Tetrapturus belone 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Istiophoridae

Scientific Name: Tetrapturus belone Rafinesque, 1810
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Mediterranean Shortbill Spearfish, Mediterranean Spearfish
French Aguglia impériale, Auggia imbriale, Marlin de la Méditerranée, Poisson-pique
Spanish Marlín del Mediterráneo
Scheponopodus prototypus Canestrini, 1872
Skeponopodus typus Nardo, 1833
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.). 2015. Catalog of Fishes. Updated 7 January 2015. Available at: (Accessed: 7 January 2015).
Taxonomic Notes: Western Atlantic records of Tetrapturus belone through the early 1960s are of T. pfluegeri (Robins and de Sylva 1963). Tetrapturus belone is very close to T. pfluegeri (Collette et al. 2006, Hanner et al. 2011).

Previously thought to be endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, an International Game Fish Association record from Madeira (June 1980), outside the Mediterranean has been identified, based on a photograph, Tetrapturus belone; identification is uncertain, however expert opinion (B. Collette, J. Graves, J. Schratwieser pers. comm. 2013) is that the record is likely to refer to Tetrapturus belone.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-01-26
Assessor(s): Collette, B. & Heessen, H.
Reviewer(s): Allen, D.J., Graves, J., Schratwieser, J. & Polidoro, B.
Contributor(s): Bizsel, K., Boustany, A., Carpenter, K.E., Di Natale, A., Fox, W., Graves, J., Juan Jorda, M., Masuti, E., Nelson, R. & Oxenford, H.
European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

Tetrapturus belone is known from the Mediterranean Sea, with a single unconfirmed record outside the Mediterranean from Madeira.

Tetrapturus belone is a common and locally abundant epipelagic species. Although catches seems to be increasing, there is no directed commercial fishery and catch and release is commonly encouraged in the recreational fishery. There are no other known major threats. Therefore, T. belone is assessed as Least Concern. However, more research is necessary, as little is known about the biology and ecology of this species, and further information on the scale of take of the species as commercial bycatch and in recreational fisheries is required. While generally not a target species for commercial fleets, spearfish and billfish catches, including those from the recreational fishery, the fish should be monitored carefully.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Tetrapturus belone has been considered to be restricted to the Mediterranean Sea. It is abundant around Italy and recently reported from Tunisia (Hattour 2006). There are no confirmed reports from the Black Sea. Catches have been reported from the Aegean Sea (Pennetti pers. comm. 2008), but no adults have been reported in the northern part of the Aegean.

However, there is an International Game Fish Association record from Madeira (June 1980), outside the Mediterranean Sea (B. Collette pers. comm. 2013); identification, based on a photograph, is uncertain, but expert opinion (B. Collette, J. Graves, J. Schratwieser pers. comm. 2013) is that the record is likely to refer to Tetrapturus belone, representing a possible range extension for this species. It is typically found in the upper 200 m (Nakamura 1985).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Algeria; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Cyprus; Egypt (Egypt (African part), Sinai); France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Gibraltar; Greece (East Aegean Is., Greece (mainland), Kriti); Israel; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Lebanon; Libya; Malta; Montenegro; Morocco; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Portugal (Portugal (mainland)); Slovenia; Spain (Baleares, Spain (mainland), Spanish North African Territories); Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey (Turkey-in-Asia)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – northeast; Mediterranean and Black Sea
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Lower depth limit (metres):200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Catches are known to occur in all the Mediterranean Sea states where driftnet and longline fishing is carried out (STECF 2014). Landings data are limited, but appear to have increased in the most recent years, certainly over a level of about 100 t, even considering that very few countries (Italy, Spain and Portugal) are reporting their catches to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (STECF 2014). In 2005 and 2006 catches have shown fluctuations. Up to 40 fish were caught in the sport fishery over three years in Majorca (Masuti pers.comm. 2008). In Turkey, this species is mostly caught in bycatch and sport fishing, and in recent years the catches appear to be increasing (M. Bilecenoglu pers. comm. 2008).

There are no visible trends in International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) data as only a few countries report their data. The population is thought to be stable.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Tetrapturus belone is an epipelagic species. Little is known about the biology of this species. It is the most common istiophorid in the central basin of the Mediterranean Sea and completes its life cycle inside this sea as far as is known (Nakamura 1985). Undertakes limited vertical movements, ranging between 0 and 200 m depths (Romeo et al. 2009), generally above or within the thermocline. Spawning occurs from spring to winter (Potoschi 2000).

The Mediterranean Spearfish feeds mainly on pelagic fishes and cephalopods (Castriota et al. 2008). The most important fishes in the diet of the Mediterranean Spearfish in the Strait of Messina, Italy are needlefishes, herrings, and sauries (Belonidae, Clupeidae and Scomberesocidae). A study on resource partitioning between the Mediterranean Spearfish and the Swordfish (Romeo et al. 2009) showed a feeding strategy that is more related to the habitat of the species than to the food availability. 

Maximum size exceeds 2.4 m in body length and 70 kg in weight. The all-tackle game fish record supposedly of this species is of a 41.2 kg fish taken off Madeira in June 1980 (IGFA 2014). Information on the distribution of spearfishes in the eastern Atlantic is poorly known; the record was considered more likely to be either T. pfluegeri or T. georgii, neither of which were known in 1980, however revaluation of the photograph accompanying this record suggest that it may in fact refer to T. belone.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Occurring in small numbers in commercial fisheries, the species is taken mainly as bycatch in longline and driftnet fisheries (STECF 2014) and also in sport fisheries; this is a very popular sportfish in the Mediterranean (J. Schratwieser pers. comm. 2013). Tetrapturus belone is taken at the surface by harpoons, longlines, driftnets and set nets incidental to fishing for swordfish, bluefin tuna, and albacore (Nakamura 1985, STECF 2014).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Tetrapturus belone is of minor commercial importance, and is mainly a bycatch of tuna fisheries. It is typically caught with hooks, lines and driftnets. It is also one of the target species for the traditional harpoon fishery and is occasionally fished in sport fishing activity, particularly in the Mediterranean.

This species is highly exposed to lipophilic xenobiotic contaminants (Fossi et al. 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This is a highly migratory species mentioned in the Annex I of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. Tetrapturus belone was assessed as Least Concern globally (Collette et al. 2011, IUCN 2011) and in the Mediterranean (Abdul Malak et al. 2011, IUCN 2011).

While generally not a target species for commercial fleets, spearfish and billfish catches, including those from the recreational fishery, should be monitored carefully. Catches of Mediterranean spearfish must be reported by all Mediterranean States concerned, according to the European Community data collection framework and there is a need for better monitoring data to inform management actions, if required (STECF 2014).

Citation: Collette, B. & Heessen, H. 2015. Tetrapturus belone. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T170334A48680954. . Downloaded on 18 June 2018.
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