Seafood Watch - Seafood Guide

Swordfish

© Monterey Bay Aquarium
SEAFOODRATINGMARKET NAMESLOCATION/CERTIFICATIONHOW CAUGHT/FARMED
Swordfish Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Broadbill, Emperador, Espada, Shutome Hawaii Harpoon, Handline
Swordfish Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Broadbill, Emperador, Espada, Shutome U.S., Canada, North Atlantic, East Pacific Harpoon, Handline
Swordfish Good Alternative: These are good alternatives to the best choices column. There are some concerns with how they are fished or farmed – or with the health of their habitats due to other human impacts. Broadbill, Emperador, Espada, Shutome California Drift Gillnet
Swordfish Good Alternative: These are good alternatives to the best choices column. There are some concerns with how they are fished or farmed – or with the health of their habitats due to other human impacts. Broadbill, Emperador, Espada, Shutome U.S. Longline
Swordfish Avoid: Avoid these products for now. These fish come from sources that are overfished or fished or farmed in ways that harm the environment. Broadbill, Emperador, Espada Imported Longline
Swordfish Good Alternative: These are good alternatives to the best choices column. There are some concerns with how they are fished or farmed – or with the health of their habitats due to other human impacts. Broadbill, Emperador, Espada, Shutome Marine Stewardship Council Certified Wild


Swordfish, Wild

Swordfish is found in most of the world's oceans but not all fisheries in all regions are well-managed. Some of the gear used accidentally catches sea turtles, seabirds and sharks. Harpoons and handlines are the most environmentally-friendly gear types.

Portions of some Canadian North Atlantic swordfish fisheries are certified sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Consumer Note

Swordfish is available year-round, and is often sold as fresh or frozen steaks, loins or fillets. Swordfish is known as shutome when prepared for sushi.

Health Alert

Environmental Defense Fund has issued a consumption advisory for swordfish due to elevated levels of mercury.

Summary

Swordfish is one of several large species known collectively as billfish. It's easily recognized by its sharp, pointed bill, which is used for protection and hunting prey. Found throughout the world's oceans, swordfish is highly migratory and prized by fishermen and chefs.

Although harpoons and handlines are used infrequently in the commercial swordfish fisheries, these catch methods result in little to no bycatch. This makes harpoon- and handline-caught swordfish from well-managed fisheries like the North Atlantic, eastern Pacific, U.S. and Canada a "Best Choice."

Off California, swordfish is also caught with drift gillnets. The bycatch of marine mammals and other protected species is minimized in these fisheries by management measures, making them a "Good Alternative."

Longlines are the most common gear for catching swordfish worldwide. This method results in the bycatch of threatened or endangered sea turtles, sharks and seabirds in large numbers. Since there are no international laws to reduce bycatch, international longline fleets contribute heavily to the long-term decline of some of these threatened or endangered species.

Consumers should look for harpoon- and handline-caught swordfish from the North Atlantic, eastern Pacific, U.S. and Canada as "Best Choices." Swordfish caught by international longline fleets are rated "Avoid," with the exception of longline-caught swordfish from the U.S. Atlantic and Hawaii, where strict bycatch regulations result in a "Good Alternative" rating.


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How fish are caught or farmed makes a difference. Fishing boat