The Atlantic blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, is a magnificent species of billfish endemic to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s related to the Indo-Pacific blue marlin. From ancient myths and legends to modern-day sports fishing, this mysterious game fish symbolizes strength, courage, and adventure.
In addition to its cultural significance, the Atlantic blue marlin plays an essential ecological role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, the Atlantic blue marlin population is at risk despite its importance.
In this short article, we shed light on the importance of the magnificent billfish species and the urgent need to protect it from various threats. So, whether you are an angler, ocean enthusiast, or simply curious about the wonders of the natural world, you’ll be able to appreciate why this specific blue marlin deserves our attention and protection.
The Atlantic blue marlin is one of the largest fish species in the world, with females reaching lengths of up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) and weights of over 1,800 pounds (816 kilograms). Males are usually smaller than their female counterparts.
Moreover, this blue marlin has a distinct, elongated body shape with a pointed bill that can be as long as the body itself.
Blue marlins share a close relationship with the Indo-Pacific blue marlin and are frequently regarded as identical to it. Some genetic studies indicate that the two populations are members of the same species.
Similar to other billfish, Blue marlins can change their hue quickly due to pigment-containing iridophores plus skin cells that reflect light. Yet, the body is typically pearly white on the bottom and dark blue atop. Along both flanks of the fish, there are around 15 rows of pale cobalt-colored bands with round spots and thin bands for each column.
The broad, rigid, extended scales that coat the body feature 1-3 posterior spines, with one representing the most typical frequency. Its bill is hefty and lengthy. The palatines, or the roof of the mouth, as well as the jaws, are indeed studded in tiny, file-like canines. The tail is deeply forked, giving the fish exceptional speed and maneuverability in the water.
The Atlantic blue marlin is a highly migratory species found mainly in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia in Canada to Brazil in South America. They are most commonly found in the western and central Atlantic, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the waters off the coast of Florida. However, they are so found in other tropical waters worldwide.
Regarded as the most tropical of billfishes, this species prefers to live in warm waters above 68°F (20°C) and can be found in coastal and open ocean habitats. So, they are migratory species. They enjoy moderate, moderately salinated aquatic environments that are well stirred by surface winds. So, warm ocean currents like the Gulf Stream in the western Atlantic play a major role in influencing their migration.
Adult marlins stay in deeper waters, while juveniles can be found closer to the shore.
While this marlin prefers certain types of fish, it is an opportunistic feeder. So, it will eat any fish or other prey available in its habitat. Some of the most common prey for Atlantic blue marlin include tuna, mackerel, dolphin fish, and squid.
This species is known for its spectacular hunting technique, which involves using its bill to slash through schools of fish and stun or impale them. Once the prey is incapacitated, the marlin will then swallow it whole.
By slicing their intended prey’s bodies in a sweep motion, Blue marlins utilize their tip to paralyze them, render them incapacitated, and make them simpler to capture. The Blue marlin’s bill is cylindrical and peaked, as opposed to flattened and blunt, like those of the swordfish or sailfish.
Blue marlins favor the slightly warmer seas where they may feast upon mackerel and tuna, but they’ll additionally dive down to the bottom to hunt squid. They have since been observed to consume bigeye and yellowfin tuna weighing as much as 100 lbs, in addition to fish as massive as white marlin. Overall, their diet can vary depending on where they are in their life cycle.
Blue marlin males reach sexual maturity at around two to four years old. Females mature at approximately four to six years old. Spawning occurs in the warmer months, with females releasing millions of eggs into the water column. The eggs hatch into larvae within a week.
When they are between 2 and 4 years old, Atlantic blue marlin reaches full sexual maturity. In the last weeks of summer and the beginning of fall, they are their common breeding season. Instead of internal fertilization, the female discharges her eggs into the surrounding water, whereas the male discharges the sperm for the purpose of reproduction. Fertilization happens once the sperm connects with the eggs.
In one season, females have the potential to reproduce up to 4 times. They frequently discharge nearly 7 million eggs simultaneously. The larvae could develop up to half an inch per day. They have pale surfaces with dorsal areas having dark-bluish pigmentation. The caudal fin and the slender portion of the fish’s body where it is linked are both clear through and through.
The Atlantic blue marlin is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to overfishing and habitat degradation. This species is highly prized as a game fish, and commercial and recreational fishing has significantly impacted populations in some areas. In addition to direct fishing pressure, blue marlin is also affected by bycatch in commercial fishing operations, which can result in this species’ accidental capture and death.
Habitat degradation, including pollution and climate change, significantly threatens the Blue marlin. As ocean temperatures rise and ocean currents change, the habitat and prey availability of this species may be altered, potentially leading to declines in population. They are also hunted by predators like killer whales and huge pelagic sharks like the great white shark.
Conservation efforts for Atlantic blue marlin include implementing catch limits, promoting sustainable fishing practices, and protecting important habitats. Many countries have also implemented regulations to protect this species, including size and catch limits and mandatory catch-and-release recreational fishing policies.
Facts About the Atlantic Blue Marlin
- The Atlantic blue marlin is a highly prized game fish known for its impressive size and fighting ability.
- This species can reach up to 16 feet and weighs over 1,800 pounds.
- The Atlantic blue marlin is a highly migratory species found mainly in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
- This species feeds on prey like fish, squid, and crustaceans.
- The reproduction of Atlantic blue marlin needs to be better understood, but spawning occurs in the warmer months.
- The Atlantic blue marlin is considered a vulnerable species due to overfishing and habitat degradation.
- Blue Marlin females can live up to 20 years and develop larger than their male counterparts.
- The Blue Marlin can swim at a velocity of 50 mph on average.
- Blue Marlins are capable of making long leaps from the water to the surface.
What is special about Atlantic blue marlin?
The Atlantic blue marlin is one of the largest billfish species. They can grow up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) in length and weigh up to 1,800 pounds (820 kg). Moreover, they are speedy swimmers, reaching up to 80 kilometers per hour. This makes them one of the fastest fish in the ocean.
How rare is the Atlantic blue marlin?
The Atlantic blue marlin faces a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it’s a vulnerable species. The primary threat to Atlantic blue marlin populations is overfishing since they are highly valued for their meat. While Atlantic blue marlins are still found in some areas, they are becoming increasingly rare, and their conservation is a critical concern.
What is the lifespan of an Atlantic blue marlin?
Based on available scientific data, it is estimated that the lifespan of the Atlantic blue marlin can be as high as 27 years. The age of these marlins can be determined by examining their otoliths, which are small calcified structures located in their inner ear. They have rings similar to tree rings that can be counted to estimate the age of the fish.
Is the Atlantic blue marlin bigger than a swordfish?
Male blue marlins typically reach a maximum size of around 14 feet (4.3 meters) long and weigh up to 1,985 pounds (900 kg). Females can reach up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) and weigh up to 1,800 pounds (820 kg). Conversely, swordfish can reach a maximum size of around 15 feet (4.6 meters) long and weigh up to 1,400 pounds (650 kg).
How fast can a Blue marlin swim?
While their average cruising speed is around 40-50 mph, the body of the Blue Marlin is positively hydrodynamic meaning that it can pierce through water without spending much energy. The top recorded speed of a Blue Marlin was clocked at an incredible 70 mph.
Is the Blue Marlin a swordfish?
Swordfish belong to the Xiphiidae family, whereas Blue Marlins are Istiophoridae representatives. Although it might not look like a significant differentiation, there is one among both of these fish. Despite the fact that they resemble each other greatly, they are not actually connected.