Swordfish

(Xiphias gladius)

Swaardvis, Broadbilled swordfish

1. What it is?

Swordfish are migratory fish that live in the open waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. They generally inhabit warm waters, moving toward cooler waters for feeding in summer and back to warm waters for spawning in winter. In South Africa, they are caught by fishermen using longlines, which are long fishing lines covered in baited hooks, in both the Indian and Atlantic oceans.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Swordfish are caught in the South African pelagic longline fishery for tuna and swordfish. Pelagic longlines consists 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. Accidental catches of seabirds, fish, sharks and turtles, many of which are listed as vulnerable and the fishing pressure may affect their population rates significantly. While recent reports showed that observed bycatch and discard rates in the tuna sector is low, little is known regarding bycatch and discard rates in the swordfish sector.

3. Where is it from?

Swordfish are found in the open waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. In South Africa, they are harvested in both the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. Management in this fishery is considered only partly effective largely due to insufficient monitoring of impacts to vulnerable species and a comprehensive plan to manage these impacts. In particular, the sector still permits shark fishing through various permit exemptions although intentions have been made to phase this out.