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Conference History

The global cooperation effort to conserve billfish through an international symposium began in 1970, as the need to assess the status of stocks of the various species of the billfishes became apparent. This need was generated by concerns expressed by sport fisherman regarding declines in catch rates and increasing commercial interests in the various billfish species. To accomplish this objective, NOAA held a preliminary workshop at the Tiburon Fisheries Laboratory to review current billfish biology research and stock assessments, and explore the types of cooperative research needed. Priority and urgency was further expressed at the 22nd Annual Tuna Conference (October 1971) in Lake Arrowhead, California, when a series of papers presented on billfishes reiterated the need for a major symposium to bring together all known information on the subject.

First Symposium

On the basis of these meetings, NOAA sponsored the first International Billfish Symposium (IBS), as a forum for international research efforts on the conservation and biology of sailfish, marlin, spearfish, and swordfish. The symposium took place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii from August 9-12, 1972 in conjunction with the 14th Annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. This arrangement afforded the scientific community the unique opportunity of both discussing ideas directly with sport fisherman from a number of countries, and the examination of landed billfish specimens for research.

Dr. Richard Shomura, Director of NMFS Tiburon Fisheries Laboratory, and Dr. Francis Williams, Institute of Marine Resources, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, served as the cochairmen of the symposium.

Under their organization, four scientific sessions were highlighted:

  • Species Identification
  • Life History
  • Distribution
  • isheries

Additionally, a special sportsmen-scientist panel discussion chaired by Dudley C. Lewis, an IGFA vice president, was held on the final day. Approximately 130 sportsmen and scientists exchanged ideas and views on how each group could help meet their respective goals.

Output: Proceedings of the International Billfish Symposium, R. S. Shomura and F. Williams, eds., NOAA Technical Report NMFS SSRF-675 Part 1 (1975), Part 2 (1974), and Part 3 (1975)

Second Symposium

The second IBS was, again, hosted in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii from August 1-5, 1988. This historic gathering of the world’s foremost billfish authorities attracted 150 participants from 12 countries. The National Coalition for Marine Conservation organized the symposium, with co-sponsors including multiple fisheries organizations from the United States, Mexico, and Japan.

The symposium was organized into six sections:

  • Fisheries,
  • Stock Assessment
  • Management
  • Life History and Distribution
  • Socioeconomics
  • Age and Growth

Through these sessions, key advancements in the field of billfish biology, fisheries science and socio-economics secured greater attention to billfish species and their management.

Output: Planning for the Future of Billfishes, R.H. Stroud, Editor, Volume 1 (1989) and Volume 2 (1990)

Third Symposium

The third IBS was held in Cairns Australia, from August 19-23, 2001. The international audience of the symposium diversified further to 120 participants from 22 countries. The generous support by a number of sponsors included; major sponsorship by NMFS, and joint principal sponsorship by The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation of Australia and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry – Australia.

Captain David Tomlinson served as the chairmen of the symposium, working with the Organizing Committee and Program Committee to ensure the success of the six sessions:

  • Stock Structure
  • Stock Assessment
  • Billfish Biology
  • Social and Economic Benefits of Billfish Fisheries
  • Management of the World’s Billfish
  • Biology and Status of the Broadbill Swordfish

The principle objectives of the third IBS were revisiting previous issues, reviewing the progress of programs, and informing those in the field about the various research efforts undertaken since the last Symposium. Noted key developments during the symposium included the advancements in electronic tag technologies. The application of these new tags proved pivotal in the advancements of billfish behavior, biogeography and biology studies. Through these advancements and accomplishments, the Symposium was referred to as a landmark event in global scientific research and management of billfish.

Output: Marine and Freshwater Research, Volume 54, Number 4 (2003)

Fourth Symposium

The fourth IBS was held from October 31 through November 3, 2005 in Avalon, California. The setting for the Fourth Symposium was particularly appropriate because of Avalon’s reputation as the birthplace of modern big game recreational fishing and the home of the Avalon Tuna Club. During this symposium, more than 90 papers on various aspects of billfish research were presented by scientists from over 20 countries. The major sponsors of this symposium were The Billfish Foundation and National Marine Fisheries Service, with co-sponsorship being provided by the Oceanic Conservation Organization and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Dr. Michael Domeier, Pflueger Institute of Environmental Research, served as the chairman of the symposium.

Seven scientific sessions were highlighted:

  • Genetics
  • Stock Assessment
  • Fisheries
  • Reproduction
  • Management Movement and Habitat
  • Physiology and Tracking Technology
  • Life History

Output: Bulletin of Marine Science Volume 79, Number 3 (2006)

Fifth Symposium

The fifth IBS was held in Taipei, Taiwan from November 4-8, 2013. Sponsors of the symposium included the National Science Council (NSC), NMFS, The Fisheries Agency, The Fisheries Research Institute, National Taiwan University, and The International Scientific Committee for Tuna And Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC).

To lead the event, Dr. Chi-Lu Sun of the National Taiwan University and Dr. Gerard DiNardo of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center served as co-Chairmen.

During the five-day Symposium, six scientific sessions were presented:

  • Population Structure
  • Biological Studies
  • Tagging Experiments
  • Ecosystem Modeling
  • Stock Assessments
  • Fisheries Management

Output: Fisheries Research Volume 166 (2015)