‘It is rare:’ Barracuda caught by fishermen in Alberni Inlet


It was on the fishing vessel The Nita Maria that two experienced Vancouver fishermen made a highly unusual catch in the Alberni Inlet last week after a Pacific barracuda was chased into their net by seals.

Weighing in at 12 pounds and measuring 90 centimetres, the predatory fish is typically seen in much warmer waters around Mexico and central California.

“It is rare. It’s often an indicator of a warm current,” said Jackie Hildering, a marine educator with the Marine Education and Research Society.

It’s not the first warm-water species to follow a current into B.C. waters. “Berni” the Olive Ridley sea turtle was found in the same inlet last fall, only the fourth of its species to ever turn up here.

READ MORE: Endangered sea turtle with hypothermia rescued in Port Alberni

A tropical ocean sunfish has been spotted at the top of the Alaska panhandle as has a thresher shark, also a warm water species.

Hildering says while visits from fish like barracuda are unusual, we can’t attribute it to warming oceans and climate change just yet. If they start showing up regularly, then it’s a sign of a much larger problem.

“That’s frightening, not because of what they might do to us in the water but because that would be a very significant indicator of climate change,” she said.

She says a much greater indicator of the warming happening in our oceans is the die-off of sea stars and ocean acidification’s impacts on shellfish.

Hildering says the barracuda caught last week likely isn’t alone since they’re a schooling species but she insists there’s no need for swimmers and divers to be afraid, despite its razor-like teeth.

“They certainly have the equipment to do some harm, but it’s incredibly rare, the danger here is what we humans are doing to impact the barracuda’s temperature and the world and everything else in the ocean,” she said.

After consulting with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the barracuda has been returned to the ocean.


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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