ERIC MADEJA

Film & TV Location Fixer | Environmental Photographer | Expedition Leader

Flying fish - up to 45 seconds in the air!

If you are a scuba diver than you have probably seen them.

flying fish juvenile (1)
(Photo by Eric Madeja - Juvenile flying fish - positive identification pending - most likely Cheilopogon cyanopterus)

Most of you will have observed flying fish on the way to your dive site, rather than while diving. Once disturbed by the noise and vibration of your dive boat, flying fish can be observed leaping out of the water and gliding over long distances just above the sea surface. Did you know that flying fish has been observed staying in the air for up to 45 seconds and covering a distance of
up to 400 meters?

There are
68 different species (Family Exocoetidae) of flying fish known to exist throughout the world, most live in tropical and sub-tropical regions. In Japan, “tobiko” or flyingfish roe is used for the creation of various kind of sushi. Flying fish is an important protein source in the Philippines and Indonesia, where they are mostly caught by artisanal fishers. Apart from being prepared into various delicious dishes, I personally have often seen it being used by fishers throughout the Coral Triangle to bait larger fish such as swordfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, marlin or shark. Flying fish seems to appear seasonal in certain regions, influencing ancient cultural events, such as the Flying Fish Festival of the Yami or Tao tribe in Taiwan.

Various studies have identified flying fish to be an important link in pelagic food webs. There is no clear data on the overall conservation status of flying fish, but a drastic
60% decline in the catches in Taiwan in 2006-2007 has caused serious concern with some conservation groups regarding inadequate management of the resource.

The juveniles make very pretty underwater macro photography subjects and usually can be found hiding in organic material and manmade debris floating on the ocean surface. They are also easily attracted by light at night.

flying fish juvenile eric madeja
(Photo by Eric Madeja - Juvenile flying fish hiding in floating organic material (sargassum seaweed / seagrass) - positive identification pending)