Swordfish

(Xiphias gladius)

Swaardvis, Broadbilled swordfish

1. What is it?

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) are migratory fish that feed opportunistically at depths ranging from right at the surface to 800m. Atlantic Ocean swordfish are considered to be overfished as biomass is below sustainable levels. Fishing pressure is currently sustainable. However, there are concerns that fishing mortality is higher than reported due to the under-reporting of discarded swordfish (dead or alive). Indian Ocean swordfish is optimally fished as biomass is above sustainable levels and fishing pressure is at sustainable levels.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Swordfish are targeted by the South African pelagic longline fishery. Pelagic longlines consist of a double-line system suspended at different depths covered in baited hooks and which are several kilometers long. Bycatch is a significant issue in the fishery. Specifically, bycatch of seabirds, fish, sharks, and turtles are a challenge within the fishery as many of these species are endangered, threatened or protected (ETP) species. Catches of sharks by the fishery in recent years have increased, with sharks making up 49% of the catch in 2017. Steps have recently been taken to reduce shark catches.

3. Where is it from?

Swordfish are harvested by South Africa in the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean. Due to its migratory nature swordfish are managed by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). The Atlantic Ocean component is managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Indian Ocean Component is managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). Member countries or co-operating non-member countries are then responsible for ensuring the implementation and adaptation of the recommended quotas and regulations. Management by South Africa is considered largely effective as several steps have been taken to address the concerns around bycatch.