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Kelly Verakis Blue Marlin Research Project
Project Name : Kelly Verakis Blue Marlin Research Project
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Kelly Verakis Blue Marlin Research Project
     The Makaira nigricans, also known as the blue marlin is one of the most high valued species too catch as a fisherman, well as to witness in person. The blue marlin is a very interesting species due to its name, habitat, physical descriptions, species status, and even interesting facts. This breathtaking animal is one to never be forgotten.
     The blue marlin is also classified as Anamalia, Chordata, Actinopterygii, Perciformes, Istiophoridae, Makaira nigricans (Anonymous B 2008, 1) where Makaira comes from the Latin word machaera meaning "sword" or "sword-like". This name refers to the long sword-like bill that the blue marlin uses for hunting, fighting, and protection. Makaira nigricans are commonly referred to as the Atlantic blue marlin, billfish, ocean gar, and ocean guard in English. The Europeans refer to them as abinico, aguja, castero, prieta, voladora, blauer marlin, and much more. (Gardieff 2010,2 & 3)  The blue marlin is commonly mistaken for its close relatives the swordfish and sailfish because of the similar bill sticking out  of their face. The way to identify the difference is through the coloration, and that the blue marlin is the biggest of the three.

     The Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Ocean are all home to the blue marlin, but the warm tropical waters of the Atlantic are where most are found. In the Pacific ocean, blue marlins are found anywhere between southern California all the way to Chile and Hawaii. In the Atlantic blue marlins range from New England, the Gulf of Mexico, the Carribean, and Uruguay. The shallow, warm waters are where blue marlins are most commonly found because they prefer to stay above the thermocline around the top thirty meters in the water. (Koechevar 2011,2) The blue marlin is not usually found near shore, but far out at sea. (Moifsky 2011, 2) Migration plays a big role in the life of a blue marlin. Every year, marlins travel long, routine distances. The seasonal migrations usually consist of moving towards the equator during winter for the warmer waters, and away again in the summer. (Anonymous C 2012, 3) Some migrations are not very long distances and cover only a few weeks, but others encompass the whole entire Atlantic ocean ans can take most of the life span of the blue marlin. (Anonymous B 2008, 3)

     The blue marlin, the largest of all billfish, is a very unique species when it comes to physical appearance. Unlike most species, the female is more impressive than the male. Weighing at 1200-1300 pounds, the female is three to four times larger than the male who weighs 350 pounds. The blue marlin can easily reach the length of 14 feet. Beautifully colored, the blue marlin can be a colbalt blue on top and a silvery white on bottom. Sometimes marlins have pale blue stripes and blue spots. (Gardieff 2010 ,6, 7, & 8) The upper jaw of the blue marlinis elongated like a spear or sword which is what the blue marlin is most commonly known for since it is a remarkable feature. Their tails are high and shaped like a crescent and their dorsal fins are pointed at the front end. Hexagonal shaped scales that have one or two points covers the blue marlin's body. (Anonymous C 2012 ,2) Their teeth are small and file-like.(Moifsky 2011 ,1) The blue marlin's body is cylindrical with two dorsal fins, pelvic fins, and a caudal peduncle. (Gardieff 2010 ,6) Another amazing feature that the blue marlin has is that it can change their coloration to a bright blue while they are hunting, making it difficult for their prey to see them. (Moifsky 2011 ,5)

     As a predator, the blue marlin is a very swift, fierce, and fast species. The blue marlin's diet consists of squid, mackerel, tuna, sardines, octopus, and occasionally some deep sea fish. (Gardieff 2010 ,9) Hunting takes place during the day time, most of the time by themselves, but occasionally they will hunt in schools.(Anonymous C 2012 ,4) When hunting in schools, blue marlins use their color change to signal other hunting members that are planning on attacking prey. (Moifsky 2011 ,5) Swimming at high speeds, the blue marlin will go through a school of small fish whacking and slashing his bill around to stun or kill fish . They then immediately return to the dead or stunned fish to eat. The blue marlin is known for being very aggressive and very serious about hunting. (Anonymous B 2008 ,5)

     The blue marlin, known for its speed and hydrodynamics, is an amazing swimmer. The speed and stamina of this fish is all due to the lateral keels on the caudal peduncle it has. Also, the grooves on the pelvic fins help improve its hydrodynamics. (Gardieff 2010 ,6) The blue marlin has been clocked for traveling at speeds over 50 miles per hour.    

Reproduction, also known as spawning, takes place in the surrounding water (Tate 2009 ,1) during the summer.  Sexual maturity is reached two to five years of age. (Anonymous B 2008 ,4) Females release their eggs, and males release their sperm cells into the open ocean. No parental care is given to the blue marlin's young. The eggs float until tiny larval fish hatch out, usually one or two days after the fertilization takes place. Females can produce 30 million to 100 million eggs per year due to age and weight. The older and bigger they are, the more eggs they produce. This is part of the explanation why females are so much larger than the males, due to the energy it takes to produce so many eggs. The eggs are quiet small, averaging in .05 of an inch in diameter. However not all eggs are the same size because they are not all ready for spawning at the same time. Six batches of eggs are in the ovary at the start of every spawning season. Each "batch" is slightly different in age and size. Spawning takes place several times each season as the batches of eggs reach the right age and maturity to be ready for the releasement. Spawning several times a season results to a higher success rateof the eggs hatching because if one batch is unsuccessful, it is more likely another one will be. A large male blue marlin may produce up to 200 billion sperm cells to ensure fertilization of the eggs. Question arise due to this fact. People may ask  "Why is the male smaller if the male puts so many more sperm cells than the female does eggs?" The reason for this is the amount of energy that is put in. For instance, the females produce all of their eggs, which are much bigger than sperm cells, and the beggining of the spawning season, where as males can produce sperm cells continuously throughout the season, reducing their effort. (Tate 2009 ,1, 2, 3, 4,56 ,7, & 8). After hatching and making it past the predators such as plankton and other small organisms, the blue marlin larval eat zooplankton, fish eggs, and other larval organisms. (Moifsky 2011 ,3

     Even though the blue marlin is a fierce predator, it is prey to other prdators also. Predators of the blue marlin consist of the white shark and the shortfin mako. Twenty-eight different types of parasites are listed for the blue marlin. Some of these include different types of flukes, gillworms, tapeworms, round worms, spiny headed worms, copepods, banacles, fish, and even cookie-cutter sharks which are known to take bites out of the flesh of the blue marlin. (Gardieff 2010 ,11 & 12)

     The Blue marlin has been one of the most prized for fishing, resulting that it has been under great pressure for the past years. Thousands of tons of blue marlins are harvested annually by japanese and cubans from just the carribean alone. To help keep this species from going extinct, vesels are required to release any type of billfish captured anywhere within two hundred miles of the United States coastline. Even though the vessels must release them, the survival rate of the blue marlins captured, the survival rate is very low due to injury or even death. Even with all this said, the blue marlin is currently not listed as an endangered species because reproduction is very succesful. (Gardieff 2010 ,14)

     Recent studies on blue marlins and other types of billfish have been stirring because dead zones in the Atlantic ocean are expanding due to climate change. Dead zones are areas in the ocean where oxygen levels are very low and creatures cannot survive for long periods of time in them. As a result of the expanding dead zones, blue marlins and other types of billfish are forced to move to the suface for oxygen where they are more vulnerable to fishermen. Scientists tagged blue marlins with pop up sattelite tracking devices to record horizontal and vertical movement. The information recorded was then compared to fish movement around the same area of the low dissolved oxygen. Since blue marlins are so big, they require large amounts of oxygen intake.By comparing the blue marlin's movement and the location of the low oxygen areas, scientists found that the blue marlins travel deeper when oxygen levels are higher, and return back up to the surface when oxygen levels drop. Scientists then concluded that the dead zones need to be taken into account or many different types of species can be in huge danger. (NOAA 2011, 1,2, 3, 4, & 5)
     Other tagging studies showed how some blue marlins traveled from the Hawaiin islands all the way to the Galapagos islands in just ninty days. Sattelite tracking was used on one hunded- thirty to three hundred pound marlins for these studies. The tagging data provided a short- term view that was consistant and showed that the blue marlins were primarily at the surface, but occaisonally dove to deeper depths. (Koechevar 2011, 5 & 6)      

     The blue marlin is not only one of my favorite species, but it has a special place in my heart, and always will. When i was about eight years old, my mom and step-dad brought me to a park after school. We sat in silence for a few minutes. It was until my mom grabbed my hand and softly told me that my daddy is no longer with us. I always knew that my daddy loved to fish. Anyone who knew him knew this because he had about a dozen fishing poles, and he even made boats for a living. The water was his second home, just like mine. Some of my fondest memories of him were the simple ones when it would just be us to out on the lake catching a few small bass and trout together. It wasnt until after he had passed that I kew he liked to gpo deep sea fishing. I found this out becaus when I was flipping through old photos of him and found one of him with a really big fish. I asked my mom all about it, and she told me that my daddy had caught a blue marlin. She also told  me that that was one of his most proudest moments, other thann the day I was born. Ever since that day, the blue marlin has meant so much to me because it meant so much to my daddy. One day i hope to witness a blue marlin myself and have the pleasure my daddy had when he caught one. This picture to the right is of my daddy and his pal with their prized possesion. (My daddy is the one on the left.)

     All and all, Makaira nigricans is one of the worlds most stunninng creatures with amazing physical appearance, hunting skills ,speed, and much more. The blue marlin has been and will always be loved and treasured for all of its existance.

     1. Anonymous B 2008."Atlantic Blue Marlin"

     2. Anonymous C 2012.  "Description and Behavior of the Blue Marlin"

     3.Gardieff 2010. " Blue Marlin Description" 

     4.Kochevar 2011. "Blue Marlin"

     5.NOAA 2011. "Blue Marlin Studies"

     6. Tate 2009. "Blue Marlin Reproduction"