Summer vacation: what is the triggerfish, the fish that attacks swimmer’s legs?

Are you swimming in the sea when you suddenly feel a sharp pain in your foot or leg? It’s probably a triggerfish bite, a fish that has disappeared from the French coasts but seems to be making a comeback with global warming. Light on this still unknown species (but not for long).

What is the ballista?

It is armed with a powerful jaw that can crush shells, shells and sea urchins. In total he has 22 teeth, 14 up and 8 down. No, it is not a shark but a much lesser known species: the goat triggerfish or common triggerfish. This fish, which has been disappearing from our seas and oceans for more than a century, seems to be slowly returning to our shores. Cause ? the heating water. Due to intensive fishing, this species is now classified as a “vulnerable species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

And if the triggerfish has been talked about so much for days, it’s because it sows terror on French beaches. Indeed, there are known cases of swimmers possibly being bitten by this species, especially in the Basque Country or on the Côte d’Azur. But don’t worry, this biting is harmless for people.

Photo: Shutterstock

How to react to a ballista?

Most swimmers who have been bitten by a triggerfish have been a little too curious. In reality, “If we disturb him, he attacks, and when he is hunting, he tastes everything, even people”explains Pascal Romans, head of the aquarium department of the oceanological observatory of Banyuls-sur-Mer, quoted by France 3.

Therefore, if you come across this fish in the sea or ocean, get away from him. If it’s too late and the ballista has already bitten you, keep calm and quickly disinfect the wound with soapy water and an antiseptic.


And since it’s not just the triggerfish that can disrupt your swimming, here are 8 remedies to treat stings from live bait, jellyfish and sea urchins.

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