I. Biological Description
Swordfish (Xiphias gladius), also known as
broadbill, broadbill swordfish or shutome in
Hawaii, are the most widely distributed of all
billfish in the Pacific Ocean. Swordfish are caught
in association with frontal zones where ocean
currents or water masses meet to create turbu-
lence and sharp gradients of temperature and
salinity. Swordfish make vertical migrations
through the water column, rising near to the surface at night from deep waters. Swordfish caught
around the Hawaiian Islands are from stocks which migrate throughout the North Pacific.
II. Of Special Interest For Buying/Distributing
Availability And Seasonality:
Exploratory fishing in 1989 demonstrated the existence of commercial
concentrations of swordfish within the range of Hawaii’s longline fleet. Concentrations of large
swordfish around the Hawaiian Islands north of Oahu produce catches from April through July.
Commercial catches are possible for several months preceding this period, usually at farther dis-
tances north of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Swordfish availability in this region may be related to the
migration patterns of squid, known to be a major component of the swordfish diet. While searching
for concentrations of swordfish, longliners often set gear along temperature gradients (“breaks”)
indicative of intersecting water masses.
All of Hawaii’s swordfish are landed and marketed fresh. Much of the catch is exported
to the U.S. east coast, where domestic-quality swordfish can bring a premium price. Hawaii can
already claim a major share of the U.S. market for domestic swordfish. Hawaii swordfish is superior
in quality and is preferred over foreign imports by customers who have high standards.
Much of the landings are sold at the Honolulu fish auction, where most primary processors acquire
their fish for export. Alternatively, some boats market and export their catch directly from dockside.
Most east coast buyers order entire airline containers (LD-#) of swordfish (2,500-3,000 pounds per
shipment). The containers are well-insulated, and bagged swordfish are arranged carefully in layers
with larger fish on the bottom and smaller fish on the top. Swordfish shipped in this manner can be
sent only to cities which are served by widebody aircraft capable of carrying containerized cargo.
Consumers intent on purchasing swordfish are not likely to be satisfied by substitute
species. Unscrupulous fish dealers may attempt to substitute mako shark, whose flesh bears a slight
resemblance to that of swordfish, but this is fraudulent.
Blue marlin (kajiki) and striped marlin (nairagi) are sometimes incorrectly retailed in Hawaii super-
markets under the name “Hawaiian swordfish.” Swordfish and marlin have the same general biologi-
cal attributes and habitats, but they are not alike as seafood. Marlin has a more fibrous flesh than