Common name: Billfishes, marlins, sailfishes



Billfishes and sailfishes inhabit oceanic epipelagic waters worldwide. They are among the most important and highly prized gamefishes and are commercially fished throughout their range. They are characterised by having extremely elongate premaxillary bones that form their rostra.

Five genera and nine species are recognised worldwide (Collette et al 2006), with five species in five genera recorded from Australian waters. Istiophorids are tropical, but sometimes occur in cooler regions, and reach a maximum size of more than 4 m.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Billfishes, ISTIOPHORIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,


Collette, B.B., McDowell, J.R. & Graves, J.E. 2006. Phylogeny of recent billfishes (Xiphioidei). Bulletin of Marine Science 79(3): 455-468.

Collette, B.B., T. Potthoff, W.J. Richards, S. Ueyanagi, J.L. Russo and Y. Nishikawa. 1984. Scombroidei: development and relationships. Pages 591–620 in H.G. Moser, W.J. Richards, D.M. Cohen, M.P. Fahay, A.W. Kendall, Jr., and S.L. Richardson, eds. Ontogeny and systematics of fishes. Amer. Soc. Ichthyol. Herp. Spec. Publ. 1.

Fierstine, H. L. 2006. Fossil history of billfishes (Xiphioidei). Bull. Mar. Sci. 79: 433–453.

Graves, J.E. & J.R. McDowell. 1995. Inter-ocean genetic divergence of istiophorid billfishes. Mar. Biol. 122: 193–204.

Graves, J.E. & McDowell, J.R. 2003. Stock structure of the world's istiophorid billfishes: a genetic perspective. Marine and Freshwater Research 54: 287-298.

Nakamura, I. 1974. Some aspects of the systematics and distribution of billfishes. In Shomura, R.S. & Williams, F. (eds) Proceedings of the International Billfish Symposium, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 9–12 August 1972. Part 2. National Marine Fisheries Service (U.S.). Technical Report 675: 45-53 figs 1-8

Nakamura, I. 1985. FAO Species Catalogue. Billfishes of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of marlins, sailfishes, spearfishes, and swordfishes known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, Vol. 5. Rome : FAO. 65 pp. 41 figs

Nakamura, I. 2001. Xiphiidae, Istiophoridae. pp. 3757-3764 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Nakamura, I., Iwai, T. & Matsubara, K. 1968. A review of the sailfish, spearfish, marlin and swordfish of the world. Misaki Marine Biological Institute. Kyoto University. Special Report 4: 1-95 figs 1-26 [in Japanese]

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 601 pp.