Don’t order the Swordfish!

Farrah Sarafa - Contributing Writer
Posted on Monday 8th June 2009
Swordfish, highly migratory fish, found in all worlds’ Oceans, have been severely over fished. In 1998 the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) recognized swordfish depletion by 50% of what they were 20 years ago, a 30% decrease from 1994 and while it has taken precautionary measures aimed at monitoring and regulating fishermen’s catch and imports, long lining swordfish continues to be responsible for killing and suffocating other endangered species: billfish, sharks, seabirds and sea turtles. Despite the attempts by thousands of ocean scientists in countries all around the world to institute moratoriums against long line fishermen, alternative means to catching swordfish, such as the circle hook or a return to harpooning methods prevalent up to the 1960’s have not been successful enough to ban the catastrophic long lining method. Once weighing 260 pounds, the average swordfish caught and imported used to be 150-1,200 pounds, but by the 1990’s, swordfish under 100 pounds were being frequently caught and sold. Since female swordfish need to weigh 150 to reproduce, populations began diminishing all to rapidly under the new, cheaper fishing method. The United Nations’ establishing 1998 the International Year of the Ocean” brought about a “Give the Swordfish a Break” campaign, but the fact remains that long liners’ method of catching continues to deplete other endangered sea creatures. Designed to raise North Atlantic fish boycotts on a large-scale the campaign aided 94% swordfish recovery. It won the cooperation of twenty-seven top chefs, seven hundred in its two and a half year term, restaurants, cruise lines, airlines and grocery stores across the United States. Restaurants’ promoting a “try the pasta” agenda eventually helped the species to recover but complete and continued restitution was halted by consumer demand, by critics’ arguments that swordfish were never endangered, and by fishermen complaints that their jobs were at risk amid an allegedly “useless” boycott. Swordfish have repopulated since the 1998 boycott but endangered sea turtles, billfish and sharks continue to suffer. Now the only way to really rally against over-fishing and extinction of the oceans’ most pristine animals is to avoid regularly ordering the swordfish at our local restaurant.

test image for this block