Barracuda: Brutal Biting Bad Boy? or Beautiful Beast?

Barracudas in blue water

A school of barracuda from our dive in Borneo – Sipidan Island

We were recently in the Turks and Caicos Islands snorkeling in the gorgeous turquoise waters of Grace Bay when we met up with a lone barracuda who had made its home in the reefs close to shore. We swam around with it as it darted through the reefs looking for a tasty snack.

One afternoon, we heard some fellow tourists yelling to each other to “GET OUT OF THE WATER!!” We were excited by the seeming chaos and asked what was going on. Alarmed, one lady exclaimed, “there is a BARRACUDA swimming out there!”

Poor Barracuda. Such a bad rap!!!

Here we attempt to debunk a few myths surrounding this misunderstood fish.

Myth #1 – Barracuda prey on humans

Not true. These long, slender silvery fish are often passive when it comes to human encounters. They may be predatory fish, but that is only when it comes to the prey on which they feed, which usually consists of smaller fish. They have a lower jaw that juts out giving them a menacing look and a large set of very sharp, fang-like teeth that are disproportionately larger than their jaws, which likely has given them a bad rap! But there are a negligible number of confirmed reports of a barracuda killing a human being. Most other reported attacks are from divers who are spearfishing and deny the barracuda from taking their spearfish catch, and those have only been reports of lacerations due to what would be considered forceful provocation!!

Myth #2 – Wearing silvery jewelry attracts barracuda attacks

Not true. Because these fish prey on smaller, silvery fish, fearful humans often suggest to avoid wearing silver jewelry or other flashy material as a barracuda may mistake it for the type of prey they consider dinner. In fact, there have been studies done by divers where they will dangle shiny objects in front of barracuda to see if they will attack and the fish will seldom approach the object in the presence of a diver.

Myth #3 – Barracuda are poisonous to eat

Not true. In fact, I’ve eaten barracuda before and it was a pleasant, sweet fish (but had a lot of bone and very little meat due to its lean physique!). However, with the consumption of any tropical reef fish, there is the possibility of ciguatera poisoning. This is caused by the consumption of certain plankton which produce this poison. The poison doesn’t affect the fish that eat the plankton but will be harmful to humans that consume the fish.