A huge 400lb-plus blue marlin – the first ever recorded off mainland Britain – has been found washed up dead on a Welsh beach, leading many to question which exotic species will turn up next on our shores.
The 9ft 6ins long specimen was found on Glen Beach in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, by Nottingham duo Dave Wakelin and Dave Auckland and was in pristine physical condition, suggesting that it may have been dead for only one or two hours.
The amazing creature is the latest in a string of ‘foreign visitors’ to British shores over the past 12 months, a list that includes swordfish, almaco jack and tuna.
Although several swordfish have been recorded in UK waters – last month a 6ft long specimen was washed up on Barry Island beach, in the Vale of Glamorgan – this is only the second case of a blue marlin.
The first, according to UK Marine Fish Recording figures put together by the National Marine Aquarium, was a massive 12ft long fish found in the Isles of Scilly in the English Channel in 1982.
Marlin are one of the fish on the target list of internationally renowned big-game fish angler Zyg Gregorek, who recently announced his intentions to try to catch such specimens from British waters.
The Devon-based globetrotter is delighted that the existence of these ocean-dwelling monsters around the UK coast has been proved.
“The blue marlin is regularly caught as close as the Portuguese coast and Bay of Biscay, which isn’t a million miles away.
I’m sure that the Pembrokeshire fish will have been swimming around Britain because it’s in very good condition – if it had died further afield and drifted into our waters, sharks and sea birds would have had time to attack the floating body,” said Zyg.
Another person who was not surprised by news of the Glen Beach marlin is South Wales Sea Fisheries off icer Mark Hamblin, who both witnessed and identified the carcass.
“We’re getting more and more unusual sea life, such as leatherback turtles and sunfish on the Welsh coast. There is a slim possibility that this marlin was killed by dolphins, as I’ve witnessed them attack and kill sharks and porpoise in the past.
“A large shoal of tuna has been working its way along the west coast of Ireland in recent weeks, so it may have followed the bait fish into the British Isles,” suggested Mark.
Others, like James Maclaine, a fish curator at the National History Museum, is less convinced that big-game fish are naturally spreading to British waters, and believes the discovery could just be a one-off.
“Sometimes fish simply get lost. A few years ago I heard about a bizarre discovery of a tiger shark in the cold waters of Iceland. Tiger sharks are very much a tropical fish and usually don’t travel any further north than Africa or Florida.
“The blue marlin here is another example that may have become caught in the strong currents of the Gulf Stream. It’s a shame that such a significant specimen wasn’t removed from the beach and preserved properly,” he said.
This is a view shared by Doug Herdson, of the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, who insists that global warming isn’t necessarily to blame for the marlin’s appearance, pointing to past evidence of similar ‘visits’ by big-game giants.
“Unusual big-game fish have been visiting Britain on and off for the past century. I suppose that if the seas do continue to get gradually warmer, then more billfish may venture up to the Bay of Biscay and further afield and we’ll see numbers of visiting fish, rather than just the odd straggler,” he said.
“Currently, we’re seeing increases in the number of smaller exotic species, such as jacks and certain types of bream visiting the South Coast, but I wouldn’t like to guess which species may turn up next!”