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January 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 26, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Barracuda Attacks

why divers can’t take them for granted

from the January, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Barracuda attacks on humans, including completely unprovoked ones, are more common than recognized. I learned that after an unprovoked barracuda attack amputated my left little finger and the side of my hand in Cozumel in 2004.

I was on a dive boat with my 13-year-old daughter, Marina, and we jumped into the water to snorkel and see the reef. We soon saw a large barracuda, 5-6 feet long, lying on the bottom. We stayed above it for 10 minutes, watching it. It never moved, but was certainly aware of us. After a while we headed on to see more of the reef.

My daughter had drifted about five feet away, and I started to swim toward her. At that point there was a stunning blow to my hand, but I never saw what hit me. I lifted my hand from the water and blood was pouring from it. My daughter said the barracuda had attacked. We began yelling, but the boat was a quarter of a mile away. Everybody was having lunch, and it took a long time before they noticed. I never saw my finger again, and imagine the barracuda ate it or spat it out when it turned out not to be fishy enough.

Marina said that the barracuda charged me with its mouth open and that we both disappeared in a cloud of bubbles. She saw the barracuda charge me two more times in rapid succession, but I am certain that it only bit me once. Barracudas often have a stereotypical triple strike behavior. People seeing barracudas attack fish often see the barracuda first bite right through the middle of large fish, then lunge twice more to gobble down the head and tail. So perhaps the three strikes Marina saw were pure instinct. ...

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