Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Perciformes
(Perch-likes) > Istiophoridae
Etymology: Istiophorus: Greek, istios = sail + Greek, pherein = to carry (Ref. 45335). More on author: Shaw.
Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range
Marine; pelagic-oceanic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 200 m (Ref. 54238), usually 30 - ? m (Ref. 9688). Subtropical; 50°N - 43°S, 180°W - 180°E (Ref. 43)
Indo-Pacific: tropical and temperate waters approximately 45°- 50°N and 40°-35°S in the western Pacific, 35°N and 35°S in the eastern Pacific; 45°S in western Indian Ocean and 35°S in eastern Indian Ocean. Entered Mediterranean Sea from Red sea via Suez Canal. Highly migratory species, Annex I of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (Ref. 26139). Some authors recognize a single worldwide species, Istiophorus platypterus (Shaw & Nodder 1792) but we follow Nakamura 1990 (Ref. 10820) retaining the usage of Istiophorus platypterus for the Indo-Pacific sailfish and Istiophorus albicans for the Atlantic sailfish in recognition of the differences between them.
Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - 150 cm
Max length : 348 cm FL male/unsexed; (Ref. 40637); common length : 270 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 9308); max. published weight: 100.2 kg (Ref. 40637); max. reported age: 13 years (Ref. 53742)
soft rays: 12 - 15. This species is distinguished by the following characters: slender elongate and fairly compressed with a high, sail-like first dorsal fin; upper jaw prolonged into a very long beak, slender and round in cross-section; jaws and palatines with villiform teeth; no gill rakers; two dorsal fins, the first very large (42-49 rays) the second small (6-7 rays); pectoral fins 18-20 rays; pelvic fins I, 2 soft rays fused together, very long and narrow, depressible into a groove; caudal peduncle with double keels on each side; body covered with small, embedded scales with 1 or 2 blunt points. Colour of back dark with about 20 bluish vertical bars; belly pale silver; membrane of first dorsal fin blue- black with numerous dark spots; bases of first and second anal fins often tinged with silvery white; remaining fins blackish brown or dark blue (Ref. 43, 26938).
Oceanic and epipelagic species usually found above the thermocline. Most densely distributed in waters close to coasts and islands (Ref. 9688). Most likely schools by size. Undergoes spawning migrations in the Pacific. Feeds mainly on fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods. Caught mainly with longlines, set nets, and sometimes by trolling and harpooning from boats (Ref. 43). Utilized fresh, smoked and frozen; also used for sashimi and sushi; eaten broiled and baked (Ref. 9987).
Seems to spawn throughout the year in tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific with peak spawning occurring in the respective local summer seasons. Spawning occurs with males and females swimming in pairs or with two or three males chasing a single female (probably a mating behavior). The ripe ovarian eggs are about 0.85 mm in diameter and have a single oil globule; there are no structures on the vitalize membrane and the egg is transparent. Eggs shed from captured female in the Indian Ocean averaged 1.304 mm in diameter.
Nakamura, I., 1985. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 5. Billfishes of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of marlins, sailfishes, spearfishes and swordfishes known to date. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(5):65p. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 43)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 123251)
CITES (Ref. 118484)
Threat to humans
Fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes
ReferencesAquacultureAquaculture profileStrainsGeneticsAllele frequenciesHeritabilityDiseasesProcessingMass conversion
Estimates based on models
Preferred temperature (Ref. 115969
): 18.2 - 27.7, mean 25.6 °C (based on 513 cells).
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.7505 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00589 (0.00275 - 0.01263), b=3.14 (2.94 - 3.34), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this species & (Sub)family-body (Ref. 93245
Trophic level (Ref. 69278
): 4.5 ±0.3 se; based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 120179
): Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (rm=0.11; K=0.4-0.8; tmax=13; Fec=>2M).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): High to very high vulnerability (68 of 100) .