Blistering speed. Immense power. Ocean wanderers. These are just a few terms used to describe billfish. Another word that could be used is “threatened.”
Commonly referred to as swordfish, billfish are actually a group of 11 different species (not including swordfish, proper) that can grow to 14 feet long and close to 2,000 pounds. Roaming thousands of miles of open ocean in search of food and defending themselves from real-life versions of JAWS is just another day at the office for these amazing fish, but they are ill-equipped to handle our desire for seafood. As a result of billfish being caught on lines intended for swordfish and tuna, populations worldwide are on the decline. To effectively conserve these species we need to know more about their lives out in the open ocean.
Enter Crittercam. For the next two weeks, the National Geographic Crittercam program will be heading down to Tropic Star Lodge in the remote jungles of Panama to unlock the secret lives of billfish. Catch-and-release anglers flock to this remote jungle outpost every year to test their strength against giant black and blue marlin, happy to watch the fish swim away to be caught again another day. The difference now is that during our project, these fish will swim away wearing Crittercams.
These unique cameras will allow the marlin to film their lives away from human influence. The cameras also carry a tiny data pill which records depth and temperature allowing researchers to get a picture of the marlin’s entire life. In this way, we hope to learn about behaviors that have never been witnessed by humans (such as breeding), but are vital for billfish conservation. This information will also help improve catch-and-release fishing practices to ensure that these fish will roam the oceans for generations to come.