Second dorsal fin slightly anterior to second anal fin
Pelvic fins narrow and long, but not reaching to near anus
Bill stoutest of the 3 marlins, covered in large sharp denticles
Lower jaw short and stocky, often turned downward at tip
Flesh pinkish white to greyish
Height of anterior portion of first dorsal fin lower than body depth, dropping even lower level with pectoral fin-base (tall for much of its length in individuals <50 kg)
Pectoral fins sickle shaped, rigid and not able to be folded against body (although more flexible in juveniles and individuals <15 kg)
Single lateral line (only obvious in individuals <25 kg)
Upper surfaces blackish to dark blue; bronze sheen along sides; silver below. All fins dark except anal fin which is pale. Juveniles sometimes show vertical stripes similar to that of striped marlin. Colours fading after death as condition is lost.
To 450 cm TL and up to 700 kg in weight.1
Important conditions and life stages:
First dorsal fin tall for much of its length
Vertical stripes sometimes present
Pectoral fins flexible in individuals less than around 15 kg, otherwise rigid, unable to be folded against body
Tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo–Pacific.
No FAO distribution map available.
Epipelagic in oceanic waters, found at depths from the surface to at least 915 m.2
Highly migratory; most densely distributed in waters close to coasts and islands. Feeds mostly on small tuna but also other small fishes, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Size at 50% maturity estimated at 195 cm EFL, corresponding to 5.4 years of age for female black marlin off Taiwan.3 Maximum estimated age is 5–7 years for males and 11–13 years for females.4,5
Caught predominantly by longlining and set netting, but also by gill netting.
Istiophorus platypterus differs in having a sail-like dorsal fin, taller than maximum body depth along the majority of its length, tallest at mid-fin (vs. anterior portion of dorsal fin lower than body depth, posterior portion low) and pelvic-fin rays very long, almost reaching the anus (vs. short, far from reaching anus).
Kajikia audax differs in having pectoral fins which are leaf shaped (vs. curved/sickle-shaped) and are able to be folded against the sides of body (vs. rigid, unable to be folded against sides of body); first dorsal fin with a pointed tip (vs. slightly rounded); anterior portion of first dorsal fin equal to or greater than body depth (vs. height about half body depth); second dorsal fin slightly posterior to second anal fin (vs. second dorsal fin slightly anterior to second anal fin) and flesh orange (vs. pinkish white to greyish).
Makaira nigricans differs in having pectoral fins which are strap like (vs. curved/sickle shaped) and flexible, able to be folded flat against sides of body (vs. rigid, unable to be folded against sides of body) and second dorsal fin slightly posterior to second anal fin (vs. second dorsal fin slightly anterior to second dorsal fin).
Tetrapturus angustirostris differs in having a short bill, only slightly longer than lower jaw (vs. much longer than lower jaw); the anus located well anterior of first anal fin by a distance greater than the length of the first anal-fin base (vs. slightly anterior of the first anal fin by a distance less than length of the first anal-fin base) and a nape low to flat (vs. steep).
Xiphias gladius differs in having a bill that is flat-oval in cross section (vs. rounded); pelvic fins absent (vs. present); 1 median keel on caudal peduncle (vs. 2 keels) and a deep notch on both upper and lower profiles on caudal peduncle (vs. shallow notches).
IGFA. Database of IGFA angling records until 2001. IGFA Fort Lauderdale, USA; 2001.
Nakamura I. FAO Fisheries catalogue Vol. 5. Billfishes of the world: An annotated and illustrated catalogue of marlins, sailfishes, spearfishes and swordfishes known to date. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 1985.
Sun C-L, Chang H-Y, Liu T-Y, Yeh S-Z, Chang Y-J. Reproductive biology of the black marlin, Istiompax indica, off southwestern and eastern Taiwan. Fisheries Research. 2015;166:12–20.
Speare P. Age and growth of black marlin, Makaira indica, in east coast Australian waters. Marine and Freshwater Research. 2003;54(4):307–14.
Sun C-L, Yeh S-Z, Liu C-S, Su N-J, Chiang W-C. Age and growth of Black marlin (Istiompax indica) off eastern Taiwan. Fisheries Research. 2015;166:4–11.