Huge fish bait ball tries to use surfacing scuba divers as protection
Bait balls are enormous schools of small fish, sometimes numbering in the millions. The fish cluster in huge schools as a means of protection from predators. Their shimmering scales and rapid movements make it very difficult for predators to follow and catch them. This also allows them to have many eyes to detect a threat. Each fish in the congregation is highly sensitive to panicky movements of the other fish around them and one or two of them reacting suddenly will cause an instant chain reaction. This creates a mesmerizing effect as they dart and move like one giant organism.
These scuba divers in the Galapagos Islands are surfacing from a deep dive among the hammerhead sharks and other ocean creatures. As they reached their safety stop, they were surrounded by a bait ball that drifted toward them.
These huge groups of fish are an impressive sight and fascinating to observe. They didn't understand what made the fish want to gather around humans until they realized that a a few red footed boobies were diving from above, trying to catch the fish in the bait ball.
These birds make their home on Darwin Island, which is right beside the dive site. They watch from above and bombard the schools of fish that venture close to the surface. Sometimes they do this in unison, in great numbers, increasing their chances as the fish become confused and panicky.
Red footed and blue footed boobies live in great abundance in the Galapagos Islands. They feed almost exclusively on the fish that come here for food that is brought by the ocean currents. The fish know that they are in danger of being eaten by the birds, but they may bee reluctant to swim deeper due to the schooling hammerheads. They wisely make the choice to swim near the harmless divers in the hope that the birds will be deterred. Although this works to an extent, some of the braver boobies dive bombed the fish, narrowly missing the diver with the camera.
Seeing the relationship in action between predator and prey in the ocean is an awe-inspiring experience and a reminder that in the food chain, somebody is always looking for food and somebody else is always looking for escape. For many species, this happens simultaneously.