Blacktip Island tourism leaders hope to put a positive spin on the annual winter jellyfish influx this weekend with the inaugural Jellyfish Days festival at the small Caribbean island’s Heritage House beach.
“We’ve got to attract tourists after the country’s been closed for so long because of COVID,” de facto island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Problem is, tourists’re coming back right when the jellyfish arrive en masse. We figured we’d flip the narrative, so to speak, and celebrate them instead of cussing them. The jellyfish, not the tourists.
“Hopefully guests’ll embrace the stings and spend a week with us,” Cobia said. “It’s a unique opportunity—nobody else in the Caribbean’s doing what we’re doing. Any sissy can dive in the jelly-free summers. This is adventure diving.”
Organizers say the celebration will focus on multiple aspects of the seasonal jellyfish boom.
“We’ll have classes on jellyfish ID, how to avoid them, and first-aid seminars for how to treat the various stings,” Christina Mojarra said. “We’ll also have multiple urinating contests so each person can discover their effective range, should they need to use that particular sting treatment.
“For entertainment, there’ll be dodge-jelly games on the beach, a Portuguese man-o-war eating contest, and a jellyfish costume parade,” Mojarra said. “The store’s already out of shower curtains and plastic drop cloths. We’ll also feature all kinds of locally-produced jellies—sea grape, hibiscus, iguana, you name it, as well as our soon-to-be-famous peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches.”
Local conservationists are critical of the event.
“Sure, the economy needs a boost, but this isn’t the way to do it,” the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “A bunch of drunks flinging cnidarians at each other won’t have the positive effect Jack and Christina think it will. Best case, tourists’ll avoid us. Worst case, word’ll get back to the wild jellies, and it’ll be pure hell trying to dive.”
Government officials say the event, while in questionable taste, is legal.
“Sure, jellies can hurt like hell, but that’s no reason to wantonly kill them for sport,” marine park spokesperson Val Schrader said. “But if they’re not culling them from the marine park, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Many on the island, though, supported the celebration.
“It’s a welcome a stress relief for a lot of people here,” BC Flote said. “Jelly season’s all about welts and swelling. In a bad way. This shindig’s a not-so-passive-aggressive pressure release that’ll let lots of folks vent frustration. I, for one, am looking forward to slapping that a-hole Lee Helm upside the head with a moon jelly.”