In April 2018 at the Guatemala Celebrity Pro-am invitation fishing tournament, University of Miami researchers deployed 10 satellite tags off the coast of Guatemala to study the behavior and habitat use of sailfish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO). Of the 10 satellite tags, 7 produced high quality data sets while 1 tagged sailfish was caught by commercial fisherman off Mexico and 1 tagged sailfish died due to post release mortality. The final remaining tag status remains unknown and likely represents a mortality or fishery event.
Of the 7 tags with data, no sailfish traveled eastward toward El Salvador and Nicaragua while all tagged sailfish traveled westward, northwestward or southwestward (Figure 1 Top). This is consistent with the majority of sailfish tagged throughout the EPO.
Figure 1: (Top) Map of seven satellite tags placed on sailfish off Guatemala in April 2018. (Bottom) Zoomed in map of sailfish tag density created from satellite tag data showing regions of highest sailfish presence in shades of blue with darker shades inidicating higher levels of tag density.
Sailfish traveled to regions known to be productivity hotspots such as the San Jose Canyon off the coast of Guatemala and the Tehuantepec upwelling system south of the Mexican coast indicated by the darker blue in Figure 1 bottom plot. Tagged sailfish tended to immediately leave the tagging location after the tagging event but only 2 of these made long distance migratory movements outside of the EPO region toward the west. The majority of sailfish stayed in the region with multiple sailfish returning to the relative location where tagging occurred.
The likelihood of sailfish to remain coastal within the Guatemalan economic zone region is critical for management and conservation as measures to protect this species within Guatemala may be more effective than in other locales given the high density of local sailfish. Through regional conservation regulations such as those put in place by the Guatemala Sailfish Conservation Commission, it will be possible to maintain the high catch rates seen historically in the region.
Sailfish preference for specific habitat ranges can be obtained from the tagging data and when analyzed next to sea surface temperature, a clear preference for the EPO warm pool is present (Figure 2). Here we see a preference for waters between 29o and 30o Celsius with a range of 26o to 32o Celsius. This is just one example of sailfish preference estimation made possible with the use of satellite tagging data and available satellite oceanographic information.
We knew this was going to happen, but we didn’t know it would be this good! Since, its inception in 2016, The Guatemala Billfish Invitational has grown through the years. Past guests still feel like they are on Cloud 9 after each event. The main purpose of the tournament has always been to raise awareness for the conservation efforts by The Sailfish Commission in Guatemala.
This year is no different, the fun 3-day tournament where like-minded anglers gather to socialize and fish in a relaxed environment all in support of a worthy cause is still running strong.
In the last few years, major milestones have been accomplished and the momentum the Guatemala Sailfish Commission is obtaining are yielding immediate results for all in Guatemala.
This event wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors; Accurate Reels, Biscayne Rod, YO-ZURI, Yeti, Costa, DEEP Apparel, Kingsailfish Mounts, Guy Harvey Magazine, Nautilus Reels, Squidnation, Hook + Gaff Watches, Fishtrack and many more. A special THANK YOU to our new and returning guests, who without them it wouldn’t be possible. And, our very own Niels Erichsen for putting in lots of hours to make sure everything runs on all cylinders.
For all who can’t make it this year… we will be posting daily all the festivities taking place via social media. If I were in your shoes… I would be thinking about reserving a spot in next year’s event… 🙂
During 20-24 April 2018, Pacific Fins organized the 3rd Annual Celebrity PRO-AM Fishing Tournament. As part of the tournament, Pacific Fins instituted an annual satellite tagging event to support the billfish research efforts of University of Miami researchers Dr. Nelson Ehrhardt, and Doctoral Candidates Bruce Pohlot and Julie Brown.
The research aims at understanding behavior of billfish subjected to catch-and-release with the purpose of improving recreational fish handling and revival before release. This research is critically important due to the very shallow depth of the minimum Dissolved Oxygen (DO2) layer compressing the billfish habitat off Guatemala. Billfish cannot maintain sufficient oxygen for survival below the minimum DO2 layer. Oceanographic data collected by the investigators during the time of the tournament shows that minimum DO2 for survivorship of billfish was less than 7 meters (21 ft) from the surface; therefore, it is intuitive that if released fish is not properly handled it may enter the low DO2 region before it can regain normal behavior and become available to recreational fishing.
In addition, the results of the research will measure the percent retention of the tagged fish by local coastal longliners that operate in the same area shared with the recreational fishing industry. Satellite tagged fish that escape handling mortality and longlining will explain the origin and destination of the billfish that are caught in this important tournament. Results of the April 2018 tagging event generated a large database that is still being analyzed and results will be presented at the next Celebrity PRO-AM Tournament in May 2019. Pacific Fins gratefully acknowledges the funding contributions to obtain the satellite tags, mostly provided by Tournament participants and Celebrities.
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About Pacific Fins
Pacific Fins Resort & Marina is Guatemala Fishing at its best. Our boutique hotel with private villas and suites is located in the world’s most productive billfishing destination. We offer all-inclusive fishing packages with a la carte dining, open bar, and custom, personalized service. Our setting on the water and attention to detail is unmatched in Guatemala.