Needlefish (Gozo & Malta)



Gozo & MaltaAtlantic SpeciesNeedlefish

Common Name: Needlefish

Scientific Names: Belone belone

Description: Up to 1m, but routinely 30-40cm. This long, thin silvery fish has a very distinctive ‘beak’ formed from its jaws which protrude forward from its head.

Distinctive Features: The clue with this species really is in the name – the long thin body and the long, rapier-like jaws are highly distinctive.

Abundance: Mainly seen as individual fish, although in and around prey the numbers can include 4-5 in any view. Common at the water surface and just below when hunting. We saw them on every snorkelling session in September at every site.

Habitat & Behaviour: Needlefish are predators swimming very near the surface and then bursting forward or downwards to prey on shoaling fish at the surface or just below. We came across massive shoals (uncountable) with some very big fish (1m+) in September 2015 in 5-10m of water at Xlendi and Mgarr Xini.

Reaction to Snorkellers & Divers: Wary of snorkellers but sometimes individuals will come close if you keep still; probably not seen often by divers.

Other Names: Garfish

Other Notes: Half-beaks (Hemiramphus and Hyporhamphus) are similar but have only the lower jaw elongated. Watch to see the fish open its mouth as in the video.

Text: Bob Earll
Photo: Luke Adshead
Video: Luke Adshead

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