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Swordfish are a large pelagic predator that range from the tropics well into Canadian waters. Although they are most abundant on the outer continental shelf and near deep-water banks and other offshore structure, where they regularly feed more than 1,000 feet below the surface, swordfish historically ranged well inshore, sometimes “finning out” on the surface inside the 20 fathom line.
Although anglers often catch swordfish “pups,” weighing less than 100 pounds, when “chunking” for tuna around the offshore canyons at night, individuals weighing well over 300 pounds are sometimes encountered. On rare occasions, swordfish of more than 1,000 pounds have been caught.
Swordfish are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which acts in accord with recommendations made by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Overfishing by the pelagic longline fleet drove the North Atlantic swordfish population to very low levels during the 1990s; however, it has since been successfully rebuilt, thanks to a successful international conservation effort. Thanks to that effort, U.S. commercial fishermen landed more than 2,000,000 pounds of swordfish in 2016, with more landed by recreational anglers, yet the North Atlantic stock is now neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.