How to Protect Endangered Marlin

Marlin, a fish distinguished by a long bill, brilliant colors and sleek body shapes that allow them to swim at extraordinary speeds are disappearing in staggering numbers.

Known for their beauty, they are also fished commercially and can be found on menus worldwide. Unfortunately, continued consumer demand for marlin in U.S. restaurants and at seafood retailers is endangering the future of this majestic fish.

Three major marine conservation groups, the International Game Fish Association, the National Coalition for Marine Conservation and the Billfish Foundation have teamed up to draw awareness to the plight of marlin.

“Take Marlin Off the Menu,” is a campaign urging consumers to stop eating marlin, and restaurants to take marlin and other billfish such as sailfish and spearfish off their menus.

In addition to being endangered, the three marine conservation groups also want to alert consumers and restaurant chefs about the potential health risks of eating marlin meat, which contains higher than normal levels of mercury.

If you still enjoy fish but want a better alternative, there are many options. When choosing what type of fish to eat, consider more sustainable species such as mahi mahi, halibut, wild (not farmed) salmon, trout, some types of tuna (albacore and skipjack), and some types of snapper (gray, lane, yellowtail).

Billfish populations have plunged over the past several decades as a direct result of commercial tuna and swordfish fleets that catch marlin by accident, according to Ellen Peel, president of The Billfish Foundation.

Commercial fishing accounts for more than 90 percent of annual marlin mortality. Many recreational fishermen now practice catch and release of marlin and other billfish, a conservation effort spreading throughout North America.

“We want to take a bite out of the commercial fishing of marlin and other billfish by persuading consumers and restaurant chefs that it’s simply uncool to eat marlin,” says Jason Schratwieser, director of conservation for the International Game Fish Association.

The “Take the Marlin Off The Menu” campaign is taking aim at U.S. restaurants and grocery stores primarily because the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of billfish. That’s despite laws that currently make it illegal to commercially harvest marlin, sailfish and spearfish from the Atlantic Ocean.

You can find marlin-free restaurants listed on campaign’s Web site, The campaign invites as many restaurants and seafood retailers as possible to take a “marlin free” pledge in exchange for having the campaign promote those businesses to hundreds of thousands of concerned consumers and recreational anglers throughout the U.S.

“There has never been more urgency than now,” says Ken Hinman, president of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation. “If we don’t stop the widespread consumption of billfish, these magnificent ocean predators will disappear from our seas. It’s simply that critical.”

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