North West Atlantic Canada harpoon swordfish — Marine Stewardship Council
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You are here: Home Track a fishery Fisheries in the MSC program Certified fisheries North-west Atlantic North West Atlantic Canada harpoon swordfish

North West Atlantic Canada harpoon swordfish

Last Updated: 1 September 2016 

MSC status

Certified as sustainable on 18th June 2010.


Species: North Atlantic swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
NAFO areas 3, 4, 5, & 6 as well as outside the NAFO Convention Area, in the ICCAT Northern Swordfish Boundary Area
Fishing methods: Harpoon
Vessels: 73 (2009)
Number of fisheries: 1

More about swordfish

Swordfish are a highly migratory species and their distribution is influenced by environmental conditions, in particular water temperature. Therefore, their presence in Canadian waters is often seasonal and closely related to cycles in water temperature. Of all billfish, the swordfish are the species with the greatest tolerance to temperature, tolerating waters ranging from 5-27 degrees Centigrade.

More about the fishing methods

The harpoon fishery is a unique hunt-like fishery, in which spotted swordfish are targeted with a spear measuring 4 to 5 meters in length attached with a line to a high-flyer balloon. Once impaled the fisher pulls in the catch. In the instance that the fish takes off, the line is played out, towing the highflyer until the fish can be retrieved. Harpooning is conducted on clear weather calm days, when basking swordfish are easily spotted, from small boats with minimal crew sizes.

Fishery tonnage

In 2008, 203 tonnes was harvested by the harpoon sector.

Commercial market

Over 90% of the swordfish landed in Atlantic Canada is exported to the United States. All products are shipped to fresh markets in a headed and gutted form.

Actual eligibility date

18th June 2010.

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