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NATURE: Superfish

An underwater shot of a black marlin "grander"
Courtesy of ©Rick Rosenthal
An underwater shot of a black marlin "grander"

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

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 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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