Nine foot Blue marlin found on Welsh beach

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A fisherman has found a nine foot Blue marlin on a popular tourist beach in Pembrokeshire, south west Wales.

Gavin Davies was out for an early morning walk at Saundersfoot beach last week when he spotted the massive billfish rolling around in the surf.

He enlisted the help of four friends with a Land Rover to pull the fish up onto the shore. Mark Hamblin, a South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee Officer identified the fish as a Blue marlin, Makaira nigricans, a species that is exceptionally rare in UK waters.

Blue marlin are one of the world's largest bony fishes and are more common on the other side of the Atlantic where they are targeted as a big game fish by sport fishermen.

The fish, which resembles a swordfish, measured 2.75m/9' in length and weighed a massive 190kg/419Ibs, but the species can reach 5m/16.4' and weigh as much as 660kg/1440lbs.

Cause of deathThe cause of the marlin's death is not known, but experts have suggested that the fish may have by killed by dolphins which are currently abundant in the area.

The fish also appeared to be quite thin, suggesting that it may have been unwell or unable to feed in cool British waters.

Marlins typically live in clear warm water oceans where they are one of the top visual predators. The species rarely occurs further north than the southern part of the Bay of Biscay.

The long sword has recently been shown to be used for slashing and spearing prey, and analysis of gut contents of a large number of Blue marlin has revealed that prey are often impaled and severed before being eaten. (See Blue marlin uses bill to slash prey, News, 12 February 2007).

A number of anglers have suffered serious injuries from the fish, which often leaps from the water when hooked, after being impaled by its bill. (See Man impaled by giant fish, News, 8 August 2006.)

Incredible wanderersDouglas Herdson, Information Officer at the National Marine Aquarium said: The billfish are incredible wanderers of the open oceans of the world, but prefer warmer waters than ours. It is just the odd vagrant that strays into our seas and comes to grief. They are very unusual and it is a shame that this fish did not go into a national collection, such as that of the National Museum of Wales.

Herdson does not believe the finding has anything to do with climate change. This is just a straggler and probably has nothing to do with climate change, but in years to come if the sea temperatures continue to increase they may become commoner around our shores, if the stocks have not been fished down to depletion.

Rare visitorAccording to UK Marine Fish Recording Scheme figures, the specimen is only the second Blue marlin to ever be recorded from British or Irish waters and is the first ever from Wales.

The first specimen, which measured around 3.7m/12', washed up dead on a beach in the Isles of Scilly in 1982, a 1.8m/5'10 White marlin (Tetrapturus albidus) was found dying in Morecambe Bay in 1983, and a 2.66m/8'8 Sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) washed up in South Devon in 1926.

The Blue marlin is one of 11 species of marlin and sailfish, five of which have been found in the North East Atlantic and three of which have been found in UK waters.