The Fish Story

Tilapia Skin to the Second-Degree Rescue; I Scream, You Scream, for Fishy Ice Cream

By JAY MANN | Mar 08, 2017
Supplied Rowan University student and Island regular Barry Timony hoists a 30-pound white ‘cattie,’ taken from a Potomac River bulkhead, with the Washington Monument in view. The fish was released in a politically correct manner.

So, you’re in Brazil and before you realize the Portuguese word for “hot!” is ardente! you’re on the way to a Rio hospital with second-degree burns. Then, before you can scream “Send me back to America!” a team of doctors rushes in with moist pieces of fish skin … and slap them on your wounds. Making seemingly primitive matters worse, the skin isn’t even from some cool Brazilian fish, like a peacock bass or a red-bellied piranha. They’ve slapped you with the coverings of farm-bred tilapia. How aboriginal!

But fear not, you haven’t flown over 2,000 miles for a dream vacation in Ipanema only to die of some exotic form of fish-skin bacterial poisoning. It turns out the skin of this lowly, aquafarmed species has become a boon to burn science, performing miraculously as an aid to skin-deep recovery.

It’s long been known that the skin from less-than-thrilled animals, particularly pigs, has been routinely used as exceptional skin-grafting material here in the U.S. That would work in Brazil, too. However, being a borderline Third World nation, it is apparently lagging far behind much of the world when it comes to finding cooperative pigs. What Brazil has is ready access to tilapia – by the aquafarm load.

While not going into great detail on how they first made the discovery, Brazilian doctors are demonstrating that the skin of commonplace tilapia has – once thoroughly sterilized – impressive amounts of complex proteins that help burnt human skin heal like all get-out. It is used in a gauze-like fashion, though kept on for long stints – far beyond the “fresh” limits of the fish itself.

Plastic surgeon and burn specialist Dr. Edmar Maciel of the Dr. José Frota Institute Burns Unit in Fortaleza is leading the clinical trials on tilapia skin. “We got a great surprise when we saw that the amount of collagen proteins, types 1 and 3, which are very important for scarring, exist in large quantities in tilapia skin, even more than in human skin and other skins,” he said, adding, “Another factor we discovered is that the amount of tension, of resistance in tilapia skin is much greater than in human skin. Also, the amount of moisture.”

Face it, the ordinary tilapia might be a dermatologist’s dream fish, providing said dermatologist isn’t a stickler on scaly skin. Just kidding. As might be guessed, all signs of the fish’s scales are long gone by the time tilapia skin meets that of a human recipient. However, the fish-skin look remains … very much so.

I’ve seen photos of patients undergoing tilapia skin treatment. Now, I’m kinda trying to unsee it. While I know it’s all for the betterment of burns, the treated areas look identical to horror movies, when someone is transitioning into some sort of scream-worthy swamp creature. In fact, if I’m any judge of B-grade movie potential, soon the heroic exploits of Tilapia Man could nicely meet the need for a planet-saving hero fish.

Should you want to take in the WTF look of tilapia skin in all its burn-healing glory – and I would think twice if you’re not into sci-fi-ish stuff – simply Google “tilapia skin burn.”

If you think like me – and who doesn’t? – I openly wonder about the healative potential in the skins of other fish, maybe even our fishes. How ironic would it be to get a thumb gashed apart by a bluefish and, in a remarkable form of irony, skin that same fish and use it to wrap and heal the bite? And what a cool look, as you walk around Walmart with a bluefish skin-wrapped thumb. Am I right, or what?

ICE CREAM GONE BONKERS: The other day I decided to take my taste buds to a new place. I bought a pint of Chamomile Tea•rrific! Ice Cream. What a trip. Dang stuff tasted like an everyday cup of heavily creamed, sugar-saturated, double-chamomile tea – frozen solid, for whatever reason. I downed an entire pint and went groggy from the proven relaxation powers of chamomile. I kid you not.

You can get some Chamomile Tea•rrific! Ice Cream over at ShopRite. Just don’t eat it and then try to operate heavy machinery.

That oddball dessert had me wondering what might be next in the ice cream experimentation realm. In less than an hour of research, I got my first taste of ice cream experimentation gone highly off-kilter. It came via the recent 24th annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition, Juneau event.

At the awards ceremony, the Symphony of Seafood champion was … La-La Land. No, wait. My bad. The actual winner was Candied Salmon Ice Cream by Coppa. Coppa is a Juneau retailer that devised an ice cream “dotted with bits of candied smoked salmon.”

Not only did this fishy frozen confectionary win its allocated “Food Service” category, but it also aced the prestigious People’s Choice Award, i.e. best in show.

After it won, the salmon ice cream sped upstream, spawned and died. Not really. The cold stuff is now on fire, popularity-wise.

But this is far from a first appearance of salmon as an ice cream flavor. Enter Smoked Salmon Ice Cream made by Max & Mina’s Homemade Ice Cream and Ices in Flushing, Queens. Max and Mina even assumed a lox angle by including cream cheese flavoring. We’re still talking ice cream here, mind ya.

Max & Mina’s creation made a strong showing in a top-10 list at The Stylist,, which sought to find “10 of the kookiest ice cream creations.”

The Stylist list includes an Asian Octopus Ice Cream, known as Taco Aisu. It has actual bits of octopi … and can be topped with squid ink. “Whipped cream on that, sir?”

Another top finisher was Baby Gaga (ice cream). It’s made from human breast milk, vanilla and lemon zest; invented by Matt O’Connor … who apparently had his reasons. His shop is coolly named The Icecreamists.

I’ll skip the details on the very-real Japanese Horsemeat Ice Cream.

Number one on the The Stylist’s ice-cream-gone-bananas list was Crocodile Egg Ice Cream, developed by Bianca Dizon, owner of Sweet Spot Artisan Ice Cream, located in Davo City, Philippines. It is as it sounds – this ice cream is made from hopefully well-compensated crocodiles at a nearby croc park. Hey, it’s that … or go luggage-bound. Uh, bring on the ladies.

Bianca claims her crocodile ice cream is “more nutritious than its classic counterparts since it contains less cholesterol.” I’m just guessing, but there must be other ways to reduce the cholesterol in ice cream.

By the by, Bianca’s croc egg concoction has exploded. No sooner had she begun dishing it out than the demand ran wild. She’s now asking the croc park if there’s any way, maybe chemically, they might egg on the reptilian reproductive process. Are we talking crocodile Viagra here?

So, what does Crocodile Egg Ice Cream taste like? You guessed it: just like Chicken Ice Cream, as introduced last year at Karaage Festival in Fukuoka, Japan.

LITTLE EGG INLET ON ITS OWN: I’m getting messages galore about the announced removal of navigational aids in Little Egg Inlet.

Here’s a repeat of the official language: “The Coast Guard is scheduled to temporarily discontinue six navigational aids in Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey, due to shoaling and other navigational safety concerns, Monday.

“Heavy shoaling in the vicinity of Little Egg Inlet has progressed, making the waterway inaccessible to vessels with a draft greater than three feet. At this point, the aids to navigation no longer accurately mark the waterway and are misleading to mariners, which can potentially be more dangerous than having no aids to navigation.”

Now the bigger question: What does this mean in the big-picture scheme of things? I’m going to be making some follow-up calls, but it’s not likely the USCG is going to be cluing me in on much more than they’ve already written. That said, there’s absolutely no shock in this stating of the obvious regarding the inlet’s loose-cannon channel conditions. LEI markers have long been about as safe and reliable as service station sushi.

However, going official with bad-mouthing the LEI channels might add some spunk to two related issues.

First, it confirms the meandering nature of a “pristine” inlet, of which LEI might be the last on the entire East Coast. This waterway’s freedom from jetties allows shoaling to run its course – which, in turn, has no given course.

By the by, the odds of getting jetties built along the bank of this inlet are rock-bottom. Hell, researchers have too dang much fun seeing what nature does when left to its own watery devices. Plus, furious nature folks would hold hands, tred water and block any jetty-building efforts … quite the sight, to be sure.

The second issue possibly arising from the essential closing of LEI is how it might renew efforts to use the sand from inlet-related shoals for beach replenishment, including the rebuilding of the state-owned beaches adjacent to the Forsythe Refuge. Currently, the closing LEI channels are clearly related to the southwardly migrating sand from the badly eroding far south end.

As a final note, I can’t imagine the U.S. Aids to Navigation System not replacing buoys and channel markers for this summer – even if the markers only suggest channels, with the USCG taking no legal responsibility for their efficacy.

If nothing else, such LEI summer markers will offer essential perspectives for mariners – who will find the safest, albeit snaked-out, routes to sea … and maybe even back in again. For example: “Swing 50 feet south of these two channel markers, then run true past the next two markers before totally ignoring the next one, which you’ll see lying on its side on a shoal.” Hey, like I said, the markers will offer a perspective more than a channel.

As you might know, the water adjacent to the southeast tip of Holgate (Rip) is the North Cut of LEI, formerly the Beach Haven Inlet. It has been officially “closed” for many decades, meaning it is navigated at one’s own risk. Also, it has no navigational markers so it is unaffected by this USCG aids to navigation removal. However (and this is just my wondering), might a loss of markers in the main channel(s) of LEI lead to more vessels opting to cut the corner using the North Cut? That can’t be a good thing in the long run ... except maybe for BOATUS.

More on this matter as waters clear around this USCG announcement. The issue will surely make it to Trenton and D.C. I already had an off-the-record call from a state rep.

BACK WE GO: Daylight Saving Time, DST to its friends, begins this weekend. I’m not sure there’s anything portentous about the fact that this year DST begins on the night of a full March moon. That only happens, what, every couple million years or so?

I know that’s ridiculous, but I always like egging on doomists. Those freaky folks can ferret out some sort of bizarre doominess in most anything. If you add some rarity to most anything, i.e. full moon aligning with DST, they go bananas. They’re so cute when bemoaning what’s about to befall the planet.

Speaking of them, anyone recall that 1,000-year midnight change-over when we entered a new millennium? Neither do I – because squatola happened! That non-catastrophe knocked the mick out of many a doomologist. They had bet their lives that end times were moving in. Another end was also allegedly portended by long-dead Mayans, who quit calendarizing just past the year 2,000 ... as a sign of? It turns out it was a sign they saw the year 2,012 as so frickin’ far into the future they weren’t going to waste time scheduling any farther on their calendars. “Hell, we’ll all be dead and gone by then,” they laughed. Hmmm.



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