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Swordfish

Xiphias gladius

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Gill or fixed net
Capture area - South East Pacific (FAO 77,81,87)
Stock area - South East Pacific
Stock detail - All Areas
Certification -
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Under assessment


Sustainability overview

We are reviewing this specific listing at the moment. Please contact MCS if you or your organisation would like further information about this listing.

Biology

Swordfish is the only member of the family Xiphiidae. It is a highly migratory species, moving towards temperate or cold waters in summer to feed and returning to warmer waters to spawn. They are apex predators that feed opportunistically. Squids and fishes are major prey items. In the South-East Pacific Ocean (SEPO), spawning takes place in summer months. Usually solitary, it forms large schools during spawning. A fast growing fish, swordfish in the SEPO mature at 2-3 years of age, when they 115-120cm (males) and 165-175cm (females).They can attain a maximum size of 4.5m and a weight of 650kg. Swordfish tolerate temperatures of about 5 to 27C, but their optimum range is about 18 to 22C, and larvae have been found only at temperatures exceeding 24C.

Stock information

Stock area
South East Pacific

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Stock information
The South-east Pacific swordfish stock is managed by both the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The most recent stock assessment was updated in 2011, and indicated that the stock was not experiencing overfishing and was not overfished. Results indicated that the spawning biomass had decreased to a low of about 43,000 t in 1993 and had been increasing since, reaching about 135,000 t in 2010t. At the same time as this increase, the annual catch by all fisheries was maintained at an average 12,000t during the 10 year period ending in 2010. Spawning biomass was estimated to be at 50% above the carrying capacity, and substantially above the level which is expected to produce catch at the level of Maximum Sustainable Yield (1.45SBmsy). Catches have increased in the last few years towards the estimated MSY of 25,000 t with the 2011 and 2012 catches at approximately 24,000t. It is not clear whether this is due to increased abundance of swordfish or increased effort directed toward that species.

A new stock assessment is needed to gain a better understanding of current stock status.

Management

As for tuna, individual swordfish stocks range across and are accessed by numerous coastal states, making harmonised and effective management of these individual stocks very difficult. As a result, intergovernmental Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have been established. There are five main tuna RFMOs worldwide and it is their responsibility to carry out data collection, scientific monitoring and management of these fisheries, including swordfish. In this case, it is shared between the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Whilst the RFMOs are responsible for the development of management and conservation measures, the degree to which they are implemented, monitored and enforced still varies significantly between coastal states. The main countries reporting swordfish catches in this region are Chile, Japan and Spain.

There is no Total Allowable Catch (TAC) set for this stock. Management measures that apply to directed tuna fisheries are expected to also benefit swordfish stocks.

The IATTC and WCPFC requires 5% observer coverage on longliners greater than 20m.

To help address IUU, the IATTC & WCPFC maintain an IUU Vessel List; maintains a register of authorised fishing vessels; and prohibits transhipments at sea for most vessels (Some exemptions apply) and requires most other transhipments to be documented and observed as part of the regional observer programme.

Capture information

In the South-east Pacific Ocean, swordfish are mostly caught in mixed species longline fisheries by Chilean, Japanese and Spanish fleets. In recent years, Spain has dominated catches. Much smaller quantities are taken in artisanal harpoon and gill net fisheries off the coast of South America. Pelagic gill nets are associated with high levels of bycatch of shark, birds, other billfish and endangered marine turtles. There are few effective measures to prevent mortality of these animals caught in these nets and the reporting of such incidents is very poor.

Read more about capture methods


References
Froese, R. and Pauly, D. Editors, 2013. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Available at www.fishbase.org [Accessed Nov 2013].

IATTC, 2014. Active IATTC and AIDCP Resolutions and Recommendations. Available at http://www.iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm [Accessed Jan 2015].

IATTC, 2014. Fishery status report number 12. Tunas and billfishes in the Eastern Pacific Ocean 2013. La Jolla, California (USA). Available at http://www.iattc.org/PDFFiles2/FisheryStatusReports/FisheryStatusReport12.pdf [Accessed Jan 2015].

IATTC, 2011. Status of swordfish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2010 and outlook for the future. Scientific Advisory Committee 2nd Meeting. 9-12 May, 2011 La Jolla, California (USA). Available at http://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2011/May-SAC-Shark/PDFfiles/SAC-02-09-SWO-assessment-2010.pdf [Accessed Jan 2013].

ISSF, 2014. ISSF Tuna Stock Status Update, 2014: Status of the world fisheries for tuna. ISSF Technical Report 2014-09. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/09/ISSF-2014-09-Status-of-the-Stocks-Sept-11-BYCATCH-APPENDIX.pdf [Accessed Nov 2014].

IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . [Accessed December 2012].

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