Filming the Seas’ Greatest Catch With Crittercam

Blistering speed. Immense power. Ocean wanderers. These are just a few terms used to describe billfish. Another word that could be used is “threatened.”

A 400-pound black marlin launches itself from the waters surrounding Tropic Star Lodge in this multiple-exposure shot. This species is known for jumping straight into the air. It is an impressive experience to watch a 10-foot fish go airborne for seconds at a time. Photo by Sam Friederichs.


Commonly referred to as swordfish, billfish are actually a group of 11 different species (not including swordfish, proper) that can grow to 14 feet long and close to 2,000 pounds. Roaming thousands of miles of open ocean in search of food and defending themselves from real-life versions of JAWS is just another day at the office for these amazing fish, but they are ill-equipped to handle our desire for seafood. As a result of billfish being caught on lines intended for swordfish and tuna, populations worldwide are on the decline. To effectively conserve these species we need to know more about their lives out in the open ocean.

The Darien region of Panama has no roads. Not even the Pan-American highway dares penetrate its depths. Plane or boat is the only way in and a major reason why so many large marlin prowl the waters offshore of Tropic Star Lodge. Photo by Sam Friederichs.


Enter Crittercam. For the next two weeks, the National Geographic Crittercam program will be heading down to Tropic Star Lodge in the remote jungles of Panama to unlock the secret lives of billfish. Catch-and-release anglers flock to this remote jungle outpost every year to test their strength against giant black and blue marlin, happy to watch the fish swim away to be caught again another day. The difference now is that during our project, these fish will swim away wearing Crittercams.

A large blue marlin prepares to be released. On it's back rides a Crittercam system. These unique cameras will record the marlin's point of view in full HD as well as it's dive depth and preferred temperatures. Photo by Sam Friederichs.


These unique cameras will allow the marlin to film their lives away from human influence. The cameras also carry a tiny data pill which records depth and temperature allowing researchers to get a picture of the marlin’s entire life. In this way, we hope to learn about behaviors that have never been witnessed by humans (such as breeding), but are vital for billfish conservation. This information will also help improve catch-and-release fishing practices to ensure that these fish will roam the oceans for generations to come.


Learn More

Read All the Billfish 2013 Posts

National Geographic Crittercam


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