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Sailfish

Istiophorus platypterus

Photo: A sailfish in the open ocean

Photo: A sailfish in the open ocean (View larger version)

Photograph by OSF/Howard Hall/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes

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The two main subspecies of sailfish, Atlantic and Indo-Pacific, range throughout the warm and temperate parts of the world’s oceans. They are blue to gray in color with white underbellies. They get their name from their spectacular dorsal fin that stretches nearly the length of their body and is much higher than their bodies are thick.

They are members of the billfish family, and as such, have an upper jaw that juts out well beyond their lower jaw and forms a distinctive spear. They are found near the ocean surface usually far from land feeding on schools of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which they often shepherd with their sails, making them easy prey. They also feast on squid and octopus.

Their meat is fairly tough and not widely eaten, but they are prized as game fish. These powerful, streamlined beasts can grow to more than 10 feet (3 meters) and weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms). When hooked, they will fight vigorously, leaping and diving repeatedly, and sometimes taking hours to land.

Sailfish are fairly abundant throughout their range, and their population is considered stable. They are under no special status or protections.

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