Tetrapturus belone


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Tetrapturus belone
Species Authority: Rafinesque, 1810
Common Name(s):
English Mediterranean Shortbill Spearfish, Mediterranean Spearfish
French Auggia Imbriale, Aguglia Impériale, Marlin de la Méditerranée, Poisson-pique
Spanish Marlín del Mediterráneo
Scheponopodus prototypus Canestrini, 1872
Skeponopodus typus Nardo, 1833
Tetrapturus belone Rafinesque, 1810
Taxonomic Notes: Western Atlantic records of Tetrapturus belone through the early 1960s are of T. pfluegeri (Robins and de Sylva 1963).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-09-15
Assessor(s): Collette, B., Bizsel, K., Boustany, A., Carpenter, K.E., Di Natale, A., Fox, W., Graves, J., Juan Jorda, M., Masuti, E., Nelson, R. & Oxenford, H.
Reviewer(s): Russell, B., Elfes, C. & Polidoro, B.
This is a common and locally abundant species. Although catches seems to be increasing, there is no directed commercial fishery and catch and release is commonly encouraged in the recreational fishery. Therefore it is assessed as Least Concern. However, more research is necessary as little is known about the biology and ecology of this species.
For further information about this species, see TUNAS_SkiJumpEffect.pdf.
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Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: In the Mediterranean Sea, this species is abundant around Italy and recently reported from Tunisia (Hattour 2006). There are no confirmed reports from the Black Sea. Catches have also been reported from the Aegean Sea (Pennetti pers. comm. 2008), but no adults have been reported in the northern part.
Albania; Algeria; Croatia; Cyprus; Egypt; France; Gibraltar; Greece; Israel; Italy; Lebanon; Libya; Malta; Monaco; Morocco; Serbia (Serbia); Slovenia; Spain; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Mediterranean and Black Sea
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: 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 (Bilecenoglu pers. comm. 2008).

Catches are known to occur in all the Mediterranean Sea states where driftnet and longline fishing is carried out (STECF 2007). Landings data are limited, but appear to have increased in the most recent years, certainly over a level of about 100t, even considering that very few countries (Italy, Spain and Portugal) are reporting their catches to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In 2005 and 2006 catches have shown fluctuations. The geographic distribution of the species appears to be influenced by oceanographic conditions.

There are no visible trends in International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) data as only a few countries report their data.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This is a epipelagic 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). It probably swims in the upper 200m water layer, generally above or within the thermocline. It travels in pairs, which possibly corresponds to a feeding behaviour. It feeds on pelagic fishes. Spawning occurs in the spring (Sparta 1953, 1961).

Maximum size exceeds 240 cm in body length and 70 kg in weight. The all-tackle game fish record is of a 41.2 kg fish taken off Madeira (IGFA 2011). Little is known about the biology of this species.
Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Species taken mainly as bycatch and also in sportsfisheries.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Taken at the surface by harpoons, longlines, driftnets and set nets incidental to fishing for swordfish, bluefin tuna, and albacore (Nakamura 1985, STECF 2009).

This is a species with minor commercial importance. It 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. 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 (FAO Fisheries Department, 1994).

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 (STECF 2009).

Citation: Collette, B., Bizsel, K., Boustany, A., Carpenter, K.E., Di Natale, A., Fox, W., Graves, J., Juan Jorda, M., Masuti, E., Nelson, R. & Oxenford, H. 2011. Tetrapturus belone. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 30 May 2015.
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