Garfish (Belone belone)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Garfish or needlefish are easily recognised by their long thin bodies and long needle like mouths. Adults can reach up to 1 m in length and are mostly silver with a blue to green back, which is a typical counter-shading pattern of pelagic fish. There is a single dorsal and anal fin set away from the head and close to the tail. The garfish is a commercially important species but many people are put off by the garfish's green skeleton. In juveniles, the lower jaw is much longer than the upper jaw but in adults the jaws are almost the same length.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

A migratory species, Belone belone, may be found throughout the British Isles during summer but during winter is only seen in southern areas.

Global distribution



Garfish are pelagic spending winter offshore and coming into shallow waters during summer. Belone belone will spawn during May and June in seagrass beds and their eggs have long sticky filaments that adhere to seagrass blades. The juveniles stay in shallower waters until they reach sexual maturity.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Long needle-like mouth full of sharp teeth.
  • Elongate, laterally compressed body.
  • Dorsal and anal fin set far away from the head, near the tail.
  • Pelvic fin set at about 3/4 along length of body.

Additional information

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Listed by

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  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. Moen, F.E. & Svensen, E., 2004. Marine Fish & Invertebrates of Northern Europe. Southend-on-Sea: Aqua Press.

  4. Muus, B.J. & Dahlstrom, P., 1974. Collins guide to the sea fishes of Britain and North-Western Europe. Wm Collins Sons & Co. Ltd: London.

  5. WoRMS 2007. The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS)., 2008-10-31


  1. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  2. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  3. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  4. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  5. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  6. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  7. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  8. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-25

  9. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Fish (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Langmead, O. 2008. Belone belone Garfish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25-05-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 15/01/2008