Maine Seafood Guide - Swordfish


species description | season | status | regulatory authority |
harvest method | recreational harvest | health benefits & risks | 

buying & preparing | brands | certifications | links 

Species Description
Swordfish Xiphias gladius


The swordfish, named for the sharp-edged elongated upper jaw and snout, is one of the largest and fastest predators in the Atlantic Ocean. They range throughout the high seas, from surface to deep waters, and visit the Gulf of Maine in summer.

June-August in the Gulf of Maine; year-round elsewhere.
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Status (see the About page for definitions)
North Atlantic swordfish are not overfished nor is overfishing occuring. The North Atlantic swordfish population is considered fully rebuilt; biomass estimates are currently 5% above the target level (more from
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Regulatory Authority
National Marine Fisheries Service’s Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Plan.
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Harvest Method
North Atlantic swordfish are taken via bandit gear, handline, harpoon, rod and reel), buoy gear (directed or handgear permit holders only), or longline, except that a limited number of swordfish may be taken incidentally on a vessel with squid trawl. All commercial longline vessels must have handling and release gear and corrodible hooks. Usually caught at night.
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Recreational Harvest
Permitted from a vessel with a Highly Migratory Species permit from NOAA Fisheries.
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Health Benefits & Risks
Swordfish contains more fat than other fish, but it is an excellent source of selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Swordfish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but is very high in mercury.

yellow warning symbolMercury levels in swordfish may exceed FDA recommendations. Some of the highest mercury concentrations in tested seafood were found in swordfish. The State of Maine recommends that pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant, nursing mothers and children under 8 not eat any swordfish. Everyone else should limit swordfish to twice a month.
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Buying & Preparing
Swordfish is a firm, dense fish, usually sold as “steaks” and is available fresh and frozen. Raw swordfish steaks should show a whorling pattern in the meat and be firm with no dull or discolored skin. Cut surfaces should be shiny and smooth. The raw meat will vary in color from white/ivory to pink/orange; swordfish turns beige when cooked.
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Companies, Brands, and Labels
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Certifications & Verifications
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Read The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw
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species description | season | status | harvest method | recreational harvest
health benefits & risks | 
buying & preparing | brands certifications | links