Divers ‘surrounded by barracuda’ off NC, video shows. One came too close for comfort

The barracuda comes up for a closer look.
The barracuda comes up for a closer look.

Barracudas are second only to sharks when it comes to having a bad reputation in coastal waters, and so it’s understandable that a group of scuba divers were tense when “surrounded by barracuda” off North Carolina.

A video, posted Thursday on Facebook by Scuba Diver Life, captured the moment one of the fish took a personal interest in a particular diver.

The 26-second video shows the fish swim close enough to reveal it has one large white tooth jutting from its lower gum. It stares fearlessly for a time at the diver, then swims slowly away.

“Curious barracuda...or was he hungry....?” asks a post with the video.

Diver Shelley Collett of Stanardsville, Virginia, took the video, and says the scene played out in mid August while the group was diving on the Aeolus shipwreck with Discovery Divers. Collett says the divers were surrounded by barracuda “during all of our safety stops off the coast of North Carolina.”

“I can only assume he (the barracuda) thought it might be food when I extended the pole out towards him,” she wrote in her post on Scuba Diver Life’s Facebook page.

The video had been viewed more than 12,000 times Friday, with some commenters noting the “snaggletooth” fish may have confused the camera’s mirror-like lens for shiny fish scales.

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Carolina Sportsman magazine has referred to the state’s barracuda as “a torpedo-shaped predator who shows up when he’s least expected and least desired.” That’s because they are “notorious” for snatching fish that are being reeled in, said the magazine.

Attacks on humans are uncommon, despite the fact barracuda are fully equipped with “two rows of razor-sharp teeth” and they have a “disconcerting habit of curiously following divers and swimmers,” says The Natural Conservancy.

“While serious, attacks are seldom lethal, but can result in lacerations and the loss of some tissue,” says the conservancy.

At least one person has been killed off the North Carolina coast by a barracuda, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, but the case dates back to 1957.

North Carolina officials say the biggest barracuda recorded in the state was 67 pounds, 7 ounces, and it was caught off Cape Lookout. The Florida Museum of History says they have been known to grow to 5 feet in length and 100 pounds.

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Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs