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IGMR Returns to Bermuda for Third Year of Sat Tagging

2015 Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship

 

For the third time, the IGFA Great Marlin Race (IGMR) is scheduled for Bermuda!

Bermuda Billfish Blast & Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship | July 3-23, 2017 | Hamilton, Bermuda

2015 was a great year for IGFA’s satellite tagging program: IGFA Great Marlin Race (IGMR). Not only did 2015 mark the first time that an IGMR event was held in Bermuda (the 18th country in the project), but it was the first time IGMR tags were deployed  off the east shore of North America in the North Atlantic,  making the data generated so interesting and valuable! During the 2015 Billfish Release Cup and Triple Crown Billfish Championship, nine tags went out on blue marlin weighing between 100-300 lbs. Of the nine marlin, six covered incredible ground with substantial movements across the Atlantic from west to east. In fact, two of the marlin tagged in the race swam all the way to Cape Verde! Combined, these six fish swam a total point to point distance of 10,043 nautical miles (nm) and an estimated total distance of 24,200 nm!

Needless to say, everyone was pretty excited about sat tagging the next year and eight more tags were sponsored for deployment the following summer during the 2016 Triple Crown. Although five of the eight were deployed on some healthy blues, we soon received word that all of the tags popped up after staying with the marlin between 6 and 75 days (recording 1,460 nm combined). And although there is risk, as with any wildlife tagging program, of early release or the tags not reporting at all, this was quite unusual given the successes in the inaugural event the previous summer. Wildlife Computers, the tag manufacturers, concluded that there was an issue with the tag’s nosecone causing the pin to sever before the scheduled pop-up date, resulting in the premature release of the tag. Determined to rectify the problem, Wildlife Computers replaced all of the tags (which will be deployed this summer during the 2017 Triple Crown Billfish Championship) and luckily, we were still able to glean some data from the longer deployments in the event.

Interestingly, the blue marlin tagged in 2016 took a much more northerly route compared to fish in 2015. Although one Fish tagged in 2015 spent some time north, the rest of the fish tagged in 2015 moved south east towards the equator.  There’s no indication of 2016 fish swimming south, but the tags didn’t stay with them long enough to know definitively. However, with three of the tags staying on the marlin for the full programmed duration of 240 days in 2015, we were able to get a good glimpse into their migratory behavior. The fact that two of the marlin swam all the way to Cape Verde could suggest potential vulnerability of this species to fisheries off the northwest coast of Africa and future tagging this summer will help us determine if these behaviors were anomalous, or representative of a wider pattern.

Tagging data from previous deployments in Bermuda as well as those from this upcoming tournament are being used to investigate migratory behavior of blue marlin as part of a regional Caribbean management program to enhance conservation of  these fish.

Contact: IGFA Conservation Coordinator Leah Baumwell at [email protected]