It may be a while before Kai Plumley will feel comfortable about returning to the ocean, which is understandable considering that the 4-year-old was attacked by a toothy critter while swimming with his parents Saturday at Maui’s Olowalu Beach.
But what has people scratching their heads is the type of creature that bit Kai, and then went after his mother. It was not a shark, thankfully, but a 16-inch puffer fish, which chomped on the boy’s leg in what one scientist described as a “one of a kind” event.
To be sure, sharks are of far more concern to swimmers and surfers at Olowalu Beach. But not for the Plumleys.
“All of a sudden, my son Kai just starts screaming at the top of his lungs,” Josh Plumley, Kai’s father, told Hawaii News Now. “I swam right up to him and tried to take a couple of whacks at the head of the fish and he didn’t release. So I put my hands around his mouth and face and I ripped him off my son’s leg.”
Josh released the puffer and it swam toward Kai’s mom, who was paddling a surfboard. Astonishingly, the fish began to repeatedly bite the surfboard.
Ichthyologist John Randall identified the unlikely assailant as a stripebelly puffer, which is the largest puffer species in Hawaiian waters. “It’s never known to be aggressive, so we have an attack that is one of a kind, but well worth recording,” he said.
It remains unclear what inspired the attack by a typically docile critter. It could be that the puffer was sick or trying to defend its territory.
However, according to literature posted by the Maui Ocean Center, puffer fish can become more aggressive when people are feeding them, which is not recommended because it’s unhealthy for the fish. Perhaps there was feeding going on nearby and this particular puffer just got carried away.
Hopefully, for Kai, who is nursing a small bite wound, there will be no puffer fish nightmares.
–Image showing Kai Plumley revealing a bite wound to his leg is via Hawaii News Now