Ernest Hemingway in Havana Harbor
after catching a marlin, 1934 The marlin bill is the elongated bone of the upper jaw. It is believed to have evolved from a streamlining feature that allows the marlin to "initiate smooth water flower over the body." It also believed to be used in stunning and killing prey. Lateral keels at the base of the marlin’s tail and pelvic fins set into grooves make the marlin a powerful and fast swimmer, capable of explosive burst of speed and cruising at relatively high speeds for long period of time. Tagged marlin have been known to traverse 10,000 miles, most notably between Baja California and Australia.
The four species of marlin are: 1) black marlin (Istiompax indica); 2) Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans); 3) Indo-Pacific blue marlin (Makaira mazara); 4) White marlin (Kajikia albida) and 5) striped marlin (Kajikia audax)
Marlin are prized by sport fisherman because of their large size and the way they fight after they are hooked. They often leap high out of the water in efforts to unhook the hook. Describing his fight with a thousand pounder, Zane Grey wrote, "Out he blazed again, faster, higher, longer, whirling the bonito [bait] around his head."
Marlin has traditionally been widely consumed as a food fish in East Asia, where a number of countries have large number of marlin living in their territorial waters. About 40,000 marlins are taken from the Central and Western Pacific every year. It is not known how many marlin there are or whether their numbers are sustainable at the current rate they are caught. In one years 227 tons of marlin were reported being hooked on long lines. These days many marlin caught by sports fishermen are tagged and released.
Websites and Resources: Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov; Fishbase fishbase.se ; Encyclopedia of Life eol.org ; Smithsonian Oceans Portal ocean.si.edu/ocean-life-ecosystems
Blue marlin Billfish bills are elongated upper jaws. The are use them to harpoon and batter prey and likely wield them against predators such as sharks. Billfish such as swordfish, sailfish and marlin have the ability to regurgitate their stomachs and reswallow them without suffering any ill effects. They do this to rid themselves of spines, beaks, bones and teeth of the prey they consume.
Even though large billfish are often called bulls, they are usually females. Females are considerably larger than males. Some species have long bills relative to their bodies weeks after they are born. Swordfish don’t begin developing their bills until they are a couple of feet long.
There have been some reports of marlin, swordfish and other billfish ramming and attacking small boats, including ones with copper-sheathed hulls — and sinking them. One Dutch explorer wrote in his log in 1618, "there was such a noise...knowing not what meant." Back in port "we found a Horne sticking in the Ship, much like for thickness...a common Elephants tooth" and it “penetrated three planks and turned upward."
Marlin Feeding Behavior
Marlin hunt mackerel, tuna, dolphinfish, other fishes and squid. They usually use their bills to bat and ram prey not pierce it. Black marlin usually go after mackerel and herring but have been known to consume fish as large as 200-pound yellowfin tuna and have even been observed whacking dolphins with their bills.
Describing a feeding marlin, one observer wrote, it secures prey by "rearing back its bill like a club and dealing it a hearty swipe, then watches its stunned prey as it slows its pace, flies into a flurry to face the marlin’s massive jaws where it is swallowed hole." Sometimes marlin stab their prey. Zane Grey found a snapper with a hole in it in the stomach of black marlin. A 156-pound yellow-fin tuna was found with puncture marks by a commercial fisherman near Hawaii.
Marlin often attack schooling fish such as horse mackerel. As the marlin approach the school condenses. The marlin circles and the school condense further. The marlin moves below the fish and using the sunlight above it is able to spot its prey easier. The schooling fish try to outmaneuver the marlin. If the schools is split the fish quickly try to reform into a single group.
Stripped marlin sometimes hunt in groups of three or four that harass schools of fish after they have been driven into a dense concentration using a technique known as meatballing.
Marlin fear few predators other than humans. Juveniles are sometimes preyed upon by sharks, tuna and mackerel. But these fish are considerably slower than the adult marlin. Mako sharks can only reach speeds of around 35 males per hour.
Marlin Reproduction and Human Deaths
A black marlin female reportedly lays between 80 million and 250 million eggs. A single marlin spawning can produce millions of eggs that are about 1 millimeter in diameter. They are thought to hatch within a week. Both eggs and larvae are widely consumed by other fish. Only around 10 in a million survive. The others are snatched up when they are eggs or larvae by creatures such as jellyfish, sponges, fish, bird and other marlin.
Marlin larvae look like nothing like adults. They are bony and translucent when they hatch. The reach a length of about one-eighth of an inch when they are two weeks old. They have spongy spines which may provide some protection against predators.
In August 1998 giant billfish hooked off the Mexican coast near Acapulco jumped into the fisherman's boat and stabbed a man through the abdomen. Dr. David Mendoza Millan of the General Hospital in Acapulco said Jose Rojas Mayarita, 39, was reeling in the 10-foot marlin when the fish leaped from the waves and landed on him. The marlin's spear pierced the fisherman's abdomen and came out the other side. Rojas drifted for two days in his boat, unable to get up, until another vessel rescued him. He was treated on Monday and was under observation in a hospital. [Source: Reuters]
Largest Marlins Ever Caught
Blue marlin are regarded as the largest marlin. Even so the largest marlin ever caught with a rod a reel was a black marlin. According to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), which recognizes game fish records, it weighed 708 kilograms (1,560 pounds) and was 4.4 meters (14.5 feet), with a girth of two meters (6 feet, 9 inches). It was caught by Alfred Gladwell, Jr. on August 4, 1953 in Cabo Blanco, Peru, aboard the “Petrel”, skippered by Stirling Stuart. Glassell used was trolling with cero mackerel as bait and landed fish after a fight of one hour and 45 minutes. He used a Tycoon rod with a size 12/0 Fin-Nor reel and 39-thread Ashaway line. [Source: Marlin Magazine marlinmag.com
The record for the blue marlin was set on February 29, 1992, by Paolo Roberto Amorim when he caught a 636 kilograms (1402. 2 pound) Atlantic blue marlin in Vitoria, Brazil. According to Marlinmag.com: On a day that only comes around once every four years—a leap year—he landed a once in a lifetime fish. The heaviest blue marlin ever recorded by the IGFA was tricked into biting a Mold Craft lure and was landed after a one-hour, twenty-minute fight. Amorim used a Captain Harry’s rod and an 80 STW Penn International reel and was the captain of the 30-foot Duda Mares.
The record for a Pacific blue marlin is 624 kilograms (1,376 pounds). It was caught on May 31, 1982 by Jay de Beaubien off Hawaii. De Beaubien was trolling a Kita lure around Kaaiwi Point, Hawaii, and landed the fish in 40 minutes. He was using an Erskine rod with a 12/0 Fin-Nor reel and was fishing aboard the 43-foot Merritt, No Problem, skippered by Bobby Brown.
The largest swordfish ever caught weighed 536 kilograms (1,182-pounds). It was caught on May 7, 1953 by Louis E. Marron off Iquique, Chile. He was fishing with his wife, Genie, aboard Flying Heart III skippered by Capt. Eddie Wall. The fish was landed in just under two hours after it took a trolled bonito as bait. He used a Black Palm rod and 12/0 Fin-Nor Reel with 39-thread Cortland Super Cutty line.
The largest striped marlin even caught weighed 224 kilograms (494 pounds). It was caught on January 16, 1986 by Bill Boniface near Tutukaka, New Zealand. Boniface was trolling a kahawai and fought the record fish for an hour. He was fishing with a Wilkinson Sports rod and a Penn International reel spooled with 50-pound-test line. Malcom Jackson was the captain of the 38-foot Diadema that brought the record marlin back to shore.
Woman Catches Record 592-Kilogram Blue Marlin After 15 Minute Fight
In December 2019, Kona-Hawaii-based Jada Holt landed a huge blue marlin after only a 15-minute fight at Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island, just south of the Equator roughly equidistant between South America and Africa in the South Atlantic Ocean. The 592 kilogram 1,305-pound blue marlin is largest ever caught by a woman; a probable world record. [Source: Men's Journal, December Dec 5, 2019, mensjournal.com ]
Jada Holt was fishing with a Kona-based crew. Men’s Journal reported: Asked how it were possible to land such a gigantic billfish in so little time, Capt. Bryan Toney told GrindTV, “Because we chased it down with the boat, and she was an excellent angler.” Toney said details of the catch will be submitted to the International Game Fish Association, and that Jada and the crew were abiding by IGFA rules. If the catch is approved by the IGFA, it will shatter the existing women’s record for Atlantic blue marlin – a 1,073-pound fish caught in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1982.
The largest Pacific blue marlin caught by a woman is a 958-pounder caught off Kona, on the island of Hawaii, in 2013. Toney said the only other “grander” blue marlin caught by a woman, “that I am aware of,” was a fish weighing 1,104 pounds. But that was not caught in accordance with IGFA rules. Granders are marlin weighing 1,000 pounds or more, and catches are rare.
Toney said his group had embarked at Ascension in search of giant billfish, and that the huge marlin struck a lure. Holt took the rod, Olaf Grimkowski was the wireman whose job it was to secure the leader once the fish was close to the boat, and Holt’s dad, Chip Van Mols, a Kona captain, was part of the crew. “It smoked half a spool, and we chased it down and got to it in 15 minutes," Toney said. "Pretty epic. Largest blue ever caught by a women on the planet, and potential new Atlantic record that will beat a 30-plus-year-old record.”
Chasing hooked marlin with a boat is routine. It’d be virtually impossible to stop the larger billfish from an idling vessel. But still, 15 minutes is a surprisingly short fight time for even a marlin half this size. Jim Rizzuto, a longtime Kona fishing writer, explained in a column on Monday that Holt is an expert angler who logged her first world record when she was 10. "[But] the unusual brevity of the fight may also have been aided by the placement of the hook," Rizzuto wrote. "Anchored in the lower tip of the jaw, it provided a pulling point which helped turn the fish and lead it to the boat.” Toney said they had intended to let the marlin go, but after using a tape-measurement formula they determined that it was a potential world record, so they hauled it through the transom door and took it to port. "Everything worked like a well-oiled machine," he said of the effort.
The black marlin (Scientific name: Istiompax indica) is considered the world's largest sports fish. A relative of the swordfish and immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's “Old Man and the Sea”, it is a massive fish that puts up a hell of fight, leaping out of the water and "tailwaking" and "greyhounding." [Source: Adele Conover, Smithsonian magazine]
The largest bony fish ever caught with a rod and reel was a 4.5-meter (14-foot-7-inch), 707-kilogram (1,560-pound) black marlin female caught 15 kilometers (eight miles) off the coast of Cabo Blanco, Peru in August 1953 by Alfred C. Glassell. It was caught with a five-pound mackerel bait after an hour and 45 minute fight. before being landed it jumped from the water 49 times. A number of other large females have been landed at Cabo Blanco. Commercial fisherman have reportedly caught black marlin weighing 1,206 kilograms (2,600 pounds), Zane described a "twenty-eight-foot one that had been seen repeatedly alongside their canoes” at “Tautira” in Tahiti.
Black marlin are found in the Pacific and Indian oceans and occasionally the South Atlantic. Known spawning areas include the Great Barrier Reef and maybe the South China Sea and the coast of Africa. Females sometimes weigh over 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds). Males rarely weigh more than 180 kilograms (400 pounds). No one knows how old they can be although some large ones are thought to be 40 years old.
“Old Man and the Size” is arguable the most famous story featuring a marlin. It was based on a true story. Even so Hemingway got some of the facts wrong. He said the fish that Santiago caught was a male when males never get that big.
Black Marlin, World’s Fastest Fish?
It is said black marlin are capable of swimming for short busts at speeds of 96 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour). There is reportedly documentation of one traveling at 129 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour) — making it the fastest fish on earth, faster than the sailfish, often recognized the world’s fastest fish.
Marlin are among the fastest fish, but speeds are often greatly wildly exaggerated in popular media, such as reports of 132 kilometers per hour (82 miles per hour). Recent research suggests a burst speed of 36 kilometers per hour (22 miles per hour) is near the maximum rate. [Source: Wikipedia]
World’s Fastest Fish according to the BBC
1) Black marlin — Maximum speed: 129 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour)
2) Sailfish — Maximum speed: 110 kilometers per hour (68 miles per hour)
3) Striped marlin — Maximum speed: 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour)
4) Wahoo — Maximum speed: 78 kilometers per hour (48 miles per hour)
5) Mako shark — Maximum speed: 74 kilometers per hour (46 miles per hour)
6) Atlantic bluefin tuna — Maximum speed: 70 kilometers per hour (43.5 miles per hour)
7) Blue shark — Maximum speed: 69 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour)
8) Bonefish — Maximum speed: 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour)
9) Swordfish — Maximum speed: 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour)
10) Fourwing flying fish — Maximum speed: 56 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour) [Source: BBC]
Sailfish were previously estimated to reach maximum swimming speeds of 125 kilometers per hour (77 miles per hour), but research published in 2015 and 2016 indicate sailfish do not exceed speeds between 35–55 kilometers per hour (22-34 miles per hour). During predator–prey interactions, sailfish reached burst speeds of 25 kilometers per hour (15.5 miles per hour) and did not surpass 35 kilometers per hour (22 miles per hour). [Source: Wikipedia]
464.5 Kilogram Black Marlin Caught After 10-Hour Battle Off New Zealand
In December 2022, Ross Tuydor caught a 464.5-kilogram (1,024 pound) black marlin off Northland’s Cavalli Islands off New Zealand after an epic 10-hour battle. The giant billfish was finally wrestled aboard the Raptor, a private launch, just as the sun was going down. The catch qualifies Tuydor for the exclusive ‘grander’ club for fish weighing more than 1000 pounds (453.6kg). Raptor Skipper Paddy Bohane said the marlin was “the fish of a lifetime. You fish your whole life trying to catch something like that. It’s the pinnacle of game fishing.
The New Zealand Herald Press reportedly: On Sunday, they headed about 35 nautical miles off the Cavallis to an area known as The Condom, named after its shape on the chart. “About 10.40am we were trolling near the tip of The Condom in 1200 metres of water when we got a bite which left a giant hole in the water and started screaming off line. We didn’t see it initially, until it jumped. Then we knew how big it was.”Bohane said the group planned to tag everything they hooked, but changed their minds when they saw the marlin’s size.
It took 10 hours and 20 minutes to land the fish, with Tuydor starting on a light 12kg drag which increased as the fight wore on. By the third hour, the drag was up to 21kg. “Our angler had that drag on for the next seven hours. I’ve been involved in swordfish fights that have gone on for 12 hours, but not with as much drag. That is hands-down one of the greatest efforts I’ve ever seen by an angler in the chair without giving up. Lesser men would have given up long before.”
For seven hours, the fish was no more than 50m from the boat. “After nine hours, when we thought the fish was done, it turned and started taking us out to sea. I was going backwards at three knots chasing it. That fish was very stubborn.”
Tuydor said his catch was “a bit of a surprise”. “I’ve done a bit of fishing, but I’ve never experienced a thing like that in my life. And I don’t want to again. It was nuts, absolutely nuts.” “I’ve done a bit of kingi fishing before - you can battle away for 20 minutes, half an hour, whatever. I wanted to cut it off after seven hours. I got fed by AJ [Barton-Barry, a crewman]. He just kept pumping chocolate into my mouth,” Tuydor said. After nine hours I still couldn’t get any ground on it. When I saw the thing come up to the surface, I could understand why it was such a fight.”
Bohane said it was the biggest fish he’d seen. “My biggest fear during the whole fight was that the angler was going to say, ‘I’m done’, and hand it to someone else. Kudos goes to him. It was a monumental effort.” According to the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council, Tuydor’s catch — if officially certified — will be a national record for the heaviest black marlin landed on a 60kg line.
Blue marlin (Scientific name: Makaira nigricans) are found in tropical water throughout the world. They can reach a length of 4.4 meters (14.5 feet) and weigh as much as 900 kilograms. (1984 pounds). Although they occasionally dive to great depths they prefer warm surface water. The largest blue marlin ever caught (636 kilograms, 1,402 pounds and 2 ounces) was caught off the coast of Brazil in February 1992.
Also known as A‘u, Kajiki and Aguja azul, blue marlin are deep cobalt blue on top and silvery white on the bottom. They have a pronounced dorsal fin and a long, spear-shaped upper jaw (bill). Female blue marlin grow larger than males and may live 20 years. They may grow to be more than 3.7 meters (12 feet) long and may weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Male blue marlin reach two meters (7 feet) in length and may live up to 10 years. [Source: NOAA]
Blue marlin grow fast and may reach one to 1.8 meters (3 to 6 feet) in the first one to two years of life. Males mature around two years old, and females mature between three to four years old. Blue marlin eat mostly tuna and other open water fishes. They spawn between May and September.
Pacific blue marlin (Scientific name: Makaira nigricans) fish with spear-shaped upper jaw. Their Body is dark cobalt blue with lighter blue vertical stripes on the upper half and silvery white on the bottom half. Pacific blue marlin fish are known for jumping out of ocean and are enthusiastically sought by sports fishermen.
Blue marlin live throughout tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic They prefer warm surface waters that are well mixed by surface winds and are uniform in temperature and salinity. They are considered the most tropical of all billfishes. They spend all of their time in the water column, frequently moving between the surface and a depth of 100 meters. Depth distribution is limited by low water temperature and low oxygen levels.. In the U.S. they can be found off Pacific Islands
Blue Marlin Fishing
Blue marlin are a favorite target for recreational fishermen, as the fish tend to put up an incredible fight when hooked. In 2020, recreational anglers in U.S. waters landed 1.4 million kilograms (3 million pounds) of blue marlin, according to the NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing landings database. Hawaii hosts one of the largest billfish tournaments in the United States. Most fish caught in recreational tournaments are tagged and released. There is little bycatch associated with the recreational fishery.
In regard to commercial fishing, marlin are primarily caught incidentally in pelagic longline commercial fisheries for tuna and swordfish. They are also a popular target fish for recreational fishermen. In 2020, the commercial landings in the U.S. of Pacific blue marlin from the waters around Hawaii totaled 400,000 kilograms (900,000 pounds) and were valued at $1.1 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.
The Billfish Conservation Act, along with existing billfish regulations, prohibits the sale and commercial possession of billfish and billfish products. However, those that are caught in Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Areas (which includes American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands) are exempt and can be sold.
Blue Marlin Population and Conservation
There are above target population levels of marlin in the Pacific.. The fishing rate is at recommended level. Gear used to harvest blue marlin rarely contacts the ocean floor, so habitat impacts are minimal. Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch in the tuna and swordfish fisheries, which incidentally catch the most commercially available blue marlin. [Source: NOAA]
According to the 2013 stock assessment, Pacific blue marlin is not overfished and not subject to overfishing. Population assessments for Pacific blue marlin are conducted by the Billfish Working Group, a division of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC). NOAA Fisheries scientists participate in the ISC assessment and contribute relevant U.S. fishery data.
Management of highly migratory species, like Pacific blue marlin, is complicated because the species migrate thousands of miles across international boundaries and are fished by many nations. Effective conservation and management of this resource requires international cooperation as well as strong domestic management.Two organizations, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) manage this fishery internationally. These Commissions rely on the scientific advice of their staff and the analyses of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific (ISC) to develop and adopt international resolutions for conservation and management measures.
Measuring the Age of Blue Marlin Using Atomic Bomb Radiation
NOAA scientists were able to calculate the age of 450-kilograms (1,000 pound) blue marlin due to the quick action of the captain, crew, fisherman, and some well-connected locals. When they first caught this grander blue marlin in September 2009, they took size measurements and saved the head. The marlin's head contained the crucial element to answering the question of its age — the ear stones, also known as otoliths. These stones, which are small calcium carbonate structures that also exist in humans, hold the answers to how long a particular fish has been alive and allow us to better understand the lifespan of certain species. [Source: NOAA, October 31, 2017]
In the 1950s and 1960s, nuclear bombs were detonated across the world and created radioactive signals that penetrated every environment, including the ocean. In the ocean, marine organisms absorbed a radiocarbon signature (which is harmless to humans) into their boney structures, like otoliths. Otoliths grow throughout a fish's life, laying down crystalline layers year after year with a seasonal signature similar to rings in a tree. Hence, the material grown during the first year of life is as old as that fish. Using the radiocarbon signature as a time marker, we can date a point in the otolith that allows us to count forward to today — giving us the age of the fish.
In the case of 450-kilograms blue marlin, we found that the otoliths from this huge fish were actually very tiny. This giant fish had an otolith that weighed just 0.008 grams (0.0003 oz), which is less than half of a single grain of rice. Recent technological advancements finally allowed us to analyze the otoliths, and, low and behold, we found that this amazing marlin was just 20 years old.
Should we be surprised at such a seemingly young fish? Intuitively, we expect large animals to take many years to reach such a massive size, like elephants (~60 years), orcas (~90 years), or bowhead whales (100–200 years). This fish would have to grow very rapidly to reach this size in only 20 years. But that growth rate is supported by previous studies of the youngest blue marlin where, evidence suggests, this species can growth to lengths of 1–2 m (3–6 feet) in just 1–2 years. If you continue this growth trajectory, it is easy to imagine that the grander blue marlin was just 20 years old. There are reports of 2000-pound blue marlin that were caught and either got away, were released, or were cut free of the line during commercial operations. Regardless, a longevity estimate of 20 years for the largest blue marlin, coupled with the regular frequency of grander marlin at the Kona tournament over many years, indicate the blue marlin population is healthy. We were fortunate to be able to learn so much about them from this one huge fish.
Striped marlin (Scientific name: Kajikia audax) are highly migratory fish living at the top of the food chain in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Also known as nairagi, a‘u, makijki, barred marlin and spikefish, they are members of the billfish family, which get their name from their upper jaw that extends to form a spear. Because of their large size, marlin are prized sport fish. Striped marlin also support large commercial fisheries throughout the Pacific Ocean. [Source: NOAA]
Striped marlin are large, oceanic fish with long, round bills, small teeth, and a tall dorsal fin. Their bodies are dark blue-black on the top and fade to a silvery white on the bottom.
They have rows of blue colored stripes made up of smaller round dots or narrow bands. Striped marlin are opportunistic feeders of fish including mackerel, sardine, and anchovy. They will also eat invertebrates, including squid. Off the coast of southern California, they often feed at the surface on small coastal fish and squid. Large pelagic sharks or toothed whales prey on adult marlin..
Striped marlin are smaller than other marlin species, but can reach a length of 3.5 meters (12 feet) and weigh more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds). Large ones generally weigh around 100 kilograms (250 pounds). Their lifespan is up to 20 years. Spawning occurs in the central Pacific and off central Mexico. Juvenile fish move east toward the coast of Mexico, where they are found in high abundance around the tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Striped marlin live throughout tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the U.S. they can be found off Pacific Islands and the West Coast. They prefer water temperatures of 20-25̊ C (68-77̊F). Acoustic telemetry studies indicate that they spend 86 percent of their time in the surface layer above the thermocline (a layer above and below which the water is at different temperatures)..
Striped Marlin Fishing
Striped marlin are a favorite target for recreational fishermen and one of the most sought-after billfish because the fish are acrobatic and tend to put up an incredible fight when hooked. Hawaii hosts one of the largest billfish tournaments in the United States. Most fish caught in recreational tournaments are tagged and released. Tournament proceeds, tackle, and trip-related expenditures contribute significantly to local economies. [Source: NOAA]
Striped marlin are also commercially fished. In 2021, the commercial landings in the U.S. of Pacific striped marlin totaled 305,000 kilograms (672,000 pounds) and were valued at $1.7 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. Marlin are primarily caught incidentally in pelagic longline commercial fisheries for tuna and swordfish.
The Billfish Conservation Act, along with existing billfish regulations, prohibits the sale and commercial possession of billfish and billfish products. However, those that are caught in Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Areas (which includes American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands) are exempt and can be sold. Prohibitions on the sale of striped marlin on the U.S. West Coast provide a strong disincentive for commercial fishermen to catch striped marlin.
Striped Marlin Populations and Conservation
There are above target population level in the eastern Pacific. Significantly below target population level in the western and central North Pacific due to international fishing. Measures to rebuild the stock are in place in U.S. and international waters. The fishing rate is at recommended level in the eastern Pacific. Reduced to end overfishing in the western and central North Pacific. [Source: NOAA]
There are two stocks of striped marlin: The Eastern Pacific and Western and Central North Pacific stocks. According to the most recent stock assessments: The Eastern Pacific stock is not overfished and not subject to overfishing (2010 stock assessment). The Western and Central North Pacific stock is overfished and subject to overfishing (2019 stock assessment). Because the overfished status of this stock is due to international fishing pressure, it is not being managed under a rebuilding plan that is typically required for solely domestic fish stocks. [Source: NOAA]
Management of highly migratory species, like Pacific striped marlin, is complicated because the species migrates thousands of miles across international boundaries and are fished by many nations. Effective conservation and management of this resource requires international cooperation as well as strong domestic management. Two organizations, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) manage this fishery internationally.
The WCPFC, of which the United States is a member, has agreed to international conservation and management measures for the Western and Central North Pacific stock. While current measures may not be sufficient in ending overfishing or rebuilding the stock, NOAA Fisheries continues to work with the WCPFC.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, NOAA
Text Sources: Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noaa.gov; Wikipedia, National Geographic, Live Science, BBC, Smithsonian, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.
Last Updated April 2023