Marlin or Spearfish

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

marlin or spearfish the name for several large billfish, in the genera Makaira and Tetrapturus.

All marlin are large, powerful swimmers and are sought after as game fishes and also because they make good eating. The best known are:

  • Atlantic blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, length around 3 m (10'), maximum recorded weight 580 kg (1,300 lb). Found throughout the warm waters of the Atlantic. Common names, such as the Spanish aguja azul, mostly mean ‘blue marlin’.

  • Atlantic white marlin, Tetrapturus albidus, up to 2.5 m (8'), known throughout the W. Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Brazil and probably also in warm waters of the E. Atlantic.

  • Mediterranean spearfish/marlin, T. belone. It may reach a length of nearly 2.5 m (8'), has a relatively short bill, and is taken incidentally in the course of fisheries for swordfish and tuna. Aguglia imperiale in Italian, pastardella in Malta.

  • Striped marlin, T. audax, up to 3 m (10'), the most important member of the family in the Indo-Pacific. Bears 15 or so white or pale blue stripes on its dark steel-coloured body. Makajiki in Japan.

  • Black marlin, Makaira indica, a common Indo-Pacific species, which used to be called white marlin, a direct translation of the Japanese name shirokajiki, which was in turn bestowed because the dark colour of this fish changes to white after death.

  • Indo-Pacific blue marlin, M. mazara, one of the largest (maximum weight over 900 kg/2,000 lb), blue-black over silver, with the 15 or so pale vertical stripes which so many of these marlins sport. Known in Japan as kuro-kajiki, which means ‘black marlin’ and resulted in the species being known in English for a time under that name (cf. the confusion over white marlin noted above).