Black Marlin, Istiompax indica (Cuvier 1832)

Other Names: Dombrains Marlin, D'ombrain's Marlin, Pacific Black Marlin, Silver Marlin, Southern Marlin

A Black Marlin, Istiompax indica, caught off Watamu, Kenya. Source: Michael Janke / FishBase. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


A large and powerful predator, the Black Marlin is a popular gamefish. The body is dark blue above, silvery white below, with a dark blue first dorsal-fin, and the other fins are brownish-black.

Although this species has long been known as Makaira indica, studies indicated that it was distinct from other Marlin species and belonged in its own genus (Collette et al. 2006).

Watch 'Superfish' by the BBC Wildlife Unit.

Video showing how to take a fin clip from a small black marlin SAFELY & unassisted - for use in genetic studies.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2018, Istiompax indica in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jun 2024,

Black Marlin, Istiompax indica (Cuvier 1832)

More Info


Circum-Australia, including Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical and subtropical Indo-Pacific, occasionally entering temperate waters, and occasionally found in the eastern Atlantic.

An epipelagic, oceanic species often found near shore in coastal waters, around islands and coral reefs. The Black Marlin is a highly migratory species, and commercial catch rates are highest in the 0-200 m depth range.


Dorsal fin 38-42 + 6-7 finlets; Anal fin 13-14 + 6-7 finlets; Pectoral fin 12-20.

Body elongate, slightly compressed; snout long, bill length almost equal to head length; bill almost circular in cross section. Pectoral fins falcate, cannot be folded against body. Body densely covered in thick, elongated bony scales.


To 450 cm and 700 kg. Due to difficulties in ageing marlin otoliths, exact age estimates are difficult, but maximum age may exceed 15 years.


Dark blue above, silvery white below. First dorsal fin dark blue, other fins brownish-black.


The bill is used to stun prey prior to swallowing. Black marlin feed on fishes, squids, cuttlefishes, octopods, large decapod crustaceans - mostly on small tunas such as Skipjack, Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Frigate tunas. 


Spawning occurs off Cairns from August to November, in water temperatures around 27-28 degrees C. Females are capable of producing up to 40 million eggs, which are spawned near reefs, where the down-welling water, combined with the near-surface habitat preference, result in larvae staying close to the reef.


Black Marlin are taken in commercial and recreational fisheries throughout their range, including as bycatch in longline and purse seine fisheries - mostly by surface tuna longline fishers. 

Species Citation

Tetrapturus indicus Cuvier 1832, Histoire naturelle des poissons 8: 286. Type locality: Sumatra, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. & Schultz, S. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Black Marlin, Istiompax indica (Cuvier 1832)


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

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

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, pp. 21-63. In: Cole, K.S. (ed.) Reproduction and sexuality in marine fishes: patterns and processes,  University of California Press, Berkeley, 432 pp.

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. Istiompax indica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T170312A6742465. Downloaded on 30 October 2018.

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

Cuvier, G.L. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1832. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 8 509 pp. pls 209-245.

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. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

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.

Hill, N.J., Tobin, A.J., Reside, A.E., Pepperell, J.G. & Bridge, T.C.L. 2016, Dynamic habitat suitability modelling reveals rapid poleward distribution shift in a mobile apex predator. Global Change Biology 22: 1086–1096. doi:10.1111/gcb.13129

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.  

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)  

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp.  

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.  

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.  

Macleay, W.S. 1854. The Tetrapturus australis (Macleay); or, Australian sword fish. Illustrated Sydney News 1(23): 177-184 4 figs. (as Tetrapturus australis)

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls.  

Morrow, J.E. 1959. Istiompax indicus (Cuvier) 1831, a prior name for the black marlin. Copeia 1959(4): 347-349  

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.  

Ramsay, E.P. 1881. Notes on Histiophorus gladius. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 5(3): 1–295 pl. 8 (as Histiophorus gladius)

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.  

Russell, B.C. & Houston, W. 1989. Offshore fishes of the Arafura Sea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 6(1): 69-84.  

Speare, P. 2003. Age and growth of black marlin, Makaira indica, in east coast Australian waters. Marine and Freshwater Research 54: 307-314.  

Shomura, R.S. & Williams, F. (eds) 1975. Proceedings of the International Billfish Symposium Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. 9–12 August 1972. Parts 1–3. National Marine Fisheries Service (U.S.). Technical Report 675: 1-527 figs 1-208

Sun, C-L., Chang, H-Y., Liu, T-Y., Yeh, S-Z. & Chang, Y-J. 2015. Reproductive biology of the black marlin, Istiompax indica, off southwestern and eastern Taiwan. Fisheries Research 166: 12–20.

Sun, C-L., Yeh, S-Z., Liu, C-S., Su, N-J. & Chiang, W-C. 2015. Age and growth of Black marlin (Istiompax indica) off eastern Taiwan. Fisheries Research 166: 4–11.

Whitley, G.P. 1931. New names for Australian fishes. The Australian Zoologist 6(4): 310-334 1 fig. pls 25-27 (as Istiompax australis)

Whitley, G.P. 1954. More new fish names and records. The Australian Zoologist 12(1): 57-62 fig. 3 (as Istiompax dombraini)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37444006


Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

Depth:0-100 m

Fishing:Popular gamefish

Habitat:Pelagic, oceanodromous

Max Size:500 cm TL; 708 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map