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North Atlantic Swordfish are a mainstay of our Viking Village longline fishery and are caught by boats fishing from the Carolinas to the Grand Banks. U.S. commercial fishermen mainly use pelagic longline gear to capture North Atlantic swordfish. Pelagic longline gear has no impacts on ocean floor habitats because it does not come in contact with the bottom.


Swordfish are solitary or sometimes found in loose schools. Their habit of basking on the surface made harpooning a viable catch method in the not too distant past.


This species’ broad distribution, large spawning area, and prolific nature have contributed to its resilience, despite heavy fishing pressure from many nations. The North Atlantic swordfish population is now fully rebuilt; biomass estimates are currently 5% above the target level. 

Fishwatch Facts

 •Geographic range: Gulf Stream of western North Atlantic Ocean, extending north into the Grand Banks; the North Atlantic stock is also in eastern Atlantic along Africa/Europe


•Habitat: Found in surface waters but feed throughout water column


•Life span: 9+ years


•Food: Groundfish, pelagic fish, deep-water fish, and invertebrates such as squid


•Growth rate: Rapid; females grow faster than males


•Maximum size: Up to 1,165 pounds


•Reaches reproductive maturity: Between 4 to 5 years in females 


•Reproduction: Swordfish spawn numerous times throughout the year. Females produce a highly variable number of

eggs: from 1 to 16 million in a 370-pound female to 29 million in a 600-pound female.


•Spawning season: Year-round


•Spawning grounds: Warm tropical and sub-tropical waters


•Migrations: Swordfish annually migrate thousands of miles along the eastern seaboard of the United States and

Canada and also in eastern Atlantic along Africa/Europe.


•Predators: Swordfish are top predators, but juvenile swordfish may fall prey to other larger fish.


•Commercial or recreational interest: Both


•Distinguishing characteristics: Swordfish have a long, flattened bill, which is used for slashing and stunning prey. Their color is darkest on top, generally black or brown, and fades to a lighter color below. They have special eye muscles and a heat exchange system, both of which allow them to swim in deep cold water in search of prey. They also have a streamlined body that facilitates swimming at high speeds.

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