Certifier : 
MRAG Americas, Inc.
Certified status : 
Certified since : 
28 Mar 2013
Certificate expires : 
05 Mar 2023


NOTE: this fishery now includes the Southeast US North Atlantic swordfish

This North Atlantic fishery targets the broadbill swordfish, and has been certified as sustainable since 2013.

Swordfish are distributed widely in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Larger individuals are found in deeper colder waters, and males are more prevalent in warmer waters. They mostly spawn in the western warm tropical and subtropical waters. Swordfish can reach a weight of more than 500kg – females grow faster than males, and reach a larger maximum size. They can live up to 15 years.

Two methods are used to catch them in this fishery: pelagic longlines, and handgear buoy lines. Pelagic longlines are from 5 to 40 miles in length, with 20 to 30 hooks per mile. Lightsticks, which contain chemicals that emit a glowing light, are often used for targeting swordfish – they attract baitfish which may, in turn, attract pelagic predators. 

The lines are generally deployed at sunset and hauled at sunrise, reflecting the nocturnal near-surface fishing habits of swordfish. Except for boats taking extended trips into distant waters, the fleet usually target swordfish when the moon is full, to take advantage of increased surface densities of pelagic species.

Buoy gear consists of one or more floatation devices supporting a single mainline to which no more than two hooks are attached. This type of fishing also usually takes place at night.

Broadbill swordfish (Xiphias gladiusimage © Scandinavian Fishing Year Book