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 might have impacted past assessments of white marlin population sizes, the research team conducted computer simulation studies which calculated historical population size trends for each species individually. Since the past ratios of roundscale spearfish to white marlin are unknown, the researchers also examined how variations in these ratios would impact the projections of population size trends for each species. The results of these computer simulations illustrated that variations in the ratio of the two species could indeed alter projections of white marlin population sizes, highlighting the influence that species misidentifications could have on the accuracy of past assessments.
For example, the most recent population assessment conducted by the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for white marlin in 2006 indicated a slight increasing trend in its population sizes, which was one of several reasons for its removal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Species of Concern List. However, based on the computer simulations conducted in the new study, whether this was, or was not, the right call cannot be determined without a breakdown of the two species ratios over time.
"It's remarkable how a simple case of mistaken identity can muddy what we thought we knew about a species from decades of study. This case points to the importance of making sure we know what species are out there in the first place", said Mahmood Shivji, Director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, who co-led the study. "Furthermore, it's important to realize that we are also dealing with the existence of another large oceanic species, the roundscale spearfish, about which we know almost nothing and whose populations may be declining, steady or even on the rise"
"Obtaining a robust picture of white marlin population status will require conducting population assessments with updated roundscale spearfish proportions", said Lawrence Beerkircher. "New species-specific monitoring measures will be essential for achieving this goal and aiding rebuilding of white marlin populations."
NOAA Fisheries Service's Southeast Fisheries Science Center conducts multi-disciplinary research programs to provide management information to support national and regional programs of NMFS; and to respond to the needs of Regional Fishery Management Councils, Interstate and International Fishery Commission, Fishery Development Foundations, government agencies, and the general public. The SEFSC website is: http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/.
The Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, Florida, conducts basic and applied scientific research needed for effective conservation, biodiversity maintenance and understanding of the world's wild fishes. For more information, please visit http://www.nova.edu/ocean/ghri.
Ken Ma | EurekAlert!
Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences