Swordfish is moist and flavorful with a slightly sweet taste. It has a moderately high oil content and a firm, meaty texture. When raw, the flesh varies from white and ivory to pink and orange. When cooked, swordfish turns beige. Swordfish flesh should be firm. Cut surfaces should be free of ragged edges. Discolored, dull skin is a sign of mishandling or dehydration.
Swordfish are large, migratory fish found in temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. They grow reasonably fast and mature quickly. Two populations of Swordfish occur in the Atlantic Ocean, one being the North Atlantic group and the other the South Atlantic group. The North Atlantic population is considered to be fully rebuilt. The population status of the South Atlantic Swordfish is uncertain but is currently considered to be above the management target of Biomass at Maximum Sustainable Yield.
Longlines are the most common gear for catching swordfish worldwide. This method results in the bycatch of threatened or endangered sea turtles, sharks and seabirds in large numbers. Since there are no international laws to reduce bycatch, international longline fleets contribute heavily to the long-term decline of some of these threatened or endangered species.
Consumers should look for harpoon- and handline-caught swordfish from the North Atlantic, eastern Pacific, U.S. and Canada as “Best Choices.” Swordfish caught by international longline fleets are ranked “Avoid,” with the exception of longline-caught swordfish from the U.S. Atlantic and Hawaii, where strict bycatch regulations result in a “Good Alternative” ranking.