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:
Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2019, Tetrapturus angustirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Apr 2020,

Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915

More Info


Recorded from all Australian states except the Northern Territory. Elsewhere, the species is 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.


Feed at or near the surface on small to medium-sized pelagic fishes and squids.


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 is occasionally taken by recreational trolling. Commercial catches are highest in surface waters with bottom depths in the 915-1800 m range.


  • 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 19: 324, pl. 88(285). Type locality: Funakata, Boshu Province, Sagami Sea, Japan.


    Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2019


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915


    Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

    Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

    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. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T170315A6744759. Downloaded on 15 May 2019.

    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. & Graves, J.E. 2006. Phylogeny of Recent billfishes (Xiphioidei). Bulletin of Marine Science 79(3): 455-468.

    Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Family Istiophoridae. pp. 830-832, figs 734-735 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. 

    Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Sphyraenidae to Centrolophidae. pp. 774-800 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

    Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

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

    Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp. 

    Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs.

    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. NOAA Technical Report NMFS SSRF 675(3): 39-54.

    Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

    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.

    Pepperell, J. 2010. Fishes of the Open Ocean a Natural History & Illustrated Guide. Sydney : University of New South Wales Press Ltd 266 pp. 

    Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. 

    Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

    Tanaka, S. 1915. Figures and Descriptions of the Fishes of Japan, including Riukiu Islands, Bonin Islands, Formosa, Kurile Islands, Korea and southern Sakhalin. Maruzen, Tokyo Vol. 19 pp. 319–342.

    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

    Species Image Gallery

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map