Dolphinfish (C.hippurus) Recreational Fishing in the Mediterranean Sea

Enero 30, 2012 por webmaster


A CopeMed II contribution to:
CopeMed II - MedSudMed Workshop on Fisheries
and appraisal of Coryphaena hippurus
5-6 July, 2011
Palermo, Italy
Juan A. Camiñas
FAO-CopeMed II, Coordinator
Málaga (Spain), November 2011

CopeMed II Occasional Paper Nº 4
(GCP/INT/028/SPA – GCP/INT/006/EC)

CopeMed II (Co-ordination to Support Fisheries Management in the Western and
Central Mediterranean) is a project under the responsibility of the Fisheries and
Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), executed by the Marin and Inland Fisheries Service and
Coordinated from the Office of the Project in Málaga (Spain).
CopeMed II is financed by the DG Mare of the European Commission and the
Government of Spain.

CopeMed II Occasional Papers is a series of non peer
reviewed documents prepared in the frame of the
activities of the Project in cooperation with the CopeMed
II countries, other FAO Mediterranean projects or by
other reasons for: technical support to international
meetings, working group meetings, joint assessment
meetings on shared stocks within the CopeMed region
and with other FAO projects; and report concerning other
The documents included in the Occasional Papers series
are based on work carried out by researchers from the
institutions involved in CopeMed II, on contributions
prepared by external experts to the project and on joint
works organized by or with the support of other FAO
CopeMed II Occasional Papers are available on the
website of the CopeMed II Project

For reference, this document should be cited as follow:
Camiñas J.A., 2011. Dolphinfish (C. hippurus) recreational fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, a
theoretical tool for scientists and managers. A CopeMed II contribution to the CopeMed II -
MedSudMed Workshop on Fisheries and appraisal of Coryphaena hippurus (Palermo, Italy. 5-6
July, 2011). GCP/INT/028/SPA-GCP/INT/006/EC. CopeMed II Occasional Paper Nº 4: 7 pp.

1. Introduction
The participation of recreational fishing actors in the management process of some
fisheries resources is an opportunity for fishermen, scientists and administrations to
achieve the goals of the Code of Conduct for responsible fisheries of the FAO (FAO,
1995) and to improve the implementation of the principles and recommendations of the
Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAF) in the Mediterranean Sea, in the
framework of the GFCM.
The Code of Conduct promote the participation of all the interested domestic parties,
having a legitimate interest in the use of fisheries resources, in the management process,
by establishing arrangements for consulting them to gain their collaboration in achieving
responsible fisheries, and the (EAF) recommends the stakeholders participation. Such
participation may be implemented at many different levels of involvement of the
stakeholders in the management process in data collection, knowledge-building, option
analysis, decision-making and even implementation, including enforcement (Garcia et al,
The GFCM recognizes the important role of the recreational fisheries in fishery
management. Moreover, in 2010, a GFCM transversal meeting on recreational fisheries
was undertaking providing with recommendations to the 2010 GFCM meeting.

2. Dolphinfish fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea. The Spanish situation.
Dolphinfish is an epipelagic species inhabiting open waters, but also approaching the
coast following ships and assembling in small groups below floating objects. It has
pelagic eggs and larvae and spawning generally occurs during summer (June to
September). It is worldwide distributed in tropical and subtropical seas and is present in
the Mediterranean Sea. Fishing aggregation devices (FADs) are used to concentrate
Dolphinfish before the nets are set. It is caught by trolling and by tuna longlining, and
also occasionally with purse seines and driftnets (FAO Fish-Finder, 2011).
A traditional small-scale fishery is carried out in the central Mediterranean (Sicily, Malta
and Tunisia) and western part of the basin (Majorca Island) during summer-fall using
FADs. This highly migratory middle size pelagic fish seems to be a single stock in the
central-western Mediterranean and should be jointly managed (COPEMED, 2003). The
Balearic island artisanal fishery (Masutti & Morales Nin, 1995) means to be the most
important in Spanish waters.
This species is also recognized as a premier game and food fish wherever it is found.
Historically harvested almost wholly by recreational fishermen around the world, only in
recent decades caught the attention of commercial fishermen. Today the species is a
shared stock between recreational and commercial interests (Hammond, Cooperative
Science Services, LLC).
The bearing of recreational fisheries worldwide and in the Mediterranean is very
important, considering that only U.S. sports fishermen harvested more than 1.45 million
Dolphinfish from the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Caribbean in 2008. (MRFSS Data,
Dolphinfish Research Newsletter. August 2009).

Recreational fisheries are an important regional issue for the GFCM. A recent report of
the GFCM (GFCM, 2011) stated that basic recreational fisheries resource needs to be
well managed but information on the state and trends are largely lacking to support
recreational fishing regulations and management.
Recreational fisheries in Spanish Mediterranean waters are well developed, and the
Majorca recreational fisheries targeting Dolphinfish are well known by professional
artisanal fishermen and are or could be questioned due to conflicts between users.
According to the Confederation Española de Pesca Recreativa Responsable, Spanish
recreational fisheries consist of 100.000 boats and the socio-economic impact is 1.000
million € annually. This Confederation is an observer of the GFCM, participating in
different sub committees.

3. An approach to recreational fisheries information and data on Dolphinfish.
Recreational fisheries are very important in all the Mediterranean countries. Some studies
on recreational fisheries in Mediterranean countries were presented during the transversal
workshop of the GFCM (2010) referred to Italy (Colella et al., 2010), Balearic Islands in
Spain (Morales-Nin and Palmer, 2010), Turkey (Unal and Özgül, 2010), Maroc (Zahri
and Abdellaoui) including one presentation on spearfishing in Spain (Sagué Pla, 2010).
Recreational underwater fisheries are practically unknown from the point of view of the
number of fishermen, target species or production.
Studies on Dolphinfish captured, recreational fisheries and spearfishing are very rare. In
this document we propose to explore new digital formats that include information on this
species in the Mediterranean Sea in order to improve our knowledge and the biological
information as well as looking for new possibilities of monitoring and basic data
gathering. The aim is to facilitate the organisation of a monitoring framework including
most of the recreational fisheries information set as requested by the GFCM WG on
recreational fisheries.
A preliminary review of existing information on Spanish sport fishing fora websites has
begun in order to investigate whether biological and fishing information provided by
sport fishermen could be used to know more about the biology and ecology of
Dolphinfish in the Mediterranean. The review was done without intending to obtain
statistical data but to investigate whether that information could be used as an additional
valid source for researching into the state of the resource and applying this approach in
the Mediterranean region.
From the information of recreational fisheries websites and from the information
provided by the fishermen in digital fora, some conclusions that could improve
understanding of this species in the Spanish Mediterranean have been drawn and in some
way facilitate the development of a database sport fishing of this species.
As first attempt to test this methodology three websites were reviewed: the web, which includes information from Spanish fishermen in
the Mediterranean; the fishing forum web; and the website of the Spanish
Confederation of Responsible Recreational Fisheries
(, that is a confederation that brings together
13 associations and federations of recreational fishing from boats on the Spanish coast.

4. The recreational Dolphinfish fishery in Spanish Mediterranean Sea: Preliminary

The information obtained that can be useful for the WG include: date, fisherman base
location, fishing area, fishing depth, fishing period of the year, number of catch, weight
of the specimens, type of gear used, the destination of specimens (consumption,
distribution) and so on. A summary of the information obtained from the visited websites
is shown next:
Gear types and fishing methods: according to these forums, Dolphinfish boat fishing is
carried out in very different ways, from spinning and jigging to the more usual trolling. It
is also caught baiting the water with sardine to attract them. Since the species tends to
shelter, it is caught near the feeding and fattening aquaculture cages and using floating
devices. It is also mentioned that using trolls, once a specimen is attracted to the boat, if
left hooked in the water, the presence of the first one usually attract new specimens
increasing the boat captures.
Fishing strategy and fishing methods: it is highly varied, from which the one that go
fishing after consulting in a forum some information about the presence of specimens in
their area, to the ones that have information about the fishing season and abundance
because of their greater experience, or those mentioning that "we must observe any
movement of seabirds, floating debris or some fish shoals, that will guarantee a good
fishing". Some time detection of Dolphinfish schools is made by observing the sea birds
flying around FADs, the movement of the water surface, or other indicators.
Depth and fishing zones: are varied, from 60-70 m deep (Saint Pedro del Pinatar,
southern Murcia) to over 300 m (deep-sea for fishing competition) but it seems that
sometimes can be caught near the coast ("I saw 15 m from the coast the -queen of
Dolphinfish-, nearly 1m long one") or in lower depths (20 to 30 m in January in
Tarragona), or even in some bays (Alicante, December 2003). Fishing is reported in
Tarragona, Baleares, Valencia, Alicante, Murcia and Cabo de Gata (Andalucía).
Fishing seasons: the main fishing season runs from June to September (although in
November is reported in Majorca). Nevertheless captures are reported during the whole
year: in April 2004 a fisherman from Barcelona says: "I caught fifteen Dolphinfish and I
returned more than half of them to the water as they were so small, keeping the rest that
would not exceed 1 Kg". The fishing season varies from one area to another, being able
to get valuable information on the distribution areas and sizes in different mainland
coastal and Balearic Islands areas: "In June 2003, in Javea-Moraira it was caught a
specimen 15-25 miles from the coast. In Valencia, November 22, one was caught 30
miles from the coast. In Almería, very few reported in November 2003".
Sizes and / or weight of specimens catch: data tables can be made with sizes and / or
specimens weights information, in different areas and periods of the year. For example, it was
reported: "seven small Dolphinfish caught, all with little more than several inches (>20 cm)
on November 11, 2003. In October, in Alicante, 200 gr specimens. In December,
one specimen with a little less than 1 Kg in southern of Salou (Tarragona)”. What it is
clear from the anglers’ information is that mean length composition of the Dolphinfish
increase during the summer fishing season in Spanish waters.
Biology of the species: from October to December and in some cases in January, 200 gr
specimens are reported (Alicante, October 2003), and 1 Kg specimen (Tarragona,
December). Such kind of data may provide information about areas and recruitment on
the Spanish coast. In this period it is also commented that "the size is increased the entire
months of September and October, and then in November they disappear”.
Abundance in the sea: most fishermen give information about their fishing zones and if
the fishing is good or not, which could identify some key areas in the sea where adults
and juveniles are concentrated: "Near Denia there is a lot of Dolphinfish (April 2003),
most specimens with more than 1 Kg and some with more than 2kg".
Total catch per vessel: only some information of total catch, primarily in number of
specimens (from 200 to 1 or 2, with varied sizes). The comments, sometimes comment
total catch: "Catch may reach nearly 200 kg in 1 hour time of 3-4 Kg specimens in
Tabarca. In August, fish over 2 kg are caught in Alicante. 150-200 Dolphinfish were
caught 3 miles from San Carlos de la Rápita, in 6 hours, in 2007".
Spanish Confederation of Responsible Recreational Fishing
( it is a non-governmental, non-profit
organization that brings together several associations and federations of recreational sea
fishing in Spain. It is committed to promote the practice of responsible recreational
fishing, the spread of its code of conduct based on respect for the marine environment
and sustainability of fishery resources. According this Confederation, the Spanish fishery
represents 100.000 boats and the Socio-economic impact is 1.000 million € annually.
This Confederation is involved in scientific activities (mainly tagging programs) in
collaboration with Spanish scientific institutions: IEO, CSIC and AZTI, three important
marine research institutions in Spain.
Registers from National and International competition
Data on catch could also be obtained through the national and international competitions
registers. As an example we include here the International Federation of Sporting Sea-
Angling, ( with a register called F.I.P.S./M. Competition World
Record Catches with different lists where they include the biggest captures during
championships, including two Dolphinfish:
 Dolphinfish C. hippurus; 13,0 Kg; date: 24.06.2003 in Dakar, Senegal during the
World Championship; fisher: Carlos Garin, Spain
 Dolphinfish C. hippurus; 20,4 Kg; date: 26.08.2003 in Alicante , Spain during the
Club Championship; angler: Cristobal Miravet Sturm, Spain
This second record corresponds to a Dolphinfish captured in the Mediterranean.

Tagging research programs on Dolphinfish
The USA Marine Resources Division of the South Carolina Department of Natural
Resources (SCDNR) initiated a study on Dolphinfish in 2002 adopting a tagging program
in collaboration with the recreational anglers ( The
Tagging Study is a scientific research project conducted to the fishermen with the aim of
establishing the temporal and spatial occurrence, movement patterns and essential habitat
of the species in the USA territorial waters, Gulf of Mexico, Western North Atlantic and
Caribbean Sea. It is also intended to foster more research on the biology and behaviour
of Dolphinfish. The program has been extremely successful, having more than 11,000
fish marked with the majority released along the U.S. Atlantic coast.
Dolphinfish tagged off the U.S. East Coast have travelled to southern Azores Islands in
the Eastern North Atlantic, Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Kitts, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba.
The Confederación Española de Pesca Recreativa Responsable is associated to this
tagging program and could be an important contributor to this activity in Spain.

5. Some conclusions and recommendations
 Recreational fisheries targeting Dolphinfish in western Mediterranean are an
important annual activity for anglers based in several ports of Balearic Islands,
Catalonia, Valencia and north of Cabo de Gata in Spain.
 The total catch and the number of anglers involved in the capture of this species in
Spain are unknown at present.
 Web pages of professionals and digital fora on recreational fisheries are an important
source of information related to the biology, distribution, fishing periods and fishing
zones, weight and sizes, production, fishing methods and environmental variables
(fishing depths, sea state, winds, etc).
 Registers from National and International competitions could be a source of
information on Dolphinfish.
 Information provided by recreational fishers could be incorporated to a data base of
the Spanish recreational Dolphinfish fishery.
 Catch occurs from January to December in coastal and offshore areas with peaks of
captures during the end of the summer and autumn.
 Dolphinfish average length composition in Spanish Mediterranean waters increase from
April-May until the end of October.
 Target sizes (>1Kg) disappear in some areas in November.
 During October, November and December anglers from Majorca and from coastal
areas (Barcelona, Alicante) report of catch of small Dolphinfish (<1 Kg, sometimes
about 200 gr). This information could indicate the existence of a juvenile/recruitment
area in western Mediterranean Sea for the species to be investigated.
 Collaboration between the Spanish Confederación Española de Pesca Recreativa
Responsable and national marine research institutions, and also between the USA
Confederation and the CSS Dolphin Tagging Study project for tagging Dolphinfish
could be a starting point for fisheries scientists in the Mediterranean to collaborate
with the members of the Spanish Confederation.
 Tagging programmes in collaboration with recreational organisation could provide
important information on size, growth, distribution and migratory patterns of
Dolphinfish in the Mediterranean Sea.
 To reinforce the knowledge on the fishery and the species and also for management
purposes it is recommended to improve the collaboration of national scientists and
fisheries administrators working on Dolphinfish fisheries with national or
international recreational anglers associations aiming

6. Bibliography
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Transversal workshop on the monitoring recreational fisheries in the GFCM area. Palma
de Majorca, Spain, 20-22 October 2010
COPEMED 2003. COPEMED Cory03. Final report Mediterranean Dolphinfish fishery
FAO, 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries Rome, FAO. 41 p.
FAO. © 2010-2011. FAO FishFinder - Web Site. FAO FishFinder. FI Institutional
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Ünal, V.; Özgül, A. 2010. Characteristics of Marine Recreational Fishery Focusing on
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