News Release
    Wednesday, May 02, 2012
    Media contact: Amanda Nalley, 850-410-4943

    Billfish anglers will no longer need to question whether the fish they just boated is a white
    marlin or the similar-looking and once-prohibited roundscale spearfish.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted Wednesday to allow
    harvest of the species in Florida state waters at its May 2-3 Commission meeting.

    This change includes adding roundscale spearfish to the one-billfish bag and possession
    limit and the creation of a 66-inch minimum size limit when measured from the lower jaw to
    the fork of the tail.

    Roundscale spearfish harvest has been prohibited in state waters since 1999 because the
    fish rarely comes into Florida waters. State waters are from shore to three miles in the
    Atlantic and from shore to nine miles in the Gulf. Federal waters begin where state waters
    end. But the fish is often confused with white marlin. Genetic testing of tournament entries
    along the Atlantic coast shows that about 19 percent of tournament-winning white marlin
    were actually roundscale spearfish.

    Federal fishery managers allowed roundscale spearfish harvest in federal waters off the
    coast of Florida but considered roundscale spearfish to be the same species as white
    marlin. Recently, the NOAA Highly Migratory Species Division, the group that makes federal
    management plans for species such as roundscale spearfish, determined the fish was a
    separate species and began managing it as such.

    These federal and state changes will increase the amount of data collected on roundscale
    spearfish, helping the FWC and NOAA better understand the species and its role in our

    Angling for billfish? The best way to tell the difference between a white marlin and a
    roundscale spearfish is to measure the distance between the front edge of the fish’s anal
    fin (located on the underside of the fish, near the tail) to the vent. As shown in the
    photograph below, the distance between the anal fin and the vent is longer on a roundscale
    spearfish than it is on a white marlin.

    The scales in the middle of the fish’s body are also different on the two species, with the
    roundscale’s being coarser in texture than those of a white marlin.

    (Photos courtesy of NOAA Fisheries and NOVA Southeastern)

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission • Farris Bryant Building
    620 S. Meridian St. • Tallahassee, FL
    32399-1600 • (850) 488-4676

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Commissioners open roundscale spearfish for harvest in state waters
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