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).

Bibliography [top]

Collette, B.B., McDowell, J.R. and Graves, J.E. 2006. Phylogeny of recent billfishes (Xiphioidei). Bulletin of Marine Science 79(3): 455-468.

De Sylva, D.P. 1975. Synopsis of biological data on the Mediterranean Spearfish, Tetrapturus belone Rafinesque. NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS Spec. Sci. Rep.Fish. 675(3): 121-131.

Fossi, M.C., Casini, S. C. Marsili, L., Neri, G., Mori, G., Ancora, S., Moscatelli, A., Ausili, A., Notarbartolo-di-Sciara, G. 2002. Biomarkers for endocrine distruptors in three species of Mediterranean large pelagic fish. Marine Environmental Research 54(3-5): 667-671.

Hanner, R., Floyd, R., Bernard, A., Collette, B.B. and Shivji, M. 2011. DNA barcoding of billfishes. Mitochondrial DNA 22(S1): 1-10.

Hattour, A. 2006. Premiere observation du marlin de Mediterranee Tetrapturus belone Rafinesque 1810 dans les eaux septentrionales de la Tunisie. Bull. Inst. Natn. Tech. Mer de Salammbo 33: 127-130.

IGFA. 2014. International Game Fish Association World Record Game Fishes. Three Kings, New Zealand.

IUCN. 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.2). Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2011).

Kitchell JF, Martell SJD, Walters CJ, Jensen OP, Kaplan IC, Watters J, Essington TE, Boggs CH. 2006. Billfishes in an ecosystem context. Bulletin of Marine Science 79(3): 669-682.

Nakamura, I. 1985. Billfishes of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of marlins, sailfishes, spearfishes and swordfishes known to date. FAO Fish. Synop.

Robins, C.R. and de Sylva, D.P. 1963. A new western Atlantic Spearfish, Tetrapturus pfluegeri, with a redescription of the Mediterranean Spearfish, Tetrapturus belone. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean 13: 84-122.

Robins, C.R. and D.P. de Sylva. 1961. Description and relationships of the Longbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus belone, based on western North Atlantic specimens. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean 10: 383-413.

Sparta, A. 1953. Uova e larve di Tetrapturus belone Raf. e sue forme postlarvali. Boll. Pesca Piscic. Idrobiol. 8(1): 58-62.

Sparta, A. 1961. Biologica e pesca di Tetrapturus belone Raf. e sue forme postlarvali. Boll. Pesca Piscic. Idrobiol. 15(1): 20-24.

STECF. 2007. Review of Scientific Advice for 2008: Consolidated Advice on Stocks of Interest to the European Community. Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, Brussels: 333.

STECF. 2009. Review of Scientific Advice for 2010 Part 2. Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, Vigo, Spain.

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 23 May 2015.
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