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NATURE: Superfish

Airs Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: An underwater shot of a black marlin "grander"

Marine biologist and award-winning filmmaker Rick Rosenthal set out to capture on film the biggest, fastest, most dangerous gamefish in the sea — the ancient creatures known as billfish.

A striped marlin feeding on a school of fish
Enlarge this image

Above: A striped marlin feeding on a school of fish

A Warning to Seafood Lovers

Seafood lovers take note: there’s good news and bad news.

The largest of all billfish is the marlin. They top speeds of 60 miles an hour on migrations that can span 9,000 miles. The largest, always female, weigh in at over 1,000 pounds, and are known as “granders.”

Ernest Hemingway immortalized the grander in "The Old Man and the Sea," the story of an elderly fisherman locked in a life and death struggle with this apex predator. To Hemingway’s great disappointment, he himself never landed a grander, although his novella captures the impact of this huge and graceful creature.

Rosenthal’s pursuit of these exotic fish unfolds in "Superfish." Two years in the making, Rosenthal’s documentary travels to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Caribbean Sea in pursuit of these giants of the deep. In one extraordinary scene, off Australia’s Cape York Peninsula, Rosenthal is shown swimming with a stunning giant female marlin and two courting males.

Throughout his journey, Rosenthal encounters commercial fisherman, anglers, and researchers, who are also out looking for billfish. The search has become increasingly difficult for everyone due to over-fishing of billfish and their prey, as well as the environmental degradation of the oceans, which has resulted in a dramatic decline in their populations. The trajectory of population decline in all large fish has been precipitously steep, estimated at 90 percent within the last half century.

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Video

Nature: Superfish

Above: Get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of "Superfish" in NATURE's exclusive podcast. Rick Rosenthal, the biologist and award-winning filmmaker featured in "Superfish," discusses the challenges of finding elusive billfish and capturing these awe-inspiring underwater creatures on film. "Superfish" airs on PBS Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 8 p.m. (check local listings) and is part of the 28th season of the Peabody and Emmy award-winning series produced by Thirteen in association with WNET.ORG for PBS. Major support provided by Canon U.S.A. Inc.

Video

Nature: Superfish: Sailfish Nursery

Above: Marine biologist Rick Rosenthal witnesses something no one has seen before: an adult sailfish ­believed to possess poor eyesight ­feeding at night. Then, drawn by the glow of Rick's flashlight, a baby sailfish emerges from the darkness. NATURE follows Rosenthal's search for elusive species of billfish in "Superfish."