2019 Conservation Record: Spearfish

Spearfish, courtesy of Giles Perran

The Billfish Foundation maintains the largest private tag and release database in the world, with over 260,000 records. In 2019 alone, over 11,000 new tag, release, and recapture records were added to this database, representing an enormous amount of data to help us learn more about billfish life history. Of these over 11,000 new records in 2019, less than 50 were of spearfish, and no spearfish were recaptured last year. Spearfish, in fact, are the most underrepresented billfish species in TBF’s entire dataset. As such, every tag, release, and recapture represents an incredibly significant piece of information, helping us learn more about the life history of spearfish.

In 2019, 29 spearfish were tagged (72.5%) and 11 were released without tags (27.5%). Of these 40 fish, four were Atlantic longbill spearfish, Tetrapturus pfluegeri, and 36 were Pacific shortbill spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris. For more information on the difference between the two, check out The Billfish Foundation’s youtube channel.

Tags*

Of the 29 tagged fish, 25 of were tagged off of Hawaii and the other four were tagged near Chile, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. Three of these 29 fish were tagged in the Atlantic, 26 were tagged in the Pacific. The average weight of all spearfish was only 28.9lbs/13.1kg.

Top: All spearfish tagged in 2019 throughout the world. Color of point denotes the weight of the fish, Bottom: Density of spearfish tagging, with number of fish tagged per location denoted in white

A total of 18 anglers and eight captains contributed to spearfish tagging this year. Most of these fish were tagged by angler Paul Dolinoy and his captain, Chris Choy, and mate, Li’i Purdy, as well as by captain Gene Vander Hoek and his mate Jack Leverone, who all together are responsible for the 25 Hawaiian spearfish tags.

Spearfish tagged in Hawaii off of Kailua-Kona. Color of point denotes the weight of the fish

The majority of spearfish were tagged in the summer months, from May to August. Of the 29 spearfish tagged, only three were tagged outside of these four months.

Releases*

Only 11 spearfish were released in 2019 and reported to The Billfish Foundation. Of these 11, only one was in the Atlantic, and ten were in the Pacific. The only Atlantic spearfish was released in Greece, a location from which TBF hasn’t had a spearfish release in over a decade. Only five anglers and three captains from Mexico, the USA (Hawaii), and Greece released spearfish in 2019.

Left to Right: Spearfish released in Hawaii, Mexico, and Greece. Please note that two of the three released in Hawaii are in almost the same GPS location, making it appear that there are two points instead of three

Six of the 11 spearfish were released in January in Mexico. The remaining five were caught and released in May, June, and August, similar to the tagged spearfish.

 

Thank you to all of the captains, mates, and anglers that tagged and released spearfish in 2019. Much is still not known about spearfish life history and migratory habits, so your tagging efforts are greatly needed. We at TBF are incredibly appreciative for all of you that have helped us gather data on spearfish in 2019, and we are excited to learn more in 2020! To stay up-to-date with all things billfish, become a member, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on social media, @TheBillfishFoundation.

*please note that this review contains only data that was recorded between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019, and received by TBF by January 15th, 2020