These incredible pictures show the formidable hunting skills of sailfish as they pick off sardines off the coast of Mexico.
The sailfish arrive at the Isla Mujeres every year to feast on the migrating sardines as part of an incredible natural spectacle known as the ‘Sailfish Run’, and were captured by underwater photographer Dr Peter Allinson.
The sailfish work as a group, using their sails to herd the schools of sardines, and then charge at high speed through the ball of fish, known as the bait ball, slashing with their swords to kill or stun prey before returning to consume their catch.
The Atlantic sailfish, also found in the Caribbean, weighs up to 58 kilos. It has been clocked at 110 kilometres per hour (68mph) making it the quickest fish in the ocean.
Dr Allinson, 64, said: ‘A couple of years ago, someone got the idea that game fishing off the coast of Mexico could yield some photos of the fish underwater.
‘You wind up about 20-40 miles offshore, looking for signs of a bait ball of sardines. The most obvious sign are birds repeatedly diving in to feed.
‘You then hop in, swim as fast as you can to keep up with the sardine bait ball and sailfish hunting them.
‘It’s all very quick. They are an amazingly fast fish. Blink your eye and it is over.
‘But it’s really cool to watch the sailfish cooperate as they snack on the sardines.’
Dr Allinson, from Florida, who specialises in underwater and hyperbaric Medicine, added: ‘It can get a bit scary at times as the sailfish charge at and through the bait balls and frequently nearly impale you.’
One of these shots has been awarded The David Doubilet Award for Excellence in Underwater Photography for best in show at the 2013 Beneath the Sea photo contest.
Attribution: Sam Webb, Mail Online