A swordfish is an easily recognizable fish because of the sword-like protrusion from its upper jaw and its crescent shaped rear fins. It is generally gray blue to bronze on top, and pale cream on the bottom.

The flesh of the swordfish is usually served as steaks. It is a popular seafood fare because of its meaty texture and mild flavor. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which is good for the heart.


Other names: Broadbill
Translations: Zobenzivs, Kardžuvė, Peşte-spadă, Sabljarka, Cá đao, Miecznik, Zwaardvis, स्वोर्डफ़िश, Espadarte, Меч-рыба, Ξιφίας, سمك أبو سيف, 황새치, Mečoun, Сабљарка, Isdang-ispada, 剑鱼, Peix espasa, Mečarica, Mečiar, Pesce spada, דג החרב, Svärdfisk, Ikan todak, メカジキ, Espadon, Schwertfisch, Sværdfisk, Sverdfisk, Pez espada, Меч-риба, Miekkakala, Риба меч

Physical Description

The swordfish has a stout, fairly rounded body and large eyes. The first dorsal fin (rising from the back of the fish) is tall and crescent-shaped. The second dorsal fin is quite separate from the first and very small. Both are soft-rayed—having thin, bony rods that extend from the base of the fin and support the fin membrane. The anal fins approximate the shape of the dorsal fins, but are noticeably smaller. Ventral fins, found on the underside of fish, are absent. There is a strong, longitudinal keel, or ridge, on either side of the caudal peduncle (the base of the tail where the tail fins project from), which leads to a broad, crescent-shaped tail. Adult swordfish have neither teeth nor scales.

Colors: dark brown to grayish-blue.

Tasting Notes

Flavors: salty, sweet
Mouthfeel: Firm, Meaty
Food complements: Mango, Tropical fruit, Butter, Corn. peppers
Wine complements: Rose, Gewurtztraminer, Viognier
Beverage complements: Tequila, Gin, Iced tea, Fruit juices
Substitutes: Ono, Opah, Tuna, Mahi

Selecting and Buying

Choosing: Looks for pink fresh meat that is mostly free of dark spots. Smell the package for freshness and pass on any packages that have a slightly sour or fishy smell.
Buying: Available seasonally online and at some supermarkets

Preparation and Use

Grill lightly with a minimum of spices and a squeeze of citrus. Let sit after cooking for about a minute before serving.

Conserving and Storing

Today, some swordfish are caught as they traditionally were using harpoons, but most are caught on longlines consisting of a main line, up to 40 miles long, which is supported in the water column by floats and from which baited hooks are suspended. In addition, swordfish are often an incidental catch in the tuna fishery.

The sport fishery normally fishes for swordfish by trolling and drift-fishing, using rod-and-reel gear. The catch rate has increased considerably since fishermen began in the mid-1970s to fish for swordfish at night using drifting baited lines.

Once almost unsalable, swordfish meat gained in popularity during World War II and continued through the early 1970s. In 1971, the U.S. and Canadian swordfish fishery was essentially terminated following U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions imposed on the sale of swordfish found to have levels of mercury in the flesh higher than 0.5 parts per million (ppm).

But gradually, the U.S. fishery began to rebound. In 1979, the FDA raised the acceptable mercury level to 1.0 ppm, based, in part, on a National Marine Fisheries Service study, showing that a 1.0 ppm action level would adequately protect consumers. Finally, in 1984, the FDA switched from enforcing the mercury action level based on total mercury concentration to methyl mercury concentration. This change occurred for two reasons: (1) It was determined that methyl mercury was the toxic component of the total mercury concentration, and (2) a test specific for methyl mercury became available. Since then, both catch and fishing effort have been exceedingly high in the Atlantic Ocean, with swordfish meat commanding top prices in the marketplace.


Recreational fishing has developed a sub-specialty called sword fishing. It has become quite popular throughout many parts of the world. Because there is a ban on Long lining along many parts of seashore, swordfish populations are showing signs of recovery from the overfishing caused by Long lining along the coast. The population recovery is far from complete and the swordfish population is still at a much lower level than it once was.

History: Swordfish have been observed spawning in the Atlantic Ocean, in water less than 250 ft (75 m) deep. Estimates vary considerably, but females may carry from 1 million to 29 million eggs in their gonads. Solitary males and females appear to pair up during the spawning season. Spawning occurs year-round in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, the Florida coast and other warm equatorial waters, while it occurs in the spring and summer in cooler regions. The most recognized spawning site is in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Italy. The height of this well-known spawning season is in July and August, when males are often observed chasing females. The pelagic eggs are buoyant, measuring 1.6–1.8 mm in diameter. Embryonic development occurs during the 2 ½ days following fertilization. As the only member of its family, the swordfish has unique-looking larvae. The pelagic larvae are 4 mm long at hatching and live near the surface. At this stage, the body is only lightly pigmented. The snout is relatively short and the body has many distinct, prickly scales. With growth, the body narrows. By the time the larvae reach half an inch long (12 mm), the bill is notably elongated, but both the upper and lower portions are equal in length. The dorsal fin runs the length of the body. As growth continues, the upper portion of the bill grows proportionately faster than the lower bill, eventually producing the characteristic prolonged upper bill. Specimens up to approximately 9 inches (23 cm) in length have a dorsal fin that extends the entire length of the body. With further growth, the fin develops a single large lobe, followed by a short portion that still reaches to the caudal peduncle. By approximately 20 inches (52 cm), the second dorsal fin has developed, and at approximately 60 inches (150 cm), only the large lobe remains of the first dorsal fin.



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