Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915

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

A Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris, from Rottnest Island, Western Australia, August 2011. Source: Jamie Moir via Mark Mcgrouther / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial


A rare dark blue billfish becoming silvery-white below, with brownish sides, and a dark blue first dorsal fin that lacks spots. This species has a relatively short upper jaw, a short narrow pectoral fin with a pointed tip, long slender pelvic fins, and the anus is situated well before the anal-fin origin. The Shortbill Spearfish usually occurs in oceanic waters and rarely enters coastal waters.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2020, Tetrapturus angustirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 May 2024,

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).
  • Etymology

    The specific name angustirostris is from the Latin angustus (= narrow) and rostrum (= snout, beak).

    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. 2020


    Atlas of Living Australia

    Shortbill Spearfish, Tetrapturus angustirostris Tanaka 1915


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    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. 

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    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37444007

    Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

    Depth:0-200 m

    Fishing:Commercial & game fish

    Habitat:Epipelagic, oceanic

    Max Size:230 cm TL; 52 kg

    Species Image Gallery

    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map