A 73-year-old Maryland woman is recovering in hospital after being stabbed by the bill of a sailfish while out on a boat off the eastern coast of Florida. According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, the 100-pound fish leaped into the vessel while the woman’s companions were trying to reel it in.
The woman, who has been identified as Katherine Perkins, was standing next to the boat’s center console while her companions, Louis Toth and Dominic Bellezza, were fishing some two miles offshore in the St. Lucie Inlet, near Stuart, Florida.
As Toth and Bellezza began to reel the fish in, the pair noticed it charge the boat, before jumping out of the water and striking Perkins in the groin with its bill. Both fishermen applied pressure to the wound and the woman was airlifted to HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital, where she’s said to be in good condition.
Speaking with local authorities, Perkins said the attack happened so fast that she didn’t have time to react.
Sailfish resemble swordfish and marlin with their extended, pointed bills, and can grow up to 1.5 meters within a single year. They are considered one of the fastest fish species in the world, reaching speeds of between 10 and 15 meters per second when hunting prey.
The species is named for the fin on its back, which is known as the “sail.” It’s typically folded down, unless the sailfish is attacking prey. When erect, the sail is shown to reduce sideways oscillations of the head, which makes the fish’s bill less detectable. This allows it to attack not just small foraging fish, but squid, as well.
Currently, the sailfish is classified as a vulnerable species. This means it’s at threat of extinction, unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction are improved or rectified.