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January 30, 2012

Your National Geographic Moment

Travel to Costa Rica now to capture a marlin for NG Crittercam

Many Sport Fishing readers have heard about the National Geographic Crittercam project, wherein researchers attach a video camera to a wild animal or fish to see where it goes and how it lives. Now, a lucky few who can travel to Costa Rica soon may participate in that research.

Billfish Safaris out of Marina Papagayo is booking project cruises for anglers who want to catch a marlin for science, but you must act quickly. Read the attached press release to learn more about the process, and contact Billfish Safaris through its website http://www.billfishsafaris.com.


PRESS RELEASE
Wanna Catch a Marlin for National Geographic?
National Geographic Crittercam and Billfish Safaris succeed in filming free-swimming marlin.


As of January 20, the National Geographic Crittercam project and Billfish Safaris, a Costa Rica sport fishing company, have successfully attached camera systems to both black marlin (Makaira nigricans) and striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) off the coast of northwestern Costa Rica.  The two deployments have accrued approximately 1.5 hours of free-swimming footage as the marlin explored their world away from the prying eyes of humans.

The National Geographic Crittercam is a unique research tool developed to record video information on animal behavior in places and situations that it would be impossible for a human observer. The reason for its success is that the animals are the ones who film their own unique behaviors through the use of special micro-cameras.  The cameras are attached in a manner that allows a harmless, first person view of marlin behavior as they go about their daily lives without any human influence.  Since its inception in 1986, founder Greg Marshall and his Remote Imaging team have successfully deployed these cameras on sea turtles, sharks, whales, penguin and even African lions!

These first deployments were made aboard Billfish Safaris' 40-foot Gamefisherman, the Plautus, with IGFA world record holder, Sjon Harless, being the lucky angler.  Harless, who was recently named 2011 IGFA top female saltwater angler, performed flawlessly with both fish.  She fought the estimated 400-pound black marlin on 30 pound stand-up tackle and brought it boat side in just under an hour and she fought the estimated 200-pound striped marlin on 50 pound stand-up tackle for approximately 30 minutes before it was subdued at the boat.  Both fish were released in excellent condition with bright colors and swam the cameras away from the boat with no hesitation.

So what did the footage reveal?  It revealed only a short glimpse into the lives of billfish but, as is to be expected billfish live in a very blue world.  In addition, to the footage an on-board depth/temperature recorder register each fish making quick deep dive away from the boat followed by a series of undulating dives from 50-70 feet.  As they made these dives they swam through as described by Crittercam creator, Greg Marshall, a "bouillabaisse" of planktonic life.   Watching these fish swim away from the boat, one assumes that they swim through a clear world but, in reality they spend their lives in a pelagic soup.   In addition, the camera placement on the black marlin allowed a view of the animal's eye which is incredibly active.  The eye is continually moving, presumably trying to pick up on the movement of their next meal or a potential predator.  These initial deployments did not reveal feeding or social behaviors but, subsequent use of the cameras will be devoted to longer deployment times in an attempt to unlock further secrets of billfish behavior.

The Crittercam systems will remain with the Billfish Safaris team in the hope of further deployments and more footage of the prevalent Costa Rica billfish.  This represents a very unique opportunity to charter anglers to participate in this very exciting work.  Typically, work of this magnitude is reserved for biologists and individuals who graciously donate the use of their sportfishing vessels however; Billfish Safaris has decided to open this opportunity up to its charter anglers.   They are the only Costa Rica fishing charters that will be participating in the Crittercam work and are actively seeking anglers who are willing to participate in this scientific work.  The reality is there are a number of places on earth to catch a marlin however; at the moment northwestern Costa Rica (with Billfish Safaris) is the only place where you can release a marlin for National Geographic and contribute to the understanding of these amazing oceanic predators.

For further information on Billfish Safaris work with the National Geographic Crittercam project and inquiries about working with the billfish crittercams please visit www.billfishsafaris.com and follow the progress of the project on Billfish Safaris' Facebook page and Twitter (@BillfishSafaris) for photos and video.  Visit www.nationalgeographic.com/crittercam for further information on the Crittercam project in its entirety.