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.
A portion of the Canadian Atlantic harpoon swordfish fishery is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) .
Broadbill, Emperador, Espada, Shutome
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.
Environmental Defense Fund has issued a consumption advisory for swordfish due to elevated levels of mercury.
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 (a type of hook-and-line gear) 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 ranked "Avoid," with the exception of longline-caught swordfish from the U.S. Atlantic and Hawaii, where strict bycatch regulations result in a "Good Alternative" ranking.