Event Showcases Quality Swordfish, and the Gear That Caught It

Chefs, fishermen, and scientists celebrate a better way to fish

Event Showcases Quality Swordfish, and the Gear That Caught It

More than 100 chefs, scientists, fishermen, sustainable seafood consumers, and wildlife advocates gathered Nov. 14 at a Carlsbad, California, restaurant to celebrate the successful development of gear that can improve the way the state’s commercial fishing fleet catches swordfish. The 3 Cheers for Buoy Gear event at Land & Water Company, a leader in the sustainable seafood movement, was co-hosted by the restaurant and The Pew Charitable Trusts. 

For decades, fishermen targeting swordfish have used large-mesh drift gillnets, which often ensnare and kill other species such as dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. That’s why Pew has been urging the Pacific Fishery Management Council to authorize the use of deep-set buoy gear, which targets swordfish more selectively and yields high-quality catch with minimal harm to other marine life.

Here are three reasons the council should grant that authorization now.

1. Deep-set buoy gear is an effective way to catch Pacific swordfish with minimal harm to nontarget species (bycatch). 

Chugey Sepulveda, Ph.D.
Chugey Sepulveda, Ph.D., director and senior scientist at the Pfleger Institute of Environment Research, developed and tested deep-set buoy gear over the past seven years. A key component is a flag attached to a buoy that marks where each fishing line is set and allows fishermen to respond immediately when a fish is caught.
Natalie Gildersleeve
deep-set buoy gear
Sepulveda deploys deep-set buoy gear from the back of a boat off the coast of California. This “actively tended” gear is used during the day and at depths specifically designed to minimize interaction with other species. Drift gillnets, by contrast, are used at night near the surface, where whales, turtles, and porpoises congregate, causing these nontarget species to become entangled.
Natalie Gildersleeve
This “actively tended” gear is used during the day and at depths specifically designed to minimize interaction with other species. Drift gillnets, by contrast, are used at night near the surface, where whales, turtles, and porpoises congregate, causing these nontarget species to become entangled.
Natalie Gildersleeve

2. Deep-set buoy gear has the potential to provide a large quantity of swordfish to the West Coast that would help meet domestic demand and could lower reliance on imported swordfish.

Swordfish tag
Researchers have worked with fishermen and seafood buyers to place traceability tags on buoy caught fish allowing consumers to know where their fish came from, including the name of the fisherman who caught each fish.
Natalie Gildersleeve

3. Fishermen land buoy-caught swordfish faster than fish caught with large-mesh drift gillnets, yielding a higher-quality product.

Chef Rob Ruiz
Chef Rob Ruiz of Land & Water Company shares his enthusiasm about the quality of a swordfish caught off Southern California with deep-set buoy gear. Many other chefs from across the country have expressed support for buoy-gear caught swordfish in recent years, including more than 50 who signed a March 2016 letter urging the Pacific Fishery Management Council to authorize the gear.
Natalie Gildersleeve
Chef working
Ruiz demonstrates the best way to fillet a swordfish with the least waste at the 3 Cheers for Buoy Gear event.
Natalie Gildersleeve
Swordfish fillet
Swordfish caught using deep-set buoy gear are landed within minutes and taken to market quickly, yielding higher-quality—and higher-value—fillets than are typical of fish caught with large-mesh drift gillnets.
Natalie Gildersleeve

You can help get deep-set buoy gear approved for the West Coast swordfish fleet! Join Pew in asking the Pacific Fishery Management Council to authorize this gear so that fishermen can pursue swordfish without harming other marine life.

Paul Shively directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work on ocean conservation in the Pacific.

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A Better Way to Catch Swordfish—and Reduce Bycatch, Too
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There's a Better Way than Drift Gillnets

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West Coast residents take pride in managing natural resources sustainably. However, many would be surprised to learn that off the California coast, thousands of animals are unnecessarily entangled and killed by an indiscriminate form of fishing gear targeting swordfish and thresher sharks.