The ‘Danger zone’
There is one simple rule every diver should know and respect - limit the interactions with the marine life ideally to zero contact. Underwater animals and plants have been there for millions of years, while humans have found home on land. As cute as many of them might look, there are several good reasons why we should not touch or harass marine life. Direct interaction might be allowed (or even necessary) only in case of an official scientific research such as tagging certain fish or during rescue activities.
How to scuba dive safely around triggerfish
Read our previous blog post Do not harras the marine life - you may hurt them.
Some fish are known to attack humans, but they do that based on the defensive survival instincts. When they feel threatened, they become aggressive. Among many different fish species in the ocean, Titan Triggerfish is one of the most fearsome. Here are some things you should do if you ever find yourself under the triggerfish attack.
Meet the Titan Triggerfish
Titan Triggerfish is a large species of triggerfish with size up to 75cm. They are quite common in many Indo-Pacific areas and can live in depths as much as 50m. This fish is very territorial and especially during the reproduction season will protect its nest fiercely. You can tell you are risking an attack when the fish faces you with its dorsal spine erect. The bite of a Titan Triggerfish is not venomous, however its teeth are strong enough to send you for a stitch or two.
How to avoid being attacked by triggerfish?
Trying to escape is the most logical solution. Triggerfish is mostly aggressive during breeding season (April to May), but they are known to attack divers basically at any time of the year. Similar to other animals, they attack when their territory is invaded by intruders including other unfriendly fish and divers. If you unintentionally come too close to their nest, triggerfish will repeatedly chase you to send you away. An important thing to know is that Triggerfish makes its territory in cone-shaped area with the tip of the cone at the bottom. If you bump into a Titan Triggerfish, swim away in horizontal direction and toward the bottom. Many divers try to escape by ascending. That is a mistake and the fish will most probably keep on chasing them.
Some of our diving guests in Padangbai suggest that it is best to pretend you don’t care about the fish. Of course this might not work when you actually are under the attack, but might be worth trying to avoid it in the first place. If you spot a Titan Triggerfish on alert, just pretend you don’t care and turn your back on them.
Use Your Equipment as Defense
Even under attack, divers should not defend by being offensive or aggressive. When scuba diving, divers enter the territory of marine animals so it is only natural that some fish see divers as a threat. The fish attack in order to defend their territories. It is not fair to attack them back. Instead of fighting back using a pointer or other edged weapon, try to block the attack by using your camera, dive slate or fins. Triggerfish is both powerful and intelligent, they can learn from previous experience.
Recognize the Fish
As a preventive measure, learn to recognize Triggerfish before you go diving. Some prominent characteristics include purple lower jaw, green or yellow fins, and eye socket that rotates independently. Triggerfish are solitary creatures but smaller fish often tag along to feed on the leftovers. This fish is active during the day and usually hiding in the reef at night. If you spot them, keep a safe distance and avoid diving toward their direction to minimize interaction.
Want to learn more about other curious fish? Read our blog post about what you didn’t know about Nemo or how to behave around Mola Mola.