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July 22, 2008

The Once Glorious Swordfish

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”— Henry David Thoreau

The swordfish,the only member of the family Xiphiidae, are one of the most beautiful marine animals living in our oceans — with big blue eyes, a long bill and brilliant sail — its spectacular. It’s a fish so great it inspired authors such as Hemmingway and artists all over the world.

If given an opportunity the swordfish can reach a grand size of 15ft/5m weighing 1,400lbs/650kg.

Unfortunately, the swordfish that we photographed today, being transferred from the longline fishing boat to the truck were so small that they had to pile six fish on the scale to even record the total weight of 140lbs/70kg. Cradled within the arms of a fisherman, I would estimate that some of these baby swordfish only weigh only 20lbs/9kg — just a tiny fraction of their potential size.

The swordfish population, like the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, is endanger of collapsing. Environmental organizations are asking the general public to reduce their consumption of swordfish and Atlantic Bluefin Tuna — for a sustainable future. But also due to the high levels of pollutants in their meat.

As a warning sign our oceans are in trouble and our seas are becoming polluted — The United States Food & Drug Administration issued the following health warning for eating Swordfish:

“Pregnant women and women of childbearing age, who may become pregnant, however, are advised by FDA experts, to limit their consumption of shark and swordfish to no more than once a month. These fish have much higher levels of methyl mercury than other commonly consumed fish. Since the fetus may be more susceptible…” ( http://www.fda.gov/fdac/reprints/mercury.html )