Bimini, Bahamas- May 20th 2015- The International SeaKeepers Society and The Billfish Foundation have taken the first steps in a joint effort to develop new methods for determining billfish health in collaboration with Dr. Duncan Irschick, a functional and evolutionary morphologist from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While methods to measure billfish at sea already exist, these methods only involve measuring length to calculate weight. This new procedure will collect additional data, including girth of the fish and dorsal fin dimensions, to allow researchers to model each animal and access overall health of the fish more robustly. By collecting these measurements from billfish living in different regions of the world, researchers will further be able to compare billfish health among populations.
A preliminary expedition involved two days of trolling for billfish in waters off of North Bimini aboard the 54-foot Hatteras, Reel Buzz. Representatives from The International SeaKeepers Society and The Billfish Foundation were onboard for the initial fishing expedition. The short expedition gave the researchers the ability to test several measuring and photographic methods on a number of fish species. Unfortunately, no billfish were caught and tagged during the trip.
SeaKeepers and The Billfish Foundation are planning future expeditions with Dr. Irschick to continue method development for a more valid computation for weight and health by creating a user-friendly device to take volumetric measurements quickly at sea. Eventually, this work will promote more catch and release practices in sport fishing and provide a better understanding of billfish population health.
This is not the first time Dr. Irschick has worked with The International SeaKeepers Society. He has also participated in the SeaKeepers 2014 shark tagging expeditions at Tiger Beach, Bahamas.