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North Atlantic swordfish is low in calories, very low in fat, high in protein, and an excellent source of Omega-3.
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About the U.S. Fleet

U.S. Atlantic Pelagic Longline Fleet

It is important to pay attention to who catches the swordfish you eat.  Make sure to ask at your restaurant or fish market about the origin of their swordfish.  A healthy, ecosystem-friendly swordfish meal starts with American fishermen, who have made great sacrifices to ensure the sustainability of North Atlantic swordfish. 

In their FishWatch Fact Sheet about swordfish, NOAA Fisheries Service, the division of the U.S. government responsible for managing and conserving our Nation's marine resources, states,

...the U.S. fishery...[is] one of the most environmentally responsible longline fisheries in the world.


U.S. Atlantic Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)The U.S. Atlantic pelagic longline fleet, currently comprised of fewer than 100 boats, has home ports along the coast from Texas to Maine.  This fishery came under a limited access program in 1999, which capped the number of directed swordfish permits at 247.  Although a few boats occasionally migrate during fishing seasons, most stay within a close proximity to their home ports. Many of these small coastal boats are less than 55 ft. in length and make short fishing trips within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which comprises the waters out to 200 miles from shore in most locations.  A few vessels are up to 100 feet long, and fish in waters hundreds if not thousands of miles offshore.  Depending on where the fish are and how well they are biting, a longline fishing trip can last from several days to six weeks or more.  Pelagic longline fishing boats carry 2 to 6 crewmen in addition to the Captain.

In contrast, the foreign fleet’s vessels are significantly larger than the largest U.S. pelagic longline boat. In fact, one could fit several of our largest boats in the fish hold of just one of these large freezer vessels. They represent many times more fishing power than our small domestic fleet, as demonstrated by their harvesting of the vast majority of the total Atlantic catch of highly migratory species.  The U.S. pelagic longline fleet accounts for 5% to 8% of the total number of pelagic longline hooks fished in the North Atlantic.


Pelagic longline gear has had several independent evolutions, but the most widespread form appears to have been originally developed by the Japanese as early as the mid-19th century. Technological developments such as polyamide monofilament line and modern fishing vessel construction have resulted in the evolution and expansion of this gear type as the primary world-wide method of commercial harvest of large pelagic fish such as broad-bill swordfish and tunas.

Beginning in the 1960s, U.S. pelagic longline fishing for swordfish and tunas was conducted primarily off the Grand Banks by larger vessels based in New England. At that time, the fishing gear was made of nylon that had been dipped in a preservative. The hooks were usually large J-style hooks, commonly referred to as shark hooks. The vessels that fished for swordfish in this area were generally larger with the capability of fishing for several weeks at a time. The catches were good and the market for swordfish led to increased interest in targeting swordfish by commercial fishermen in other areas along the coast.

In the 1970s, the advent of monofilament (plastic) fishing gear enabled a near-shore fleet in the Gulf Stream off of Florida and South Carolina to join the swordfish fleet. Because the Gulf Stream is relatively close to shore in those areas, the size of the vessels and the duration of the trips changed. A fleet of smaller fiberglass vessels enabled a fresher fish niche market to be developed for day boats. The northern segment of the fleet eventually adapted and began to use the new style monofilament gear with smaller hooks.

In the 1980s, fishermen continued to innovate their gear to make it more effective in attracting swordfish and tuna. They experimented with various types of bait, dyeing the bait various colors, and using beads, lights, and rattles to attract the fish. Also during this time, tuna became a more sought after catch, due to availability of rapid shipping to prime markets in Japan. Because tuna and swordfish are often found in the same waters, fishermen can target both species at the same time. The adaptability of the gear through changes in materials, lengths, and deployment strategies help ensure that catches are primarily swordfish and tunas. Technological advances such as radio-locator beacons that could be attached to the gear helped fishermen retrieve their gear more quickly and efficiently.

Swordfish on F/V White WaterSince the 1980s, innovation has focused on ensuring conservation-minded fishing practices. Recent research focused on fine-tuning fishing methods, through changes in hook styles, lengths, and baits to avoid the capture of non-targeted species. This is an alternative to the traditional management strategy of closed areas, which are less effective and more restrictive. This collaboration between academic partners, government scientists, and commercial fishermen has resulted in the development of strategies which include safe-handling and release protocols, use of circle hooks in place of traditional J-style hooks, restriction on leader and main-line lengths, and corrodible hooks.

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