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Scuba divers find themselves surrounded by thousands of barracuda

Scuba diving in Papua New Guinea is a breath taking experience. The water is clear and warm and the corals and sponges are spectacular. The reefs are healthy and teeming with life. Colorful fish are everywhere and larger creatures such as sharks, turtles, rays, and barracuda are easily found. These divers were almost 20m (60 feet) beneath the waves, swimming over the reef when they noticed that they were suddenly in a shadow from just above. A large school of young barracuda had drifted over them. As they looked up in wonder, the school of fish descended slowly and the divers found themselves right in the middle. These are young barracuda, approximately 1m (3 feet) in length or less. They will travel in large schools for safety and for hunting until they are much larger. They can grow to 2m (6 feet) and can weigh over 30kg (66lbs). They are ferocious hunters, with a mouthful of large teeth that makes them very formidable. These juveniles are no threat to people and will never attack humans. They are drifting lazily along and they are mildly curious about the divers. Even as adults, barracuda seldom bite humans. The few instances where they have attacked swimmers or divers have been because the fish mistook body parts such as hands or feet for fish. There are also reports of flashy jewelry being mistaken for fish scales. Even mistaken bites are extremely rare. Barracuda are a delight for scuba divers to see and photograph and a school such as this one is a memorable sight. Experienced scuba divers know that respectful behavior and a cautious approach will usually result in a close look and a photograph or two before they move on. In some cases, the fish actually approach the divers and a brief, but fascinating interaction occurs. Like all predators in the ocean, these barracuda are part of a delicate balance and a healthy ecosystem.

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