Tag Archives: lionfish culling

Blacktip Island Cullers Will Hunt Human ‘Lionfish’ Saturday

mock-lionfish

Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Lee Helm, in a semi-closed circuit rebreather, practices swimming away as fast as he can Thursday in a warm up for Saturday’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef Mock Lionfish Hunt on Blacktip Island’s west coast. (photo courtesy of Peter Southwood)

In response to animal rights protests, Blacktip Island’s Sons and Daughters of the Reef hunt club will substitute a local divemaster for a lionfish in their inaugural Mock Lionfish Cull for charity Saturday afternoon on the island’s west side.

“More and more clubs worldwide are doing these mock hunts,” said S&DR Master-of-Fish Gage Hoase. “The prey, usually a fox, is replaced with a human, and the hunters still get a great chase.

“This cull’ll keep the fish huggers happy and draw good press,” Hoase said. “Plus, truth be told, we’re running out of lionfish on Blacktip. People are spearing and eating so many of them.”

Club officers selected the local divemaster with the most customer complaints during the past year as the Designated Lionfish.

“We’re sticking Lee Helm in a lionfish suit and dropping him on the reef,” S&DR Huntsperson-at-Arms Alison Diesel said. “We’ll give him five minutes, then turn the cullers loose with their spears.

“It’s nowhere near as harsh as it sounds,” Diesel added. “Lee’ll have a rebreather, so bubbles won’t give him away. And a Kevlar suit that’ll turn just about any spear point. Or so we’re told.”

Local fish rights activists say the switch to human prey, while not a perfect solution, is a step in the right direction.

“If the Designated Lionfish is human, and sort-of volunteers, we have no problem with that,” Society for Providing Lionfish-Appropriate Training president Palometa Fischer said. “Ideally, though, they’d jab him with real lionfish spines to make him really feel persecuted.”

Lionfish stand-in Lee Helm expressed reservations.

“There’s no ‘volunteer’ to it,” Helm said. “They just held me down and jammed that bloody costume on me. Someone – Marina, I’ll wager – even speared my neck ‘by accident.’

“The only choice I have is to jump in on my own, properly weighted, or be tossed in with 40 pounds duct-taped to me,” Helm said. “These people are out for blood.”

Hunt club members say the vote for Helm was unanimous.

“Lee’s an obnoxious little git that pisses off everyone, staff and guests alike,” said culler Marina DeLow. “We’re all looking forward for the chance to prang him good, point-blank.”

Other echoed the sentiment.

“If the suit doesn’t stop a spear or two, well, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy,” said culler Casey Piper. “You can’t spear Lee enough, really.”

Hunt organizers expect a record 35-40 cullers to participate.

“There’re members with real grudges against Lee,” Hoase said. “We’ve warned everyone not to aim for exposed skin, but you never know what’ll happen in the heat of the hunt. We’ll have the nurse standing by. And lots of bandages.

“On the up side, we’ve never had a turnout this big,” Hoase said. “We may make Lee our permanent Designated Lionfish. Probably best to put it to a vote, though.”

Proceeds from the hunt go to the Coral Reef Protection Fund.

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Blacktip Codex Could Be Lost Gospel

An illuminated panel from the Blacktip Codex shows Medieval Blacktip islanders netting a lionfish. The scrawled figure to the lower left is believed to be the earliest representation of the island’s legendary mersquatch.

An illuminated panel from the Blacktip Codex shows Medieval islanders netting a lionfish. The scrawled figure at the lower left is believed to be the earliest representation of the island’s legendary mersquatch.

The discovery Thursday of a 600-year-old bound and illuminated religious text, dubbed the Blacktip Codex, sent shockwaves through the Caribbean island’s religious and academic communities.

The rudimentary book, 200 pages of stacked sharkskin vellum bound on one edge, is attributed to St. Dervil of the Mead, patron saint of scuba diving and founder of the island’s Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral.

“Its folium rectum reads ‘The Gospel According to Dervil,’” Blacktip Reformed Theosophical Seminary deacon Calvin Augustine said. “The text is an account of Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ daughter Sarah fleeing to Blacktip Island, battling storms and pirates all the way. If true, it’s possible current Blacktip natives are their descendants.”

The codex was discovered after heavy rains caused a cathedral wall and part of the flooring to collapse, revealing a previously unknown storage vault containing the codex, pots of coconut mead holy water, a cot, playing cards and other religious relics.

Island historians say the book’s provenance speaks to its authenticity.

“Blacktip Island was sacked by Norse raiders blown off course on their way to Greenland,” Tiperon University-Blacktip history professor Edwin Chub said. “This codex could have been placed in the underground vault for safekeeping.

“Of course, Dervil was killed in that raid,” Chub said, “so any knowledge of the vault would have died with him.”

The island’s Ecumenical Council, however, has doubts.

“It may date back to Dervil’s time, and maybe even Dervil’s hand,” council president and former Reverend Jerrod Ephesians said. “But some mead-sotted monk’s potboiler about Jesus’s descendants in the Caribbean? That’s not history. That’s a B-grade movie.

“Now, Dermott Bottoms did walk on water that time James Conlee chucked the snake in his boat,” Ephesians said. “And Antonio Fletcher’s been known to cast out demons in Ballyhoo parking lot Saturday nights. But that’s hardly proof of divine genealogy.”

Historians are also intrigued by the codex’s detailed illuminated panels. In addition to gold-leaf images of Mary and Sarah, the codex also shows island settlers nettling lionfish.

“It’s the earliest known depiction of lionfish culling in the Caribbean,” Chub said. “Of necessity, Blacktip’s first settlers were fishers of lions, not fishers of men: a hastily-scribbled margin note reads, ‘Lord, save us from the devil, the Turk and the marinu leonus.’”

Island merchants, meanwhile, are already capitalizing on the find.

“With our resort being next to the church, we set up a roadside Blacktip Codex reading tent and gift shop,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “We’ve got Codex Mead, Codex caps and t-shirts and even Codex soap-on-a-rope that smells like a hurricane shelter.”

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Vandal Stuffs Toys For Tots Bins With Pole Spears

Some of the undocumented lionfish spears seized from Blacktip Island youngsters this week. The source of the spears has not been determined.

Some of the undocumented lionfish spears seized from Blacktip Island youngsters this week. The source of the spears has not been determined.

Blacktip Islanders were shocked this week to find the Caribbean island’s Toys for Tots bins had been filled with pole spears normally used for lionfish culling.

“What sort of monster would give spears to children?” said island resident Ginger Bass, a mother of three. “And why? Someone’s really out to ruin Christmas.”

The situation was made worse by delinquents overturning the bins and stealing the spears.

“Children raid the bins every year,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Beaugregory Damsil, who oversees the island’s Toys for Tots program. “The bins aren’t guarded, and the little scamps know toys are inside. Usually, the worst that happens is some tyke nicks a Tickle Me Elmo or something of the sort.

“This year, though, they’ve stolen lethal weapons and passed them around willy-nilly. With so many children running about with so many spears, falling and putting one’s eye out is the least of our worries.”

Island authorities are seizing the pole spears as they find them.

“I corralled a bunch of kids today playing cullers-and-lionfish,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Had to take three ‘lionfish’ to the clinic for patching up.

“We’re confiscating spears fast at we can, but things are nowhere near under control,” IPC Marquette said. “We’ve no idea who’s leaving the spears, where they’re getting them or how many are still out there.”

Fourteen spear-related injuries have been confirmed: 13 punctures, plus a skull fracture to a child blasted backwards after he speared an automobile tire. There are also unconfirmed reports of several punctured house cats.

“Thankfully, the tines aren’t barbed,” island physician Dr. Azul Tang said. “The wounds bleed a good bit, but they’re all fairly clean flesh wounds.”

The situation has left many locals shaken.

“The bigger issue’s how this destroys the island’s Christmas spirit,” Club Scuba Doo manager Polly Parrett said. “I mean, someone’s also running around stealing all our trees and ornaments. It’s like Christmas is being taken from us bit by bit.”

Island authorities would not comment on multiple reports of a man, wearing only a Santa coat and hat, lurking around toy collection centers earlier in the week, or that a small dog accompanying him may or may not have had a stick tied to its head.

“This situation’s volatile enough without crazy rumors,” IPC Marquette said. “All we know at this point is whoever’s responsible is a mean one, with a brain full of spiders and garlic in his soul.”

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Scuba Hunt Club Primed for Lionfish Season

Red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have overrun Caribbean reefs in the past decade. Cullers hope rifles will prove more efficient than spears.

Red lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have overrun Caribbean reefs in the past decade. Cullers hope rifles will prove more efficient than spears.

Blacktip Island’s Scuba Hunt Club will kick off lionfish season this weekend with an underwater safari along the Caribbean island’s west coast. Club members aim to cull as many of the non-native pests as possible with newly-developed underwater rifles.

The Tiperon Islands Department of Natural Resources instituted the hunting season as part of the effort to eradicate the invasive Indo-Pacific fish devastating the islands’ reefs.

“Seven years ago we put a firm quota system in place,” the DNR’s Noddy Bolin said. “Licensed hunters are allowed to cull as many lionfish as they can, with whatever device they can find.”

“We’ve used nets, clubs and spears,” hunt club president B.C. Flote said. “It’s been pretty piecemeal, though, with folks getting what fish they could, but having to leave a lot behind.”

The recent invention of an underwater lionfish rifle – a specially-adapted .308 caliber sealed for underwater use and chambered for an ultra-high velocity round to compensate for water’s density – has made this year’s safari possible. The rifles are fitted with underwater scopes that correct for light refraction at depth.

“Spearing’s fun, sure,” said divemaster Gage Hoase. “But with the spears, you can only get a dozen or so before your air runs out. And the fish duck back in the coral where you can’t get them.

“With these rifles, we can pop hundreds in one dive. It’s not elegant, but it’s effective. And still fun. We can take down a stripey from 40, 50 feet away, no matter how they hide.”

The club hopes the safari concept will allow it to cleanse entire sections of the reef.

“We’re using beaters and baggers to streamline the process,” B.C. Flote said. “Beaters’ll fan out over the reef, whacking their tank bangers to flush the lionfish from the tall sea grass, drive them into killing zones where the hunters can shoot them. The fish, not the beaters.

“Then once a fish is shot, baggers’ll scoot in and grab the carcasses so the hunters can concentrate on shot count and quality. That’s the dicey part. Wounded lionfish can be ferocious. Lots of good hunters’ve been spined that way. They got special gloves this season. And orange wetsuits.”

“We tried using grouper as underwater retrievers instead,” Gage Hoase said. “But the grouper just kept eating the fish.”

Blacktip Island’s PETA chapter has filed a formal protest against the hunt.

“This is piscine genocide, pure and simple,” said PETA head Harry Pickett. “‘Cull’ is just another word for ‘murder.’ The ecosystem has changed. Lionfish are the dominant species on the reef now, with no natural predators. We have to embrace that. Embrace them.”

“Those suckers’ll have plenty of predators come Saturday morning,” the hunt club’s Flote said. “And us hunt club folks are as natural as it gets.”

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