Striped Marlin, Kajikia audax
The Striped Marlin, Kajikia audax, whose common Spanish name is marlin rayado, is a species in the family Istiophoridae, the Billfish, known as picudos in Mexico. Globally, there are only two species in the genus Kajikia, both found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific. Note: this fish has very recently been placed in the Kajikia genus having formerly been known as Tetrapturus audax.
The Striped Marlins have elongated fairly compressed bodies. They are dark blue dorsally and silver ventrally with a series of fifteen cobalt colored bars made up of round dots and/or narrow bands. Their first dorsal fin is dark blue, their other fins are dark brown, and the bases of their first and second anal fins are tinged with silvery white. Their head has a prolonged slender upper bill with a rounded cross section and relatively small eyes. Their mouth is equipped with small rasp-like teeth on both jaws. They have two anal fins, the first with pointed tips and 13 to 18 rays and the second with 5 or 6 rays; both fins are very similar in size and shape to the second dorsal fin. They have two dorsal fins; the first with a long base, 37 to 42 rays, and a pointed anterior lobe that is higher in the front and gradually decreases in height toward the rear; the second with 5 or 6 rays and slightly behind the second anal fin. Their caudal fin is deeply forked. Their pectoral fins are long and narrow with pointed tips and their pelvic fins are slender and similar in size to the pectoral fins. There are two keels on the side of their tail base. Their lateral line is visible and curved over the pectoral fins and straight toward the tail base. Their body is covered with small elongated bony scales.
The Striped Marlins are the most dominant and widely distributed of the billfish being an oceanic and epipelagic species that is highly migratory but usually found in coastal environments in tropical and subtropical waters above the thermocline at depths up to 1,500 feet. Scientifically they have been extensively studied, primarily via satellite tagging, but with mixed results: for example, a “catch and release” fish will behave abnormally for up to two weeks increasing its swimming speed significantly and also migrating very quickly far away from where it was caught. They are a non-schooling species and normally found as solitary individuals except during spawning season. They inhabit the surface at least 85% of the time swimming slowly with their upper caudal fin lobe above the surface and their dorsal fin retracted; this allows them to be visually distinguished from the swordfish, which have locked upright dorsal fins. They are only be found in waters with temperatures between 20o and 25oC. They reach a maximum length of 3.5 meters (11 feet 6 inches) with females being larger than males. The World Record caught in waters off New Zealand in 1986 is 224 kg (494 pounds). A Striped Marlin Weight from Length Conversion Table has been included in this website to allow the accurate determination of fish weight from length so these fish can be returned to the ocean unharmed (strongly recommended). They compete for the same food as other billfish, dorados, large sharks, large tuna, and wahoo. They are carnivorous and non-selective feeders stunning their prey with their elongated bill; they feed primarily on anchovies, cornetfish, jacks, mackerels, sardines, and squid. Once mature they are generally free from predation by other fish. Reproduction is via pelagic eggs. Juveniles are fast growing and seldom seen by humans. They have a lifespan of more than ten years. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific with the exception of the northern Sea of Cortez.
The Striped Marlin is most likely confused with the Blue Marlin, Makaira nigricans (blue coloration; dorsal height less than body depth; gradated first dorsal fin).
The Striped Marlins are a highly prized targeted big game species, primarily due to their abundance, phenomenal acrobatic areal displays when hooked, and strong stamina. The quality of the flesh is the best of the billfish. They are marketed fresh and frozen, and utilized primarily for sashimi and sushi. Annual catch rates are on the order of 10,000 to 15,000 tons with the majority of fish caught as a by-catch of commercial longliners targeting tuna who use as many as 2,000 hooks in one string. There are approximately 12,000 Striped Marlins caught annually in the greater Los Cabos area by sportsfishermen, the majority of which are 3 to 6 years old and weigh between 120 and 200 pounds. From a conservation perspective, their population is now in decline and considered “near threatened”, noting that very limited global conservation measures have been put in place.
A word of caution: these fish are ginormous wild animals and their spears are very dangerous!