Sunday, May 18, 2008

Our biggest predator

On saturday I got the chance to encounter probably our largest predator up close and personal and here's our first sight of it.


Our fishing trip got unbelievably lucky when we encountered this Atlantic Blue Marlin, Makaira nigricans, which duly obliged us by by launching itself into our trolling pattern and providing a first time fisherman in our group with probably the best introduction to fishing ever.


Check out the huge eye above; this is very definitely a visual predator. Its much more than a keen sighted lump though. Billfish like Marlin are up there with the fastest animals on the planet producing massive speeds when needs be. They are also capable of pack hunting and communicate with others using flashing colour changes down their flanks.


These guys are capable of getting up to 5 metres (16 feet!) and 636 kilograms (a lot of pounds) (perhaps a big tiger shark might run this close as our biggest predator but they're pretty huge I think you'll agree) and so this one was relatively small. Note the huge pectoral fins, typical of big pelagics that allow it to glide through the open ocean in search of prey.

Some might question why a diver and conservationist like myself approves of and partakes of big game fishing - the truth is all billfish we catch are released to swim another day. The days of fishermen posing alongside huge dead billfish on the docks are, for the most part, long gone. Whilst some stress is undoubtedly put on the animal, by supporting a sport fishery we are incentivising the protection of these big pelagics from longliners or other commercial fisheries. As with the shark feeds I've mentioned in the past I'd rather these wonderful animals survived with these indignities than were killed off altogether.


The upside down flag symbolises a successful release (I don't know why - you'd think it would be the other way round).


Patrick Belardo said...

Hey TH,

Great info about a really cool fish. I never knew they got so big. How lucky for your friend to reel one in. How long did that take?

tai haku said...

I think ones that big are exceptionally rare now, this one was certainly much smaller. I was surprised he only took 20 minutes or so to get it to the boat (I thought we were in for an hour or two of work in the hot sun).