St. Croix Comes Alive With a Weekend of Outreach

Our Ciguatera Science Café event at Club Comanche On The Boardwalk Friday, October 14th launched a weekend of outreach, education, and citizen science for the St. Croix community. Festivities continued on Sunday at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Croix Campus with World Food Day and a lionfish tasting dubbed “Taming The Lion of the Sea”.

Ciguatera Facts

VI-EPSCoR’s Outreach, Education, and Citizen Science Team presented the first in this season’s series of free Science Café events.  That evening on the Christiansted Boardwalk curious minds gathered to take in Dr. Tyler Smith’s presentation of “Ciguatera Facts”.  Ciguatera is a type of fish poisoning identified by a range of gastrointestinal issues and potential long lasting neurological problems as well.


Beginning with historical and geographical elements of ciguatera, Dr. Smith then steered an engaged audience into a discussion on current research conducted by the University Of The Virgin Islands on the local fish species most at risk of containing ciguatera toxins. Dr. Smith focused on where in the Territory ciguatera is most prevalent, which local fish species may get the toxin, and how VI consumers of fish may be affected and contract ciguatera poisoning.

The presentation ended with a lively video trivia game that allowed participants to guess whether the seven fish displayed in the video were considered “hot” meaning having lots of cigua-toxins or “cold” having less or no cigua-toxins. Two winning participants took home coveted lionfish cookbooks.

For those unable to attend the event you can learn more about ciguatera on Dr. Smith’s website.

UVI World Food Day

Expanding on Friday’s Science Café, VI-EPSCoR continued with an outreach event at UVI World Food Day. In collaboration with Dr. Bernard Castillo, UVI Associate Professor of Chemistry, and UVI Cooperative Extension Services 4-H, VI-EPSCoR coordinated a live cooking demonstration of fresh lionfish while Dr. Castillo conducted a presentation on the invasive lionfish and the risks they pose to our reef systems.

Two local chefs, Chef Mark Davis of Ocean View Café (Old Golden Rail Restaurant), and Chef Byron Harrigan, showcased how World Food Day onlookers can help combat this invasive species through consuming a fish that may be new to their diet and taste.

UVI World Food Day gives Chef Mark the opportunity to plate blackened lion fish for the crowds.

Chef Mark prepared a dry seasoning which he used to “blacken the lion” and seared it in a hot skillet. He paired the blackened lionfish with Italian style pasta, and the crowd loved it! Onlookers peppered the Chefs with questions and praise as Chef Mark stylishly explained in detail how the blackened lionfish was prepared.

“My best description”, said Migdalia, VI-EPSCoR Community Engagement Specialist, “is that it is light and flakey. It’s not a fishy tasting fish”.

Chef Byron serves lion fish and dumplings to some hungry customers at UVI World Food Day.

Chef Byron prepared a second lionfish dish which played on a local cultural favorite, Salt Fish & Dumpling. He prepared a mixture of sugar, salt, and lime juice in which he marinated lionfish fillets. He then lightly hand-torched the “cured” lionfish to give it a crispy exterior. The fish was paired with home-made sweet dumplings and covered in spicy creole sauce.

Folks were coming back for “thirds” and “fourths” and telling family and friends to come in the Great Hall to taste the lionfish specialty. World Food Day proved to be a wildly successful event and tasty way to round out the weekend.

The invasive lionfish is native to the Pacific Ocean and is wrecking havoc on our reef’s marine live. While the spines are poisonous, the flesh is not! To learn more about this voracious species and how you can help, visit The Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education Foundation.


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