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Great Marlin Race Winner named

An Electronically Tagged Blue Marlin Wins the Third Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament Great Marlin Race  

The third annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament Great Marlin Race was won by “West Marie,” a 170-pound Pacific blue marlin caught by angler Ed Abele and tagged by Captain Marlin Parker on board his boat the Marlin Magic II. The electronic tag, sponsored through a West Marine BlueFuture Conservation Grant, was deployed on August 8, 2011 off the Big Island’s Kona Coast. Stanford University marine biologists report that the tag released from the marlin after 121 days, approximately 2,188 nautical miles from the tagging location, in a region north of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Remarkably, this marlin swam south across the equator in less than 4 months.

“I am amazed at how quickly blue marlin travel the surface waters connecting the two hemispheres,” said Stanford University professor of marine sciences Barbara Block, “These are oceanic travelers who are using international waters, crossing many national boundaries quickly.”

This was one of two marlin tagged during the 2011 HIBT Great Marlin Race to travel to the Southern Hemisphere. The other, a 330-lb. fish tagged on behalf of Laguna Niguel Billfish Club on August 2, surfaced two days earlier after having traveled 1,752 miles from Kona – about 525 miles west-northwest of the winner, putting it in second place for the race.

Of the 10 tags deployed as part of this event, 6 surfaced along a broad swath of ocean southeast of the Hawaiian Islands. Marlin tagged during the 2009 GMR behaved similarly, with 3 of the 10 tags deployed  in that year ultimately showing up near the Marquesas. This is quite different, however, from the results in the 2010 Race – when all but one of the marlin traveled mostly east from Hawaii, and no tags reported from the Southern Hemisphere.

“The variability in these tracks from year to year is as interesting as the similarities among them,” said Stanford University marine biologist and GMR co-founder Randy Kochevar, “It illustrates the importance of gathering data over several years to understand the broad migration patterns of these fish.”

The Great Marlin Race is a collaborative conservation research project involving Stanford University and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). The Great Marlin Race concept was initially developed in 2009 to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. This tournament has a long-standing history of supporting innovative conservation research efforts, and was the site of some of the earliest tests of electronic tags on billfish. Over the first three years of the HIBT event, a total of 30 Pacific blue marlin have been tagged with electronic tags, producing1,682 days of tracking data, with total point-to-point distances totaling more than 22,500 nautical miles.

In September, 2011 the IGFA launched the IGFA Great Marlin Race series at the San Juan International Billfish Tournament, which will be the first of several events around the world to host IGFA Great Marlin Race competitions. “The goal,” explains IGFA conservation director Jason Schratwieser, “Is to deploy 50 electronic tags per year on marlin at billfish tournaments all around the world, and to learn more about the biology of these animals across their entire range.”

Dr. Randy Kochevar

Great Marlin Race, Stanford University