Swordfish
Overview
 
Swordfish also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish
Predatory fish
Predatory fish are fish that predate upon other fish or animals. Some predatory fish include perch, muskie , pike, walleye, salmon.Levels of large predatory fish in the global oceans are estimated to be about 10% of their pre-industrial levels...

 characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish
Billfish
The term billfish is applied to a number of different large, predatory fish characterised by their large size and their long, sword-like bill. Billfish include the sailfish and marlin, which make up the family Istiophoridae, and the swordfish, sole member of the family Xiphiidae...

 category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood. These fish can live close to shore. They reach a maximum size of 14 ft 9 in (455 cm) and 1,400 lb (650 kg).
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Encyclopedia
Swordfish also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish
Predatory fish
Predatory fish are fish that predate upon other fish or animals. Some predatory fish include perch, muskie , pike, walleye, salmon.Levels of large predatory fish in the global oceans are estimated to be about 10% of their pre-industrial levels...

 characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish
Billfish
The term billfish is applied to a number of different large, predatory fish characterised by their large size and their long, sword-like bill. Billfish include the sailfish and marlin, which make up the family Istiophoridae, and the swordfish, sole member of the family Xiphiidae...

 category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood. These fish can live close to shore. They reach a maximum size of 14 ft 9 in (455 cm) and 1,400 lb (650 kg). The International Game Fish Association
International Game Fish Association
The International Game Fish Association is the leading authority on angling pursuits and the keeper of the most current World Record fishing catches by fish categories. Fishermen who are sport fishers are careful to follow their stringent rules for fair play and line requirements in order to...

's all-tackle angling record for a swordfish was a 1,182 lb (536.15 kg) specimen taken off Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 in 1953.

They are the sole member of their family Xiphiidae.

Physiology

The swordfish is named after its bill resembling a sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 (Latin gladius), which together with its streamlined physique allows it to cut through the water with great ease and agility. Contrary to popular belief, the "sword" is not used to spear, but instead may be used to slash at its prey in order to injure the prey animal, to make for an easier catch. Mainly the swordfish relies on its great speed, capable of reaching speeds up to 50 mph (80 km/h), and agility in the water to catch its prey. One possible defensive use for the sword-like bill is for protection from its few natural predators. The shortfin mako shark
Shortfin mako shark
The shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus , is a large mackerel shark. Along with the closely related longfin mako it is commonly referred to as a "mako shark".-Etymology:...

 is one of the rare sea creatures big enough and fast enough to chase down and kill an adult swordfish, but they don't always win. Sometimes in the struggle with a shark a swordfish can kill it by ramming it in the gills or belly.

Like most fish, the females grow larger than the males, with males over 300 lb (135 kg) being rare. Females mature at 4–5 years of age in northwest Pacific while males mature first at about 3 to 4 years. In the North Pacific, batch spawning occurs in water warmer than 24°C from March to July and year round in the equatorial Pacific. Adult swordfish forage includes pelagic fish
Pelagic fish
Pelagic fish live near the surface or in the water column of coastal, ocean and lake waters, but not on the bottom of the sea or the lake. They can be contrasted with demersal fish, which do live on or near the bottom, and reef fish which are associated with coral reefs.The marine pelagic...

 including small tuna
Tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

, dorado, barracuda
Barracuda
The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales. Some species could reach up to 1.8m in length and 30 cm in width...

, flying fish, mackerel
Mackerel
Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They may be found in all tropical and temperate seas. Most live offshore in the oceanic environment but a few, like the Spanish mackerel , enter bays and can be...

, forage fish
Forage fish
Forage fish, also called prey fish or bait fish, are small fish which are preyed on by larger predators for food. Predators include other larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Typical ocean forage fish feed near the base of the food chain on plankton, often by filter feeding...

 as well as benthic
Benthic zone
The benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean or a lake, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers. Organisms living in this zone are called benthos. They generally live in close relationship with the substrate bottom; many such...

 species of hake
Hake
The term hake refers to fish in either of:* family Phycidae of the northern oceans* family Merlucciidae of the southern oceans-Hake fish:...

 and rockfish
Rockfish
Rockfish may refer to one of the following fishes:* One of several species in the Sebastes genus of the Sebastidae family, including the Shortraker rockfish, Rougheye rockfish, Blue rockfish, Yellow tail rockfish and many others....

. Squid
Squid
Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthida, which comprises around 300 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles...

 are important when available. Swordfish are thought to have few predators as adults although juveniles are vulnerable to predation by large pelagic fish.
While swordfish are cold-blooded
Cold-blooded
Cold-blooded may refer to:* ectothermy, controlling body temperature through external means, such as by basking in the sun* poikilothermy, the ability of an organism to function over a wide internal temperature range...

 animals, they have special organs next to their eye
Eye
Eyes are organs that detect light and convert it into electro-chemical impulses in neurons. The simplest photoreceptors in conscious vision connect light to movement...

s to heat their eyes and also their brain. Temperatures of 10 to 15 °C above the surrounding water temperature have been measured. The heating of the eyes greatly improves their vision
Visual perception
Visual perception is the ability to interpret information and surroundings from the effects of visible light reaching the eye. The resulting perception is also known as eyesight, sight, or vision...

, and consequently improves their ability to catch prey. Out of the 25,000+ species of bony fish
Osteichthyes
Osteichthyes , also called bony fish, are a taxonomic group of fish that have bony, as opposed to cartilaginous, skeletons. The vast majority of fish are osteichthyes, which is an extremely diverse and abundant group consisting of over 29,000 species...

, only about 22 are known to have the ability to heat selected body parts above the temperature of the surrounding water. These include the swordfish, marlin
Marlin
Marlin, family Istiophoridae, are fish with an elongated body, a spear-like snout or bill, and a long rigid dorsal fin, which extends forward to form a crest. Its common name is thought to derive from its resemblance to a sailor's marlinspike...

, and tuna
Tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

.

Swordfish are not schooling
Shoaling and schooling
In biology, any group of fish that stay together for social reasons are said to be shoaling , and if, in addition, the group is swimming in the same direction in a coordinated manner, they are said to be schooling . In common usage, the terms are sometimes used rather loosely...

 fish. They swim alone or in very loose aggregations, separated by as much as 10 meters from a neighboring swordfish. They are frequently found basking at the surface, airing their first dorsal fin. Boaters report this to be a beautiful sight, as is the powerful jumping for which the species is known. This jumping, also called breaching, is thought by some researchers to be an effort to dislodge pests, such as remora
Remora
The remora , sometimes called a suckerfish or sharksucker, is an elongated, brown fish in the order Perciformes and family Echeneidae...

 or lampreys. It could also be a way of surface feeding by stunning small fish as they jump out of the water, making the fish more easily captured for food.

Swordfish feed daily, most often at night when they rise to surface and near-surface waters in search of smaller fish. They have been observed moving through schools of fish, thrashing their swords to kill or stun their prey and then quickly turning to consume their catch. In the western North Atlantic, squid is the most popular food item consumed. But fish, such as menhaden
Menhaden
Menhaden, also known as mossbunker, bunker and pogy, are forage fish of the genera Brevoortia and Ethmidium, two genera of marine fish in the family Clupeidae.-Description:...

, mackerel, bluefish
Bluefish
The bluefish , called tailor in Australia, is a species of popular marine gamefish found in all climates. It is the sole species of the Pomatomidae family....

, silver hake, butterfish, and herring
Herring
Herring is an oily fish of the genus Clupea, found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring and the Pacific herring may each be divided into subspecies...

 also contribute to the swordfish diet.

Swordfish are vigorous, powerful fighters. When hooked or harpooned, they have been known to dive so quickly that they have impaled their swords into the ocean bottom up to their eyes. Although there are no reports of unprovoked attacks on humans, swordfish can be very dangerous when harpooned. They have run their swords through the planking of small boats when hurt.

The only natural enemies of the adult swordfish are large sharks, sperm whales, and orcas. As a result, they are easily frightened by small boats, which are similar in size to adults or juveniles of these species, but larger craft are able to draw very near to swordfish without frightening them, making swordfish easy to harpoon
Harpoon
A harpoon is a long spear-like instrument used in fishing to catch fish or large marine mammals such as whales. It accomplishes this task by impaling the target animal, allowing the fishermen to use a rope or chain attached to the butt of the projectile to catch the animal...

.

The swordfish is often mistaken for other billfish such as marlin
Marlin
Marlin, family Istiophoridae, are fish with an elongated body, a spear-like snout or bill, and a long rigid dorsal fin, which extends forward to form a crest. Its common name is thought to derive from its resemblance to a sailor's marlinspike...

, but upon examination their physiology is quite different.

Reproduction

Swordfish have been observed spawning in the Atlantic Ocean, in water less than 250 ft (75 m) deep. Estimates vary considerably, but females may carry from 1 million to 29 million eggs in their gonads. Solitary males and females appear to pair up during the spawning season. Spawning occurs year-round in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, the Florida coast and other warm equatorial waters, while it occurs in the spring and summer in cooler regions. The most recognized spawning site is in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy. The height of this well-known spawning season is in July and August, when males are often observed chasing females. The pelagic eggs are buoyant, measuring 1.6–1.8 mm in diameter. Embryonic development occurs during the 2 ½ days following fertilization. As the only member of its family, the swordfish has unique-looking larvae. The pelagic larvae are 4 mm long at hatching and live near the surface. At this stage, the body is only lightly pigmented. The snout is relatively short and the body has many distinct, prickly scales
Scale (zoology)
In most biological nomenclature, a scale is a small rigid plate that grows out of an animal's skin to provide protection. In lepidopteran species, scales are plates on the surface of the insect wing, and provide coloration...

. With growth, the body narrows. By the time the larvae reach half an inch long (12 mm), the bill is notably elongated, but both the upper and lower portions are equal in length. The dorsal fin runs the length of the body. As growth continues, the upper portion of the bill grows proportionately faster than the lower bill, eventually producing the characteristic prolonged upper bill
Beak
The beak, bill or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds which is used for eating and for grooming, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young...

. Specimens up to approximately 9 inches (23 cm) in length have a dorsal fin that extends the entire length of the body. With further growth, the fin develops a single large lobe, followed by a short portion that still reaches to the caudal peduncle. By approximately 20 inches (52 cm), the second dorsal fin has developed, and at approximately 60 inches (150 cm), only the large lobe remains of the first dorsal fin. They have been known to eat their own young due to lack of nutrition.

Harvest

Swordfish were harvested by a variety of methods at small scale (notably harpoon
Harpoon
A harpoon is a long spear-like instrument used in fishing to catch fish or large marine mammals such as whales. It accomplishes this task by impaling the target animal, allowing the fishermen to use a rope or chain attached to the butt of the projectile to catch the animal...

 fishing) until the global expansion of long-line fishing
Long-line fishing
Longline fishing is a commercial fishing technique. It uses a long line, called the main line, with baited hooks attached at intervals by means of branch lines called "snoods". A snood is a short length of line, attached to the main line using a clip or swivel, with the hook at the other end....

.

Swordfish is a particularly popular fish for cooking. Since swordfish are large animals, meat is usually sold as steaks, which are often grilled. Swordfish meat is relatively tough, and can be cooked in ways more fragile types of fish cannot (such as over a grill on skewers). The color of the flesh varies by diet, with fish caught on the east coast of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 often being rosier.

Swordfish are classified as oily fish
Oily fish
Oily fish have oil in their tissues and in the belly cavity around the gut. Their fillets contain up to 30 percent oil, although this figure varies both within and between species...

. Many sources including the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 warn about potential toxicity from high levels of methylmercury
Methylmercury
Methylmercury is an organometallic cation with the formula . It is a bioaccumulative environmental toxicant.-Structure:...

 in swordfish.

The FDA recommends that young children, pregnant women, and women of child-bearing age not eat swordfish. (See mercury in fish
Mercury in fish
Fish and shellfish concentrate mercury in their bodies, often in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organic compound of mercury. Fish products have been shown to contain varying amounts of heavy metals, particularly mercury and fat-soluble pollutants from water pollution...

 for more details.)

The flesh of some swordfish can acquire an orange tint, reportedly from their diet of shrimp or other prey. Such fish are sold as "pumpkin swordfish," and command a premium over their whitish counterparts. (Information from U.S. vendor Whole Foods
Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market is a foods supermarket chain based in Austin, Texas which emphasizes "natural and organic products." The company has been ranked among the most socially responsible businesses and placed third on the U.S...

.)

Conservation status

Swordfish are not listed as an endangered species.

In 1998, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Natural Resources Defense Council
Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a New York City-based, non-profit, non-partisan international environmental advocacy group, with offices in Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Beijing...

 and SeaWeb
SeaWeb
SeaWeb is a nonprofit ocean conservation organization. Their mission is to raise public awareness, advance science-based solutions and mobilize decision-makers around ocean conservation. SeaWeb was founded in 1996 by the Environment Group of the Pew Charitable Trust as an initiative to promote...

 hired Fenton Communications
Fenton Communications
Fenton is a public interest communications firm based in the United States. Founded by David Fenton in 1982, the firm’s client list includes organizations associated with a diverse array of social issues. -Overview:...

 to conduct an advertising campaign to promote their assertion that the swordfish population was in danger due to its popularity as a restaurant entree.

The resulting "Give Swordfish a Break" promotion was wildly successful, with 750 prominent U.S. chefs agreeing to remove North Atlantic swordfish from their menus, and also persuaded many supermarkets and consumers across the country.

The advertising campaign was repeated by the national media in hundreds of print and broadcast stories, as well as extensive regional coverage. It earned the Silver Anvil award from the Public Relations Society of America as well as Time magazine's award for the top five environmental stories of 1998.

Subsequently, the US National Marine Fisheries Service
National Marine Fisheries Service
The National Marine Fisheries Service is a United States federal agency. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce, NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat within the...

 proposed a swordfish protection plan that incorporated the campaign's policy suggestions. Then-US President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 called for a ban on the sale and import of swordfish and in a landmark decision by the federal government, 132670 square miles (343,613.7 km²) of the Atlantic ocean were placed off-limits to fishing as recommended by the sponsors.

In the North Atlantic, the swordfish stock is fully rebuilt, with biomass estimates currently 5% above the target level. There are no robust stock assessments for swordfish in the northwestern Pacific or South Atlantic, and there is a paucity of data concerning stock status in these regions. These stocks are considered unknown and a moderate conservation concern. The southwestern Pacific stock is a moderate concern due to model uncertainty, increasing catches, and declining CPUEs (catch per unit effort
Catch per unit effort
In fisheries and conservation biology, the catch per unit effort is an indirect measure of the abundance of a target species. Changes in the catch per unit effort are inferred to signify changes to the target species' true abundance...

). Overfishing is likely occurring in the Indian Ocean, and fishing mortality exceeds the maximum recommended level in the Mediterranean, thus these stocks are considered of high conservation concern.

In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the swordfish to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."

Recreational importance

Recreational fishing has developed a sub-specialty called swordfishing. Because there is a ban on long-lining along many parts of seashore, swordfish populations are showing signs of recovery from the overfishing caused by long-lining along the coast.

There are various ways to fish for swordfish, but the most common method is deep-sea fishing. Because many swordfish used to be caught by long-lining near shore, the remaining population of swordfish live about 40 miles or more off the coast. The boat is allowed to drift, as the ocean bottom is too deep for anchors. Swordfishing requires a specialized, strengthened fishing rod as swordfish are quite large. Standard bait is large chunks of mackerel, herring, mullet, bonito or squid; one can also use live bait. Imitation squids and other imitation fish lures can also be used, and specialized lures made specifically for sword fishing using plastic glow sticks are also used.

As a namesake

The word "swordfish" is used in a number of cultural contexts. The swordfish's strong image leads to a particularly large number of namesakes in naval and military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

contexts.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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