Population characteristics and biology of striped marlin, Tetrapturus audax in the New Zealand fishery : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science (MSc) in Physiology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) are apex predators in the pelagic ecosystem and are seasonally abundant in the off-shore waters of New Zealand during December through May. Data presented in this thesis were derived from a variety of fishing databases from New Zealand, Australia and United States as well as biological samples collected from east Northland New Zealand. This thesis may be used to help answer questions about growth and size structure, factors influencing conventional tag recoveries, and the trophic dynamics of striped marlin in the New Zealand fishery. Results show that the average weight of striped marlin in the New Zealand recreational fishery has declined between 1925-1944 (117.9 ± 0.6 kg) and 1985-2003 (96.6 ± 0.3 kg) (Means ± S.E.). The root causes of this average size decline are unknown but appear to be related to the expansion of a surface longline fishery in the southwest Pacific Ocean during 1958. Despite the large average size (104.9 ± 0.2 kg) of striped marlin from New Zealand, parameters estimated in the von Bertalanffy growth model (L∞3010 mm, K=0.22 annual and t 0=-0.04) do not show higher growth rates compared to Hawaii or Mexico. During their residency in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) the condition Wr (relative weight) of striped marlin improves from 95.1 ± 1.2 to 109.4 ± 3.4 and average weight increases from 98.1 ± 2.0 kg to 114.6 = 0.4 kg. These data imply that striped marlin migrate to New Zealand in order to take advantage of the abundant food resources and to improve condition after spawning in warmer waters to the north. Arrow squid (Nototodarus spp.), jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi) and saury (Scomberesox saurus) comprised a large portion of the diet from (n=20) striped marlin stomachs during March of 2004. Additionally, with a consumption rate of 0.962 to 1.28 kg of prey per day, striped marlin may consume the equivalent of 2.8-3.5% of New Zealand's current commercial catch of arrow squid and jack mackerel respectively. With concerns about declining pelagic fish stocks, tag-and-recovery programmes have become increasingly popular and over 50% of recreationally captured marlin in New Zealand are tagged and released annually. However, low tag recovery rates (<1.0%) have hindered progress in understanding growth, stock structure and migration patterns important for managing this species. Data from this study suggests that tag returns from striped marlin would increase if more fish were captured and released in less than 39 min and a greater number of small (< 89 kg) individuals were released. Tag recoveries and presumably post-release survivorship of striped marlin was reduced by increasing capture time and fish size. Rates of injury were lowest during capture times ranging from 20-29 min and in fish weighing 60-89 kg.