Marlin Boycott Aimed at U.S. Chefs, Retailers


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 19, 2008

Three nonprofit recreational-fishing and conservation groups launched a campaign yesterday to persuade U.S. chefs and retailers to stop selling marlin permanently.

Dubbed "Take Marlin Off The Menu," the campaign - organized by The International Game Fish Association (IGFA), The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) - is intended to stop marlin overfishing in the Atlantic and Pacific by reducing demand for the billfish. The groups also launched a Web site,, to support the initiative.

The groups blame overfishing for declining populations of billfish, particularly blue, white, striped and black marlin and sailfish.

"There has never been more urgency than now," says NCMC President Ken Hinman in Leesburg, Va. "If we don't stop the widespread consumption of billfish, these magnificent ocean predators will disappear from our seas. It's simply that critical."

It's illegal to commercially harvest marlin, sailfish and spearfish in the Atlantic. Most marlin in U.S. restaurants and stores are caught in the Pacific. But the groups say lax regulations make it difficult to prove the marlin actually originated from the Pacific.

In addition to targeting chefs and retailers, the campaign will reach out to consumers through the media and raise awareness of "the harmful effects [of] eating marlin, [including] unhealthy levels of mercury." Marlin accumulates the neurotoxin methylmercury over time because it's a long-living, predatory fish like swordfish.

But marlin is not included in the joint U.S. Food and Drug Administration-Environmental Protection Agency advisory warning pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to avoid eating swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel due to relatively high levels of methylmercury. According to the FDA, marlin contains an average of 0.485 parts per million of methylmercury, compared to 0.976 ppm for swordfish and 0.988 ppm for shark. It's illegal to sell fish containing more than 1 ppm of mercury in the U.S. market.

According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, worldwide billfish landings exceeded 87,000 metric tons in 2004. Between 2001 and 2005, annual U.S. billfish imports averaged 166 metric tons, followed by Sri Lanka (95 metric tons), Japan (40 metric tons), Singapore (36 metric tons) and France (32 metric tons).

Over the past several years, there have been similar boycotts for swordfish and Chilean sea bass designed to prevent overfishing.

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