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 SWORDFISH
(
Xiphias gladius)



 Distribution & Size

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood. These fish are found widely in tropical and temperate parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and can typically be found from near the surface to a depth of 550 m (1,800 ft). They commonly reach 3 m (9.8 ft) in length, and the maximum reported is 4.55 m (14.9 ft) in length and 650 kg (1,400 lb) in weight. They are also found in the Gulf of Mexico.

They are the sole member of their family Xiphiidae.

 General Information

Recreational fishing has developed a sub-specialty called swordfishing. Because there is a ban on long-lining along many parts of seashore, swordfish populations are showing signs of recovery from the overfishing caused by long-lining along the coast. Swordfish over 200 pounds are generally females and tend to migrate to the surface at night, when most drift fishing occurs.

 Tackle & Bait

There are various ways to fish for swordfish, but the most common method is deep-sea fishing. Because many swordfish used to be caught by long-lining near shore, the remaining population of swordfish live about 40 mi (64 km) or more off the coast. The boat is allowed to drift, as the ocean bottom is too deep for anchors. Swordfishing requires a specialized, strengthened fishing rod as swordfish are quite large. Standard bait is large chunks of mackerel, herring, mullet, bonito or squid; one can also use live bait. Imitation squids and other imitation fish lures can also be used, and specialized lures made specifically for sword fishing using plastic glow sticks or submersible lights are also used. 8/0 to 11/0 hooks drifted with balloons to help detect the strike.

 Eating Qualities

Swordfish are classified as oily fish. Many sources including the United States Food and Drug Administration warn about potential toxicity from high levels of methylmercury in swordfish. The FDA recommends that young children, pregnant women, and women of child-bearing age not eat swordfish. (See mercury in fish for more details.)

The flesh of some swordfish can acquire an orange tint, reportedly from their diet of shrimp or other prey. Such fish are sold as "pumpkin swordfish," and command a premium over their whitish counterparts. (Information from U.S. vendor Whole Foods.)

Swordfish is a particularly popular fish for cooking. Since swordfish are large animals, meat is usually sold as steaks, which are often grilled. Swordfish meat is relatively firm, and can be cooked in ways more fragile types of fish cannot (such as over a grill on skewers). The color of the flesh varies by diet, with fish caught on the east coast of North America often being rosier.


 State Limits & Regulations

Swordfish are not listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

In 1998, the United States Natural Resources Defense Council and SeaWeb hired Fenton Communications to conduct an advertising campaign to promote their assertion that the swordfish population was in danger due to its popularity as a restaurant entree.

The resulting "Give Swordfish a Break" promotion was wildly successful, with 750 prominent U.S. chefs agreeing to remove North Atlantic swordfish from their menus, and also persuaded many supermarkets and consumers across the country.

The advertising campaign was repeated by the national media in hundreds of print and broadcast stories, as well as extensive regional coverage. It earned the Silver Anvil award from the Public Relations Society of America as well as Time magazine's award for the top five environmental stories of 1998.

Subsequently, the US National Marine Fisheries Service proposed a swordfish protection plan that incorporated the campaign's policy suggestions. Then-US President Bill Clinton called for a ban on the sale and import of swordfish and in a landmark decision by the federal government, 132,670 sq mi (343,600 km2) of the Atlantic ocean were placed off-limits to fishing as recommended by the sponsors.

In the North Atlantic, the swordfish stock is fully rebuilt, with biomass estimates currently 5% above the target level. There are no robust stock assessments for swordfish in the northwestern Pacific or South Atlantic, and there is a paucity of data concerning stock status in these regions. These stocks are considered unknown and a moderate conservation concern. The southwestern Pacific stock is a moderate concern due to model uncertainty, increasing catches, and declining CPUEs (Catch per unit effort). Overfishing is likely occurring in the Indian Ocean, and fishing mortality exceeds the maximum recommended level in the Mediterranean, thus these stocks are considered of high conservation concern.

In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the swordfish to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."

Florida State Record is 612lbs 12oz caught off Key Largo.

Size Limit* 

Closed Season 

Daily Rec. Bag Limit 

Remarks

None

None

1 per angler per day.
Included in the billfish aggregate bag.

None


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