Sucker fish latches on to swimmer
A woman swimmer was chased by a three-foot-long sucker fish for an hour in a bizarre game of tag that left her with a bite on her toe.
Rachel Ann Garbett said the remora fish stalked her as she swam from a boat in the waters off Admiralty Park House in Pembroke and she was forced to take refuge on another boat.
Ms Garbett, 35, told The Royal Gazette: “It had taken me ages to get the courage to go back in the water to swim back to my boat. My friends said the coast was clear and it was for about ten seconds.
“But then it started to follow me again and five minutes later it bit me.
“I shook it off turned around and he was there in my face and I freaked out.
“It was just following me and I couldn’t get rid of it.”
The beauty therapist from Warwick added: “My toe is fine now but it was red for a while. It didn’t bleed but there were a couple of white dots, I’m guessing, from his tiny teeth. It just felt like a pin prick but hurt more afterwards. I just laid up inside the cabin of the boat.
“It was my first time being followed by a fish; normally I go feeding them and they swim off when you move, but this one didn’t — that’s why I was so scared.”
Remoras, also known as sucker fish, attach themselves to larger fish, including sharks and rays, using a large sucker on the top of the body.
They feed off the remains of their hosts’ meals and also eat parasites that attach themselves to the larger fish.
They do not harm the creatures they attach themselves to, but do have small teeth.
Ms Garbett was chased by the fish last Wednesday.
Friends were on a nearby boat and filmed the event, including Ms Garbett screaming out as the fish repeatedly approached her.
McKenzie Taggett said she and others tried to feed the remora to distract it but as soon Ms Garbett got in the water it headed straight for her.
Ms Taggett added: “It was very interested in anyone who got in the water but it went right back to her.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said: “Remora will instinctively pursue their target host such as sharks, turtles and sometimes humans.
“When attached to sharks or turtles, they are an annoyance but tolerable as those animals have tough skin or a shell.”
But she added: “If the fish attaches to human skin then they can leave an abrasion which can sometimes be painful and can also be mistaken for a bite.
“Due to the proximity of the mouth to the suction pad the fish can occasionally bite its host also.”
The spokeswoman said: “There is no alternative to ridding oneself of the animals other than leaving the water and depriving them of a host to attach to.
“The remora will then likely leave the area quickly as they are quite vulnerable when not attached to something.”