Rare blue marlin fish specimen joins Museum collection

20 September 2016

Blue marlin specimen on a JCB

The blue marlin specimen found in Pembrokeshire is so big, moving it required a JCB

The first complete blue marlin specimen to wash up on UK shores and be recovered in full has a new home at the Museum.

The four-metre-long fish was discovered on a Pembrokeshire beach last week.

Although some people initially thought it was a swordfish, it has since been identified as a blue marlin - only the third found in the UK.

Journey to the collection

After inspection on the beach, Pembrokeshire County Council moved the fish to temporary storage and reported the find to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme, who notified the Museum.

Within 24 hours, two experts from the Museum's Life Science department were on their way to collect it.

Oliver Crimmen, Senior Fish Curator at the Museum, says, 'The flies had started to take an interest in the specimen but we were amazed it was in such good condition. I'm hopeful it will provide us with a valuable subject for science.'

Two Museum fish curators standing alongside the blue marlin specimen

James Maclaine and Oliver Crimmen, both Senior Fish Curators at the Museum, beside the blue marlin specimen they collected from Pembrokeshire. Picture courtesy of Pembrokeshire County Council.
 

Blue marlins, Makaira nigricans, spend most of their lives out at sea far from land, usually in warmer waters than those surrounding the UK. The species uses its impressive pointed snout, called a rostrum, to slash through schools of fish and other prey, returning to eat the injured or stunned individuals.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, populations of the fish are decreasing and the species is vulnerable to extinction, due to overfishing.

Scientific research

The Museum often takes in specimens that are likely to be of scientific interest. Some of the recent marine specimens of note are a Greenland shark specimen that beached in Northumberland in 2013 and a species of yeti crab described in 2015, which lives around volcanic hydrothermal vents near Antarctica.

Blue marlin laid out for inspection by two members of Museum staff

Museum staff inspect the blue marlin specimen
 

The blue marlin will be one of the largest specimens preserved whole in fluid in the Museum's spirit collection. A team is currently considering whether the specimen might also be suitable for public display in the future.

Crimmen has preserved many large fish specimens for the collection. He has also used this expertise in some more unusual ways: he worked with artist Damian Hirst on an art installation of a shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, and also helped prepare the Museum's popular giant squid exhibit.

The Museum is a partner in the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme. You can contribute to our understanding of marine animals in UK waters by reporting any stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, basking sharks or marine turtles you encounter. Find out how.

  • By Lisa Hendry

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