Billfish Tagging

GMR_frame_grabsmBillfish, including sailfish, swordfish and marlin, are among the most sought-after gamefish on the planet. Exceedingly beautiful and athletic, the largest of these species can reach lengths over 16 feet, and weights of nearly 2,000 pounds. Despite their popularity among sport anglers, however, much remains to be learned about the basic biology of these fishes.

Tagging studies have demonstrated that they can travel great distances – with one record of an Atlantic blue marlin traveling from off the coast of Delaware to the island of Mauritius off the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean – a voyage of 9,254 miles. Researchers from the TRCC, utilizing both pop-up satellite tags and fin-mounted SPOT tags, have also demonstrated these animals’ ability to cover great distances quickly – with several tagged blue marlin covering distances of over 2,000 nautical miles in just a few months.

It is interesting to note that the initial efforts to develop electronic tags for tracking highly migratory fish were carried out on marlin in Hawaii, in collaboration with anglers in the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. This tradition continues today, with the launch of the Great Marlin Race at the 50th Anniversary of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in July, 2009. We are working to establish more of these partnerships in 2010 – so stay tuned!