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First tags deployed in the International Great Marlin Race

By Staff | Dec 26, 2019

The Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) is not only the birthplace of the International Great Marlin Race (IGMR); it’s also the birthplace of marlin satellite tagging.

With the help of International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Trustee Bob Kurz, IGFA Representative Rick Gaffney and Dr. Barbara Block, ten tags were distributed for deployment by anglers during this year’s HIBT in Kona.

Dr. Block was the first person to ever deploy a satellite tag on a marlin, so it was only fitting that she was onboard the boat that caught the first blue marlin of the race.

IGFA Representative Marty Firestein caught the blue marlin fishing on the Second Offense, and Block had the honor of deploying the first tag of the race, which was sponsored by the Laguna Niguel Billfish Club.

The next marlin of the HIBT race was caught by Steve Philps fishing aboard the Mojo. The estimated 175-pound blue marlin was equipped with a tag sponsored by IGFA Representative Bob Odea and his wife, Patti, from Papua New Guinea.

A tag jointly sponsored by the Newport Game Fish Club and the Kona Game Fishing Club was deployed on the third blue marlin of the race, which was caught by Mark Zmijewski on the Marlin Magic II.

The last tag deployed, to date, was also sponsored by the Kona Game Fishing Club and was placed on an estimated 110-pound blue marlin caught by Dan Diez onboard the Northern Lights.

The remaining tags of the race are still out on Kona boats awaiting deployment on healthy blue marlin.

The HIBT is the IGMR’s longest continually running dataset, and we’ve seen some amazing things from tagged blue marlin over the years.

Most notably, HIBT deployments allowed Dr. Block’s lab to investigate how La Nina oceanographic conditions may preclude blue marlin from undertaking trans-equatorial migrations.

Research like this underscores the importance of multi-year deployments from the same location to enable scientists to investigate how dynamic oceanographic processes affect blue marlin behavior.

Since the program launched in 2011, the IGMR has tagged over 400 billfish in 21 countries, and logged over 218,000 nautical miles of movement.

Understanding where these animals go and how they utilize their habitat provides invaluable data to scientists and resource managers to help ensure long-term billfish conservation.

The IGMR has fundamentally changed the way that scientists, anglers and policymakers understand billfish.