SailfishIstiophorus platypterus

  • Open Ocean
  • Sailfish
  • Open ocean


Istiophorus platypterus is a relatively lean Indo-Pacific fish with a long, round bill. Its distinguishing features include a relatively higher first dorsal fin, long pelvic fins and short pectoral fins. It has an overall blue colour which is darker dorsally and paler through the lateral regions. Their undersides are silver and white. There are approximately 20 stripes that run across its sides of light blue colour. Occasional dots and brown or silver patches or streaks can be seen across the body. Fins are dark blue, black or brown coloured. They can weigh up to 100kg and reach a total length of 340cm[1].


[1] ‘FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture - Species Fact Sheets - Istiophorus Platypterus (Shaw & Nodder, 1972)’.

Habitat and ecology

Sailfish are oceanic and are present mainly in tropical and subtropical regions of the Indian and Pacific oceans. They are found above the thermocline, which is a region of changing water temperature in the ocean and tend to approach the shore very often. Sailfish have an affinity for continental coasts, islands and reefs. The abundance of sailfish in the Indian ocean positively coincides with the north east monsoon seasons when the East African Coastal Current attains its highest temperature, about 30 degrees Celsius and minimum salinity. This is also a time of high biological productivity. Their diet consists of a variety of open ocean species, mostly fish and cephalopods (such as octopus and squids) and occasionally species that are closer to the seafloor, depending on the abundance of their preferred prey [1]. They spawn all year round with a peak during summer seasons.


Conservation and management

Although species decline has been observed in certain areas, no stock assessments or statistical tests have been carried out. It is listed under the ‘Least Concern’ category of the IUCN listing. The major threat for this species is commercial and sport fishing as well as incidental bycatch[2].



[1] Rosas-Alayola et al., ‘Diet Composition of Sailfish (Istiophorus Platypterus) from the Southern Gulf of California, Mexico’.

[2] IUCN, ‘Istiophorus Platypterus’.

Did you know?

Sailfish engage in group hunting[1]. They alternate their attacks on grouping fish, using their bills to slash or tap them. This can last for several hours while the fish try to escape predation[2].


[1] Herbert-Read et al., ‘Proto-Cooperation’.

[2] Kurvers et al., ‘The Evolution of Lateralization in Group Hunting Sailfish’.