Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Swordfish - Southeastern Pacific
Marine Resource  Fact Sheet
Data Quality Assurance fact sheets 2019
Swordfish - Southeastern Pacific
Fact Sheet Citation  
Owned byInter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) – More
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FAO Names: en - Swordfish, fr - Espadon, es - Pez espada, ru - Меч-рыба
Geographic extent of Swordfish - Southeastern Pacific
Main Descriptors
Considered a single stock: Yes        Spatial Scale: Regional
Management unit: Yes        Reference year: 2018
Biological State and Trend
State & Trend Descriptors
Exploitation rateModerate fishing mortalityModerate fishing mortalityGreen
Abundance levelIntermediate abundanceIntermediate abundance
FAO Categories
Exploitation stateModerately exploited
Habitat and Biology
Depth zone: Abyssal ( >1000m).   Horizontal distribution: Oceanic.   Vertical distribution: Pelagic.  

Geographical Distribution
Jurisdictional distribution: Highly migratory

Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Regional

Geo References
Resource Structure
Considered a single stock: Yes

The stock structure of swordfish in the Pacific is fairly well known. A number of specific regions of spawning are known, and analyses of fisheries and genetic data suggest that there is only limited exchange of swordfish between geographical areas, including between the eastern and western, and the northern and southern, Pacific Ocean.

The best available scientific information from genetic and fishery data indicate that the swordfish of the northeastern Pacific Ocean (NEPO) and the southeastern Pacific Ocean (SEPO: south of about 5°S) constitute two distinct stocks. Also, there may be occasional movement of a northwestern Pacific stock of swordfish into the EPO at various times. However, recent electronic tagging of 47 swordfish off the southern California coast suggests that there may be more mixing of fish between northern and southern regions of the EPO—and possibly eastern and western—than previously thought. To this point, however, assessments of eastern Pacific stocks did not include parameters for movements among these or other stocks.

Swordfish grow in length very rapidly, with both males and the faster-growing females reaching lower-jaw-fork lengths of more than a meter during their first year. Swordfish begin reaching maturity at about two years of age, when they are about 150 to 170 cm in length, and by age four all are mature. They probably spawn more than once per season. For fish greater than 170 cm in length, the proportion of females increases with increasing length.

Swordfish tend to inhabit waters further below the surface during the day than at night, and they tend to inhabit frontal zones. Several of these occur in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), including areas off California and Baja California, off Ecuador, Peru, and Chile, and in the equatorial Pacific. Swordfish tolerate temperatures of about 5° to 27°C, but their optimum range is about 18° to 22°C, and larvae have been found only at temperatures exceeding 24°C.

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) occur throughout the Pacific Ocean between about 50°N and 50°S. They are caught mostly by the longline fisheries of Far East and Western Hemisphere nations. Lesser amounts are taken by gillnet and harpoon fisheries. They are seldom caught in the recreational fishery.

See also fishery fact sheet:EPO Tunas and billfishes fishery
Retained catches of swordfish in the South EPO.
Overall Assessment Results

The most recent assessment of the stock of swordfish in the southwestern EPO was conducted with Stock Synthesis, using data that were updated as of 22 April 2011.

Key results from that assessment were that

  1. the swordfish stock in the South EPO was not experiencing overfishing and was not overfished;
  2. the spawning biomass ratio was about 1.45, indicating that the spawning biomass was about 50% above the carrying capacity, and substantially above the level expected to produce catch at the MSY level;
  3. catches have been steadily increasing since about 2005, and the average annual catch during 2013–2017 (29,232 t exceeded the estimated MSY (~25,000 t) (Figure G-2)

Figure G-2: Retained catches of swordfish in the South EPO.

  1. there is no indication of a significant impact of fishing on this stock. The results of the assessment did suggest an expansion of the fishery onto components of the stock that were previously not, or were only lightly, exploited.

This subsequently been supported by a metadata analysis of the EPO longline fishery data (SAC-08-07b), which showed that longline effort increased steadily during 2008-2016, from 111 to 174 million hooks.
Management unit: Yes
Source of information
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). “"Tuna fishery, stocks, and ecosystem in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2018. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission." Fishery Status Report. IATTC 2019.”.
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