You are out enjoying a lovely dive in the Caribbean when all of a sudden you see giant fish swimming your way. You know those razor-sharp teeth and gnarly-looking faces. These fish have the ability to open wide and take a big chunk out of you. Hang in there. Help is on its way.
Barracudas have one of the most feared jaws in the ocean. They’re armed with three sets of teeth designed to pierce and tear meat, and their unbelievably strong bite allows them to cut prey in half with a single chomp. These marine predators can be over 1.5 m (5 ft) long. They’re terrific swimmers, and their spear-like shape helps them reach speeds of 58 km/h (36 mph). How could they attack even if you’re not in the water? Why should you ditch your earrings? And what type of clothing could protect you?
Step 1. Leave Jewelry at Home
Barracudas are opportunistic hunters and rely on their excellent vision to do so. When they spot something they like, it’s game on. They’re all about catching their prey by surprise attack.
Their favorite thing on the menu is shiny fish, so they’re particularly attracted to gleaming objects that can be mistaken for dinner. This includes metallic jewelry such as earrings and necklaces. Even diving knives can catch their attention. Next time you feel like taking a dip, make sure you leave the bling behind.
Step 2. Give Them Want They Want
Another thing about these merciless predators is they’re incredibly competitive when it comes to food. They’ll do their best to steal fish that you’ve already caught. They can take it from a spear while you’re diving, or worse. If you’re fishing, they’ll try to swipe your catch right off the line. Since you’ll be battling a 45 kg (100 lb) beast, it won’t be an easy fight. It could result in you getting hurt or swarmed if you get pulled in. It might be best to let them have your fish before they set their jaws on you.
Step 3. Be Ready to Move
Karri Larson and her boyfriend were kayaking in the Florida Keys when they spotted a massive barracuda swimming swiftly toward them. The giant fish jumped out of the water, hitting Larson with enough force to break her ribs and puncture one of her lungs. She spent several days recovering in an area hospital and was lucky to survive the encounter. Being in a small boat or a kayak won’t keep you safe. The moment you see a barracuda, as far away as it might be, it’s your cue to go.
Step 4. Wear Protection
An adult barracuda can have up to 200 teeth. So getting a bite will likely mean dozens of stitches for you, and that’s the best-case scenario. Those fangs can cause serious injuries, such as nerve and muscle damage. Make sure you wear an armored wetsuit that can provide the added protection you are definitely going to need.
Step 5. Don’t Become Food
This might sound obvious, but don’t swim right into a barracuda feeding frenzy. When hunting in groups, they trap a school of fish by swimming in circles and eating every last piece of them. Trust me. You don’t want to be anywhere near that. In January 2022, a woman swimming on a beach in the Cayman Islands was bitten on her right arm by a barracuda. Officials from the Cayman Islands Department of Environment said the fish was likely feeding in a group, as there were several schools of fish in the area. Hopefully, you’ll be more mindful of where you decide to take a dip or you might end up swarmed by other meat eaters, like this one.
- What attacked woman off Cayman Islands beach? It may have been a barracuda, experts say. Price, M. (2022). Miami Herald.
- Sphyraena barracuda (2023). Florida Museum.
- Barracuda Teeth (Toothy Facts and Pictures). Max (2022). Strike and Catch
- Woman Impaled by Barracuda Tells Dramatic Story. CBS (2011). CBS News.
- Barracuda attack terrorizes family. Anderson, C. (2010). Herald-Tribune.