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Great Marlin Race provides valuable data

By Staff | Dec 18, 2014

The original Great Marlin Race was initiated in 2009 by Dr. Barbara Block with Stanford University and International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) representative Robert Kurz with the guidance of Peter Fithian, IGFA trustee and chairman of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, to commemorate the 50th year of the HIBT. Tournament teams, individuals or clubs sponsor satellite tags. Each tag is programmed to pop off the fish 180 days after it is deployed.

Once the tag pops off, information is transmitted to a satellite and then to scientists at Stanford University. The data is then processed so that anglers can see graphical representations of the track of each fish on the IGFA Great Marlin Race. In a tournament, the tag that surfaces farthest from where it was initially deployed wins the race for that tournament. The overall winner of the annual IGMA is the fish that travels the furthest in all the participating IGMA events for the year, from Oct. 1 to Sept. 31, based upon when tags pop off.

Follow the IGFA Great Marlin Race with the latest satellite tag pop-ups on the IGMR website. Real-time satellite tag pop-ups are added to the site as they happen. Anglers can learn about each marlin and their route of travel over the 180 days while at liberty. Visit www.igfa.org and click on the “IGMR Science” logo.

Satellite tagging reveals interesting behavior of Pacific blue marlin. IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser said, “Satellite tags are greatly enhancing our body of knowledge on billfish behavior due to their ability to collect massive amounts of data, and because they do not need to be recovered to obtain the information they collect.”

They have learned that blue marlin tagged at all the IGMR races exhibit a consistent pattern in their depth distribution. The marlin spend the majority of their time (around 60 percent) in the top 16-33 feet of the water column. When they are not near the surface, they primarily swim between 165 and 330 feet below the surface.

At the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament in Kona – the longest-running IGMR event – tagged marlin have consistently exhibited this bimodal depth distribution across all of the four years of races.