The Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) ranges from 40°N to 40°S in the Western Atlantic Ocean and has great economic and recreational value for sport fishers. Off the east coast of Florida, recreational fishing boats often target this species due to its size, speed and strength. This project aimed to determine the relationship between sea surface temperature (SST) and the distribution of Atlantic sailfish caught and released over a fifteen-year period (2003 to 2018). Tagging information was collected from The Billfish Foundation and NOAA who have the most extensive programs for billfish. Using the time and location of each reported sailfish, a satellite-derived SST value was obtained for each point. The purpose of this study was to determine if sea surface warming was associated with changes in sailfish distribution. On average, sailfish were caught at 26.16 ± 1.70°C (x̄ ± s.d.) over the fifteen-year period. The most sailfish catches occurred at temperatures ranging from 25.2°C to 25.5°C. Over the fifteen-year period sailfish catches decreased at lower temperatures (~23°C and ~24°C) and at 31°C. At ~25°C and ~30°C there was no change in catch numbers of sailfish. From 26°C to 29°C there was an increase in the number of sailfish. Based on these results, increasing ocean temperatures will have an impact on distribution and habitat utilization of sailfish. Warming sea surface temperatures create a need for more policy and regulation to protect the Atlantic sailfish and related highly migratory billfish species.



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