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