“You lying so low in the weeds, I bet you gonna ambush me.” — as sung by Heart in the 70s hit “Barracuda.” And this is exactly how barracuda’s hunt for their prey, using stealth and speed.
Barracudas are long, lean hunting machines with sleek bodies that allow them to slice through the water at high speeds (40mph), puncturing schools of unaware fish.
Turneffe Atoll — the largest and most biologically diverse atoll in the Western Hemisphere — is packed tight with the largest mangrove system in Belize, ideal for barracuda. The thick underwater fauna acts as a feeding ground for other wildlife, unawares of the barracuda’s presence.
Of the 27 varieties of barracudas there is one that stands out above the rest — the Great Barracuda, which can grow up to almost 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and weigh as much as 83 pounds (37 kg).
Add to this a jaw full of teeth that cut like razor blades and you have a fish that is highly evolved to rule the underwater depths. The fish has been around and honing its skills for some 50 million years.
Strangely, humans have been known to fall ill after eating barracuda, people often become ill from ciguatera fish poisoning, perhaps because the reef fish that barracudas eat themselves consume algae that may contain high levels of the toxin.
Barracudas feed on an array of fish such as groupers, small tunas and grunts. They tend to be solitary but have been fond hunting in small groups and are common in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, not to mention large parts of the Atlantic Ocean.
The waters of Belize and particularly Turneffe Atoll are therefore a vital habitat for the barracuda and subsequently one of the best places to see the torpedo-like fish. Check out the website: http://blackbirdresort.com