Results of the 1998 Billfish Angler Survey
Since 1969 the International Billfish Angler Survey has provided information on recreational anglers' billfish catch and fishing effort by location. Long-term trends in angler catch rates by specific area are important in understanding the impact of fisheries on billfish resources.
In 1998, 570 billfish anglers reported catching 3,519 billfish during 8,159 fishing days. The overall CPUE (measured in catch per day fished) for 1998 was 0.42 billfish per angler-day, compared to 0.44 billfish per angler-day for 1997. The total number of angler-days reported for 1998 decreased nearly 30% from the previous year. The 1998 overall catch rate (0.42) is slightly lower than the prior 4-year average of 0.47 (1994 to 1997). The highest reported catch rate (0.57 billfish per angler-day) occurred during the first years of this survey (1969 to 1971). The lowest catch rates occurred in the mid-1970s, averaging about 0.34 billfish per angler-day.
In 1998, a high catch rate for striped marlin (0.41) was reported at the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico; the catch rate for all of Mexico was 0.33. High catch rates were reported for blue marlin in Hawaii (0.29), Solomon Islands (0.21), Mauritius (0.29), Kiribati (0.23), and Tahiti (0.36). Australia (0.23) and Panama (0.13) reported the highest catch rates for black marlin. Excellent fishing for sailfish was reported from Mazatlan, Mexico, southward through southern Mexico (0.61), Guatemala (3.45), Costa Rica (1.54), and Panama (0.83). Anglers in the Indian Ocean reported 4.05 sailfish per angler-day, with excellent fishing in the Persian Gulf (United Arab Emirates, 5.81) and Kenya (0.80).
Billfish Tagging Program Results
The Billfish Tagging Program utilizes release and recapture data from tagged billfish to determine movement, distribution, and growth patterns of billfish. The program encourages the participation and cooperation of recreational anglers, sportfishing organizations, and commercial fishers. Since the program’s inception in 1963, more than 44,400 billfish have been tagged and released throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. As a result, the program’s tagging priorities occasionally change to emphasize current needs. The current emphasis is the tagging of swordfish, striped marlin, blue marlin, and black marlin from all areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the tagging of sailfish from selected areas only. Tagging of other species such as tunas, wahoo, and sharks is outside the scope of current studies.
The billfish tagging report cards received in 1998 indicate a total of 618 billfish were tagged and released by 368 anglers and 182 fishing captains. This is 28% fewer tags released than in 1997. The number of striped marlin tagged off southern California remained about the same at 99; the 4-year average is 98. Far fewer tags were released in Hawaiian waters than in past years: only 220 billfish were tagged, compared to an average of 540 in recent years. Tagging off Baja California Sur, Mexico, also remained similar to past levels. Twelve recaptures were reported in 1998: 2 striped marlin, 5 sailfish, 1 shortfin mako shark, 2 common thresher sharks, 1 wahoo, and 1 unidentified billfish.
Other Tagging Program Activities
During 1998 the FRD and the Billfish Foundation continued a joint analysis of their tagging data for the Pacific region. The SWFSC also furnished tagging supplies to tournament anglers, including participants in the first AFTCO Pacific Tag-Flag Tournament. The tournament promotes the conservation of highly migratory species through tag and release programs and is supported by numerous organizations, including the International Game Fishing Association, the Billfish Foundation, the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, the American Sportfishing Organization, and many popular sportfishing publications. The SWFSC supplied tagging supplies to participating anglers and provided AFTCO officials with the results of our 1998 billfish tag releases.
Also, the design of billfish tags changed this year, and the Center began supplying the new highly migratory (HM) tags and new applicator pins. Studies show the HM series tags with nylon anchor tips have superior tag retention characteristics and result in fewer wound infections.