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Abundance of a look-alike species clouds population status of a million dollar fish
Date:12/10/2009

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL, December 10, 2009 - 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 today 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
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Contact: Ken Ma
ken.ma@nova.edu
954-830-4177
Nova Southeastern University
Source:Eurekalert

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