Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915

Other Names: Hatchet Marlin, Pacific Shortbilled Spearfish, Short-billed Spearfish, Shortnose Spearfish

A Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris, caught off Great Barrier Island, New Zealand. Source: Nholtzha / Wikimedia Commons. License: Cc BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0


A rare dark blue billfish with brown along the sides and silvery-white below; first dorsal dark blue, other fins dark brown, and the anal fin base tinged silvery-white. Shortbill Spearfish have a relatively short upper jaw, and usually occur well offshore.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Schultz, S., Tetrapturus angustirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 Mar 2019,

Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915

More Info


Recorded from all Australian states except the Northern Territory. Elsewhere, widespread in the tropical and temperate Indo-Pacific, and into the eastern Atlantic.

This oceanic epipelagic species usually occurs well offshore over deeper waters. It rarely enters coastal areas, and is less common that other billfishes throughout its range.


Dorsal-fin 45-50 + 6-7; Anal fin 12-15 + 6-8; Pectoral fin 17-19.

Body elongate and fairly compressed. Bill short (less than 15% of body length) and slender. Lower jaw projecting but shorter than upper jaw (bill). Pectoral fins narrow and less than 15% of body length. Pelvic fins slender and approximately twice the length of the pectoral fins. The first dorsal fin height decreases after the high anterior lobe to about the 19th ray, after which the height increases again. Both jaws and palatines have fine, file-like teeth. Body covered in dense, bony scales each which 3-5 posterior points.


Reaches 230 cm TL and 52 kg. On average, females are slightly larger than males. The all-tackle game fish record is of a 50 kg fish caught in Botany Bay, Sydney, Australia in 2008 (IGFA 2011).


Dark blue dorsally, blue with brown along the sides and silvery-white ventrally. First dorsal dark blue, other fins dark brown. Anal fin base tinged silvery-white.


Carnivore - feeds mainly on pelagic fishes such as gempylids and scombrids, as well as various cephalopod species and crustaceans. Diet varies according to season.


Spawning appears to occur during winter, in warm offshore currents (above 24 degrees). Eggs are spherical and range in size from 1.3 to 1.6 mm in diameter. Larvae are pelagic.

This fish can weigh up to 52 kg. Average length of fish caught in long lines is 135cm eye fork length in the eastern Pacific. Maximum size is about 2 m and 52 kg in weight. Females are on average slightly larger than males.


No specific fishery in Australian water, but the species is targeted by commercial tuna longlines and occasionally by recreational trolling. Commercial catches are highest in surface waters with bottom depths in the 915-1800 m range.


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Data Deficient

    This highly migratory species is listed under Annex I of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (FAO Fisheries Department 1994).

  • Species Citation

    Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915, Figures and Descriptions of the Fishes of Japan, including Riukiu Islands, Bonin Islands, Formosa, Kurile Islands, Korea and southern Sakhalin. 19: 324, pl. 88(285). Type locality: Funakata, Boshu Province, Sagami Sea, Japan.


    Dianne J. Bray & Schultz, S.

    Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915


    Carpenter, K.E.; Niem, V.H. (eds). FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 6. Bony fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles, sea turtles, sea snakes and marine mammals. Rome, FAO. 2001. pp. 3381-4218.

    Collette, B.B. 2010. Reproduction and Development in Epipelagic Fishes. In: Cole, K.S. (ed.), Reproduction and Sexuality in Marine Fishes: Patterns and Processes, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

    Collette, B., Acero, A., Canales Ramirez, C., Carpenter, K.E., Di Natale, A., Fox, W., Miyabe, N., Montano Cruz, R., Nelson, R., Schaefer, K., Serra, R., Sun, C., Uozumi, Y. & Yanez, E. 2011. Tetrapturus angustirostris. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <>. Downloaded on 25 November 2012.

    Collette, B.B., Carpenter, K.E., Polidoro, B.A., Juan-Jorda, M.J., Boustany, A., Die, D.J., Elfes, C., Fox, W., Graves, J., Harrison, L., McManus, R., Minte-Vera, C.V., Nelson, R., Restrepo, V., Schratwieser, J., Sun, C.L., Amorim, A., Brick Peres, M., Canales, C., Cardenas, G., Chang, S.K., Chiang, W.C., de Oliveira Leite, Jr., N., Harwell, H., Lessa, R., Fredou, F.L., Oxenford, H.A., Serra, R., Shao, K.T., Sumalia, R., Wang, S.P., Watson, R., Yáñez, E. 2011. High Value and Long Life - Double Jeopardy for Tunas and Billfishes. Science 333: 291-192.

    Collette, B.B., McDowell, J.R. and Graves, J.E. 2006. Phylogeny of Recent billfishes (Xiphioidei). Bull. Mar. Sci. 79(3): 455-468.

    Hanner, R., Floyd, R., Bernard, A., Collette, B.B. & Shivji, M. 2011. DNA barcoding of billfishes. Mitochondrial DNA 22(S1): 1-10.

    Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton, & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. in Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.

    IGFA. 2011. International Game Fish Association World Record Game Fishes. Dania Beach, Florida.

    Kikawa, S. 1975. Synopsis of biological data on the shortbill spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka, 1914 in the Indo-Pacific area. In: NOAA Tech. Rep. (ed.), NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS SSRF 675(3):39-54.

    Kitchell JF, Martell SJD, Walters CJ, Jensen OP, Kaplan IC, Watters J, Essington TE, Boggs CH. 2006. Billfishes in an ecosystem context. Bulletin of Marine Science 79(3): 669-682.

    Nakamura, I. 1974. Some aspects of the Systematics and Distribution of Billfishes. In Shomura, R.S. & F. Williams (editors), Proceedings of the International Billfish Symposium, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 9-12 August 1972, Part 2. Reviewed and contributed papers. NOAA Technical Report. NMFS SSRF-675.

    Nakamura, I. 1985. Billfishes of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of marlins, sailfishes, spearfishes and swordfishes known to date. FAO Fish. Synop.

    Ueyanagi, S. 1962. On the larvae of the shortnosed spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka. Rep. Nankai Reg. Fish. Res. Lab. 16.

    Watanabe, H. & Ueyanagi, S. 1963. Young of the larvae of the shortbill spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka. Rep. Nankai Reg. Fish. Res. Lab. 17.

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37444007

    Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

    Depth:0-200 m

    Habitat:Epipelagic, oceanic

    Max Size:230 cm TL; 52 kg

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