Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, click on the French flag below to access the original text:
Everyone is afraid of sharks. It's silly. It is rare for the shark to eat humans (while the reverse is not). In fact, there is much more dangerous for divers: the mustache or olive ballista, also called titan ballista.
A fast and sometimes aggressive fish
Anyone who's ever felt its teeth will remember it forever...
The triggerfish is a fairly large fish (50 to 75 cm long), very fast. It is called trigger-fish in English, because of its caudal fin which is pointed like a trigger when it goes into action.
It is one of the rare fish whose attacks can be feared by divers... with, of course, the ferocious clown-fish!!!
Take a look below at the beast's teeth... And the little cleaning shrimp, fearlessly sitting on the tip of its "nose"!
Below, shot at Bali in July 2008, a short video of the beast, smashing the reef with its teeth:
Avoid approaching the "nest"
In fact, it is aggressive after the mating and egg-laying season, when it guards the nest. If approached too closely, the titan triggerfish (usually a female) will attack to chase you out of its territory and will not hesitate to bite with its ugly big rabbit teeth to convince you to run away. And he swims fast, the bugger...
It is therefore better to go around the area, as the triggerfish defines its territory from the bottom to the surface.
The area that the triggerfish considers its territory is in the shape of an inverted cone or funnel (the tip starting at the nest). The frequent mistake of divers is to take distance from the top, whereas it is enough to move away from the top and stay at the same depth, preferably facing the beast: you swim vigorously backwards, calmly presenting the fins to the fish. Thus, if it gets the urge to bite something, it will be the plastic of the fins, rather than the fat of the calf or a finger.
Most of the other triggerfish species that can be found in tropical waters, such as the friendly clown triggerfish, with its white spotted livery, are not aggressive like the titan triggerfish.
It has already happened to me several times during my dives in South-East Asia, to be charged by an angry triggerfish... It is not always easy to spot a nest, which appears as a small crater in the coral debris of the substratum. The first attack is surprising and a bit scary. But the following times, you know what to expect from the behaviour of this fish, and you rush to flee as quickly as possible!
In Koh Tao, in Thailand, the titan triggerfish have become particularly aggressive, because of the high concentration of divers, which disturbs them every day. A few years ago, a ballista was even nicknamed "Tyson" by local diving instructors. The fish had, it seems, bite the ear of a customer ... (like boxer Mike Tyson during a fight in 1997, which has since become famous because of this "incident").