Page - June 17, 2008

Greenpeace Canada Redlist

Fishery Facts

Latin Name Xiphias gladius.

Fishing Method Pelagic longlining (85 per cent), minor use of harpoons, drift gillnets and handlines.

Annual Catch More than 100,000 tonnes worldwide. In 2006, Canadian landings of swordfish were 1,405 tonnes.

Region of Harvest Swordfish are highly migratory, and are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, mostly in tropical and temperate waters. Also found in the Mediterranean Sea.

Why is it on the red list?   Biology

1. The use of longline fishing gear causes thousands of sharks (blue, porbeagle, and shortfin mako), sea turtles (leatherbacks and loggerheads), and seabirds (black-footed albatross) to be caught incidentally each year. In the Canadian fishery, over 50 per cent of the catch is bycatch with IUCN red-list status, meaning listed as threatened, endangered or otherwise.

2. Swordfish are large and ecologically significant predators in many ocean areas. Their decline could lead to changes in marine community structures, even with sustainable fishing rates.

3. In the international swordfish fishery, most nations do not have comprehensive catch enforcement or bycatch mitigation plans.

*US and Canadian fleets fishing for swordfish use harpoon and hand-line techniques, and are not associated with overfishing, depleted stocks, or bycatch.

Swordfish are the sole members of the family Xiphiidae.

Swordfish live between zero and 800 metres below sea level. They can live up to nine years, and reach maturity at five to six years.

Swordfish can grow to be 4.5 metres and can weigh up to 650 kilograms.

Swordfish feed on fish including tuna, barracudas, squid, lanternfish, herring and crustaceans.

Swordfish have special organs next to their eyes to heat their eyes and brain. This improves their vision and ability to catch prey. There are only 22 other bony fish species known to have this characteristic.