bigfoots and yetis,” Shore said. “It’s native to Blacktip and loves it down south where there’s not a lot of people and the island’s eat up with caves and sinkholes leading out to sea.

“We’ll be taking folks In Jeeps and on foot on overnight trips in the interior to see if we can get a look at him,” Shore said. “They’ll also see iguanas, hermit crabs, land crabs, grackles, no telling what, but the brass ring’s the mersquatch. There’s no guarantee, of course, but that’s the goal.”

Some residents scoffed at the idea.

“The mersquatch is a bunch of hooey, and Rocky knows it,” Ginger Bass said. “He’s charging a small fortune to take people out in the bush to get bug bit. Any ‘signs’ the guests find’ll be Rocky’s buddies off in the bushes howling and breaking branches.”

Others were more supportive.

“People say there’s no mersquatch, but I saw him first-hand, four years ago now,” south end resident Molly Miller said. “Got a quick picture, too. Right after he stole my sundress. The worry isn’t Rocky finding the mersquatch. it’s what happens when the mersquatch finds him?”

Island leaders were cautiously upbeat.

“I can’t speak to whether this what’s-it exists, but anything that brings visitors to the island is good,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Blacktip’s definitely lacking in topside activities, so Rocky’s camping trips are a perfect addition to our tourism product.

“Rocky’s quite the entrepreneur, I’ll give him that. He created a demand, then supplied the product,” Cobia said. “This’s already working out better than his Atlantis tours in the glass-bottom boat. And clicks on the island’s website have jumped through the roof.”

Guests on a test safari this week raved about the experience.

“It was as exciting as a big-game photo shoot,” Maria Pompano said. “We were never sure when the mersquatch would leap out from behind the trees. Or tear through our tent at night. The guide wasn’t armed, either, so that added to the rush.

“We didn’t find the mersquatch, but there were a lot strange noises at night, and some broken tree limbs. And scat. Lots of scat, so we were close,” Pomano said. “Sure, the mosquitos were hellish, but we got a t-shirts and water bottles, so it balanced out.”

Shore brushed aside the safari’s critics.

“Whether we find the mersquatch or not is beside the point,” he said. “People are getting an exciting nature tour, and loving it. And, really, are you more likely to pay top dollar for a ‘nature tour’ or a ‘mersquatch safari?’”

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Lionfish Shortage Spurs Blacktip Island Fish Farm

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Local aquaculture enthusiasts hope their plan to raise lionfish in inland ponds will solve the lionfish shortage at island restaurants. (photo courtesy of George Graysby)


A shortage of invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish on Blacktip Island reefs has prompted local aquaculturists to launch a captive-breeding program this week to supply lionfish to island restaurants.

“We’re victims of our own success, really,” Blacktip Haven chef Jessie Catahoula said. “We put lionfish on the menu to encourage scuba divers to cull them off the reefs. The cullers did such a good job, there’s no lionfish left.

“Problem is, we’ve marketed the hell out of fresh lionfish tacos, ceviche, medallions, you name it,” Catahoula said. “Tourists come here expecting lionfish, and boy, do they get hacked off when we don’t have any. Flying the meat in from the big island’s killing our bottom line. Thankfully the fish nerds stepped in.”

Resident aquarium enthusiasts floated the idea of a fish farm.

“The restaurants tried substituting other types of fish, but customers caught on,” George Graysby said. “Captive breeding was the only viable solution. We have lots of aquariums, so this isn’t really that big of a jump.

“We still push culling and conservation and all, but going forward all the lionfish served on Blacktip will be farm raised,” Graysby said. “Farm-to-table lionfish, if you will. And we’re working on genetically modifying them, too, to make them venom-less. And bigger.”

Experts say the plan will boost the small Caribbean island’s economy.

“Lionfish is set to be the new tilapia,” Tiperon University-Blacktip economics professor Sally Port said. “Digging the ponds is already keeping two people employed full time. And once the place is up and running, it’ll need a full-time staff to maintain it.

“It’ll be six months before the first fish are ready for harvesting, but at that point, the process will be self sustaining,” Port said. “George and Belinda are starting the fry in aquariums this week and will transfer them to the ponds as soon as, well, as soon as the ponds are completed.”

Island environmentalists cautioned about the project’s potential downside.

“We’ve spent so much time and energy getting rid of these invasive pests, now George’s actively breeding as many of them as he can?” Harry Pickett said. “What happens when a big storm washes thousands of lionfish onto the reefs?

“They’ll wipe out the native reef fish in no time,” Pickett said. “We’ll be worse off than before,” Pickett said. “This is an ecological disaster waiting to happen, never mind the stink a farm like that’ll create.”

Farm backers brushed aside such worries.

“We’re digging the farm way inland where it’s safe from any storm surge,” Belinda Graysby said. “And it’s up by the Tailspinner bar where it won’t bother anyone. And even if it does, if the booby pond stink doesn’t scare people away the smell of a fish farm won’t, either.

“Worst case, if a big hurricane does flood the ponds, well, we’ve got an island full of trained cullers who can clear the reefs in no time,” she said. “Either way, the restaurants’ll get their fish.”

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Caribbean-Themed Medieval Dinner Theater Comes To Blacktip Island

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Detail from the marquee at Blacktip Island’s new medieval-style dinner theater, which opened this week at the Caribbean island’s public pier. (image courtesy of Piers Planck)

Blacktip Island entrepreneurs this week launched a tropical-themed Medieval dinner theater to celebrate the Caribbean island’s history and broaden its tourist appeal.

“On Blacktip the focus is on scuba diving, fishing and bird watching, and rightfully so,” said show impresario Piers ‘Doc’ Planck. “But the island has so much more to offer. That’s what we’re tapping into with this Middle Ages-style dinner-and-tournament.

“Most people don’t know Blacktip Island was a Knights Templar outpost in the 11th Century,” Planck said. “It was the Order’s sole naval base in the Western Hemisphere, and the survivors of the Friday the 13th massacre escaped to Blacktip with what was left of the Templar treasury.”

Show organizers are still fine tuning many of its details.

“We’re still feeling our way with staging and choreography,” Rosie Blenny said. “It’s mostly James Conlee and Dermott Bottoms in second-hand Aquaman costumes and pool floaties whacking each other with bamboo poles and yelling ‘thee’ and ‘thou.’ But tourists love it.

“We made it aquatic-themed so it was more relevant to island visitors,” Blenny said. “Marketing’s tough, but that’ll change as word spreads. Knights in tights jousting with inflatable seahorses? That’s something people’ll tell their friends and neighbors about.”

The island’s business community is upbeat about the venture.

“Anything that gets people to the island is good, no matter how goofy it is,” Chamber of Commerce president Christina Mojarra said. “They’re staging it at Diddley’s Landing for now, and the audience brings its own chairs, but if this thing takes off, we’re looking at building a permanent stadium that can be used for other events, too.”

Not all island residents support the new show.

“The idea of the Knights Templar having a presence on Blacktip Island is ahistorical hooey,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “It was the Hospitallers. Tourism income is all well and good, but not at the expense of historical fact.

“And Antonio Fletcher dressed as King Neptune presiding over the affair undercuts any Society for Creative Anachronism-style educational value it might have,” Altschul said. “It is hard to look away from, though. Like an auto accident or a boat wreck.”

Island visitors were generally positive about the show.

“I didn’t really get what was going on, or what the point of it was, but it was fun to watch . . . whatever it was,” Eagle Ray Cove guest Otto Korrecht said. “Honestly, if I understood it I may not have liked it as much.

“The food was, well, the ‘Templar Conch Chowder’ and ‘Hospitaller Halibut’ were dodgy, and the ‘Holy Land Ale’ was just warm beer with limeade in it,” Korrecht said. “But you didn’t really notice during the jousting, though. I’m guessing that’s a big part of the business model.”

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