White Marlin ESA "Listing" Petition

Fish of Florida: White Marlin

Are White Marlin In Trouble?
What Do YOU Think?
graph showing estimated decline in abundance of Atlantic white marlin, 1960-1999 (source: ICCAT/SCRS)
Main Components of the Petition
News Release (summary)
Petition (100+ pages)
Some formatting was lost on conversion to html. Contact us if you would like a correct version e-mailed or mailed to you.
Appendices (not included)
NMFS' Response 90-day Federal Register notice saying that the petition presented substantial scientific information indicating listing may be warranted. NMFS is initiating a status review. It is also soliciting information from the public on the species and on its critical habitats.
How Could NMFS ActNMFS' approach for dealing with major vs. minor activities affecting "listed" salmon and steelhead on the west coast is described in a NOAA News Release for Constituents issued 8/23/01.
Source: Executive Summary Report, ICCAT/SCRS
2000 Stock Assessment for White Marlin
Recommended Longline Closure Areas  Maps showing the location of the "hot spots" of white (and blue) marlin - their primary spawning and feeding areas - that should be closed to longlines.
  Sonar - Another Threat The U.S. Navy's low frequency high intensity sonar will produce a Texas sized "kill zone" that can affect not only whales and other marine mammals but also any of the large pelagic species - billfish, tunas, sharks - and their prey.

image of white marlin by artist, Ron Pittard

What Can YOU Do?

Become a Sponsor- Help protect marlin, bluefin tuna, swordfish, sailfish and the other large pelagic species by supporting our work financially. To do so, go to:                BigMarineFish.com/sponsor.html

Get political - contact your federal officials, including your two Senators and your Representative in Congress.


On September 3, 2002, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced it had chosen not to list the white marlin as endangered. (NMFS did NOT address whether the species should be listed as threatened.) In doing so, NMFS admitted that by the end of 2000 the population had declined to 6% of its carrying capacity (the "virgin" abundance existing before longlining began in 1960) and that it had been declining steadily by 3% each year since 1982. However, incredibly, NMFS took the position that only when the species' abundance had declined to 1% of its carrying capacity would it consider white marlin at risk of extinction. At the white marlin's current rate of decline (depicted in the graph above) and without further significant reductions in its mortality, that should occur in less than 5 years. In doing nothing, NMFS has chosen to protect the longliners rather than the white marlin.


On September 18, 2003, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) jointly served notice to the Secretary of Commerce and Director of NMFS that they intended to sue in federal court within 60 days. Specifically, CBD and TIRN stated "NMFS's determination that listing of the white marlin is "not warranted" violates the specific mandates of the ESA ... Such determination is arbitrary and capricious ... If NMFS does not act within 60 days to correct this violation of the ESA, the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network will pursue litigation in Federal Court against NMFS." A copy of the 60-day notice can be found here

On January 14, 2004, the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. A copy of the press release can be found here and a copy of the formal complaint (18 pages) can be found here.  Settlement talks are underway focused on achieving the following:


See the maps (links below entitled Critical Habitat Maps) showing the North Atlantic white marlin's critical habitat - its primary spawning and feeding areas. We call them their "hot spots." To read our recommendations to NMFS on which areas should be closed to longlines as "critical habitat" of North Atlantic white marlin and blue marlin, see the link below (entitled "Hot Spots" are the White Marlin's Critical Habitats).  To see maps of the locations of  our recommended longline closures to protect white marlin, click here.

"Hot spots" that should be closed are not just the areas where the longliners fish most heavily. As can be seen in the following plots showing the yearly extent of U.S. longline vessels' sets (
1992, 1995, 1996 and 1997), longliners are covering a much greater area of the North Atlantic than just the area of these "hot spots." In fact, we estimate that closing all the white marlin's "hot spots" in the North Atlantic would deny U.S. longliners access to only about 2% of the area they normally fish. But, it would eliminate about 85% of their often fatal interactions with white marlin.

This is important because, based on all the information available, we are convinced that there is not one Atlantic-wide population of white marlin, but two. The South Atlantic population appears to spawn off the northern coast of Brazil (Royal Charlotte Bank area) during late spring-early summer in the southern hemisphere (probably peaking in November-early December). The North Atlantic population ("our" white marlin) spawns in the Caribbean region during late spring-early summer (peaking in May-early June). From 10 years of longline catch records by quarter we know that it is concentrated in the large gaps between the larger islands of the Caribbean (such as the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico where large concentrations of larval white marlin have recently been found). Thus, spawning by the North and South Atlantic populations of white marlin occurs 6 months apart and the two centers of spawning activity are 4,000 miles apart. Clearly, this is not a single Atlantic-wide population but two entirely distinct populations that do not interbreed. (The same is already accepted by the international scientific community for swordfish - 2 separate and distinct populations.) Overfishing on one population thus has absolutely no effect on the other.

We may not be able to save white marlin of the South Atlantic because that is totally dependent on international agreements at ICCAT. But, the U.S. can unilaterally protect the North Atlantic population to a great extent by prohibiting longlining in the white marlin's "hot spots" that are located in U.S. waters. This is true simply because, except for spawning, most of this population's members apparently spend a large part of their adult life in U.S. waters. It is important to understand that these same "hot spots" are also used at the same time of year and for the same purposes (spawning and feeding) by the North Atlantic swordfish and North Atlantic blue marlin. So, closing them to longlines will markedly benefit these two distinct populations as well.

Be sure to see the other sections of this website (links are below) for details on the population declines of each of the Atlantic Ocean's big fish.


If you want to help us prevent this species from sliding into extinction (as well as help protect declining populations of Atlantic blue marlin, swordfish, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, mako sharks, spearfish, sailfish and many other large pelagic species) become a Sponsor and support our efforts financially. You can also write to the Director of NMFS about the agency's approach to its responsibility for stewardship of our nation's living marine resources.   Address your letter to Dr. William T. Hogarth, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA/NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, USA.  (Email messages are not considered by NMFS as public comment.) Encourage others who care about the well-being of all these fish to do the same.

Major Sections of our Website

Swordfish, Marlin, Sailfish, Tunas and Sharks

Recommended "Hot Spot" Closures to Longlines
Critical Habitat Maps - White Marlin

Critical Habitat Maps - Blue Marlin

"Hot Spots" are the White Marlin's Critical Habitats

The Severity of Atlantic Population Declines (by species)

Articles about Big Game Fish and Fishing

Photos of Big Game Species

Wetlands, Estuaries, Rivers and Coastal Habitat

Importance to Marine Fish

Chambers and Associates


Become a Sponsor

List of All Pages on this Website


Chambers and Associates' logo by artist Ron Pittard
Chambers and Associates
9814 Kensington Parkway
Kensington Maryland 20895-3425
(T) 301-949-7778    (Fax) 301-949-3003

Live Moon Phase Display

Daily "Kill-o-Meter"

Longliners fish most heavily during the periods when the moon is brightest. So, this real-time image of the moon phase shows when the kill of swordfish is greatest and least. It also shows when the kill of blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, sharks, tunas, sea turtles, marine mammals and a host of other marine life is also greatest - even though they are not even targeted. For more, see link above.

What can You do to Help Save the Big Fish of the Atlantic?

Become one of our Sponsors

International Game Fish Association