Biology Faculty Articles


High-resolution post-release behaviour and recovery periods of two highly prized recreational sportfish: the blue marlin and sailfish

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ICES Journal of Marine Science



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High recreational catch rates of istiophorid billfishes in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP) have led to substantial eco-tourism derived economic benefits for the countries in the region, prompting many countries to mandate catch-and-release practices for recreational anglers. Previous estimates of billfish post-release behaviours and recovery periods after these physiologically stressful capture events, however, vary widely depending on the type of tag used. Using high-resolution, multi-sensor biologging tags, we provide a fine-scale, detailed view of the behaviour and recovery periods of blue marlin (Makaira nigricans; n = 9) and sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus, Istiophoridae; n = 9) caught in a typical recreational fishery in the ETP. Angling times ranged from 4 to 90 min, and fish were monitored for periods of 6–70 h after release. Blue marlin showed a characteristic long, deep dive immediately after release, with significantly greater duration associated with longer fight times, a behaviour not typical for sailfish. Diving depths were, however, much shallower than those previously reported for both species due to the shallow thermocline and oxycline present in the ETP. Data from 40 derived metrics from acceleration (i.e. tailbeat period, amplitude, pitch, etc.) and physical parameters (i.e. depth, speed, temperature, oxygen saturation, etc.) used to quantify a recovery period suggest blue marlin and sailfish recover 9.0 ± 3.2 and 4.9 ± 2.8 h after release, respectively. Our high-resolution assessment of post-release behaviour suggests that these billfish are capable of rapid physiological recovery after capture in recreational fisheries, and that catch-and-release practices like those used here can be an effective approach to conserve and sustain billfish populations in the ETP. Predicted climate change caused shallowing of the oxygen minimum zone, however, would increase the vertical habitat compression present in this region, potentially prolonging or inhibiting recovery.







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