Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

White marlin: Abundance of a look-alike species clouds population status of a million dollar fish

Date:
December 11, 2009
Source:
Nova Southeastern University
Summary:
The prized white marlin is among the most overexploited open-ocean fish. It's the subject of intense international recovery efforts. A new study now shows that a look-alike species, the roundscale spearfish, makes up a relatively high proportion of the fish identified as "white marlin". As such, current biological information on white marlin is likely contaminated by a second species, and past white marlin population size assessments are now uncertain.

A white marlin (top) and roundscale spearfish (bottom) showing their very similar appearance.
Credit: John Foster

The prized white marlin, sought by anglers in million dollar prize tournaments and captured incidentally in commercial fisheries, is among the most overfished marine species under international management and the subject of contentious debate on how to best achieve its recovery. Now a new study published in the journal Endangered Species Research casts uncertainty on the accuracy of current knowledge of white marlin biology and previous population assessments, which form the basis of management and conservation policy.

The study reports that the white marlin look-alike species, the enigmatic roundscale spearfish -- whose very existence was only confirmed three years ago -- makes up almost a third (approximately 27%) of the fish historically identified as white marlin. This previously unrealized, relatively high abundance of roundscale spearfish and their misidentification might have impacted past assessments of white marlin population sizes and concomitant management efforts.

Given considerable concern about its declining populations, petitions to list the white marlin under the U.S. Endangered Species Act were considered in 2002 and 2007. Listing the fish would have undoubtedly put an end to white marlin fishing tournaments, which infuse millions of dollars into the recreational fishing industry as well as local economies.

"This proportion of roundscale spearfish along with its longstanding misidentification as white marlin for decades compromises the accuracy of current biological knowledge on white marlin" said lead author Lawrence Beerkircher of the NOAA Fisheries Service. "These findings illustrate a need for the immediate collection of biological and fishery data such as age and growth, migratory patterns, and fishery catch statistics for both the real white marlin and the roundscale spearfish."

To examine if the high proportion of roundscale spearfish and its misidentification might have impacted past assessments of white marlin population sizes, the research team conducted computer simulation studies which calculated historical population size trends for each species individually. Since the past ratios of roundscale spearfish to white marlin are unknown, the researchers also examined how variations in these ratios would impact the projections of population size trends for each species. The results of these computer simulations illustrated that variations in the ratio of the two species could indeed alter projections of white marlin population sizes, highlighting the influence that species misidentifications could have on the accuracy of past assessments.

For example, the most recent population assessment conducted by the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for white marlin in 2006 indicated a slight increasing trend in its population sizes, which was one of several reasons for its removal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Species of Concern List. However, based on the computer simulations conducted in the new study, whether this was, or was not, the right call cannot be determined without a breakdown of the two species ratios over time.

"It's remarkable how a simple case of mistaken identity can muddy what we thought we knew about a species from decades of study. This case points to the importance of making sure we know what species are out there in the first place," said Mahmood Shivji, Director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, who co-led the study. "Furthermore, it's important to realize that we are also dealing with the existence of another large oceanic species, the roundscale spearfish, about which we know almost nothing and whose populations may be declining, steady or even on the rise"

"Obtaining a robust picture of white marlin population status will require conducting population assessments with updated roundscale spearfish proportions," said Lawrence Beerkircher. "New species-specific monitoring measures will be essential for achieving this goal and aiding rebuilding of white marlin populations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Nova Southeastern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Nova Southeastern University. "White marlin: Abundance of a look-alike species clouds population status of a million dollar fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210085330.htm>.
Nova Southeastern University. (2009, December 11). White marlin: Abundance of a look-alike species clouds population status of a million dollar fish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210085330.htm
Nova Southeastern University. "White marlin: Abundance of a look-alike species clouds population status of a million dollar fish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210085330.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins