The Billfish Foundation maintains the largest private tag and release database in the world, with 260,000 records by 150,000 anglers. In 2020 alone, TBF anglers and captains tagged, released, or recaptured 7,000 billfish and tuna across the world. Of these 7,000 new records, 169 were of swordfish. Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) are the only billfish species of the family Xiphiidae (as opposed to Istiophoridae). They are native to all oceans, but the vast majority of our records originate in the Atlantic. Information on how to identify a swordfish can be found on our youtube channel. Thank you to everyone that tagged and released swordfish last year. Click here for information on our Tag and Release Program and here to purchase tagging equipment and other TBF items.
TBF Captains and anglers across the world deployed 146 tags on swordfish in 2020. Almost all 146 swordfish were tagged in the Atlantic out of the USA, France, and Spain. Only one was caught in the Indian Ocean, off of Kenya. On average, swordfish were 58.2lbs (26.4kg) and 48.4in (122.9cm). However, sizes ranged from a minimum of only 8lbs (3.6kgs) to a hefty 280lbs (127kg)!
Forty anglers and fourteen Captains tagged swordfish in 2020. The most prolific of these were father-son team Capt Rudy Urbain and Samuel Urbain out of France. Also a significant contributor was Capt Nick Stanczyk out of Florida. As a result, the two highest concentration areas for swordfish tagging were France and the East Coast of Florida.
Swordfish tagging effort experienced some seasonality in 2020. Specifically, effort was highest in the summer and tapered slightly into the fall. Though tagging was quite high in January, it fell sharply in the following months, possibly due to COVID-19 quarantines.
In general, if an angler is going to report a swordfish encounter to TBF, it will almost always be a tag over an untagged release. In line with this, only six swordfish were reported released without tags in 2020. Five of six of these swordfish were in the Gulf of Mexico and tagged out of the USA and Cayman Islands. Only one was in the Indian Ocean, tagged off the Seychelles. Four Captains and four anglers reported these six releases to TBF.
Swordfish releases were dispersed throughout the year. Two of the six swordfish were released in January, one in May, two in July, and one in September.
An impressive 17 swordfish were recaptured in 2020! Of these, 13 were complete and four were missing original tagging information. Remember to always report your tags to TBF!
Four swordfish were recaptured in the Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico region. Two originated off Louisiana. One of these was recaptured just miles from the original tagging location, while the other incredibly migrated down and around Florida, up the US East Coast, and was recaptured in Nova Scotia! The most fun part of these two recaptures? They were both tagged in May 2018 off Louisiana and recaptured in July 2020. In the same amount of time, one decided to head on for colder Northern waters while the other just couldn’t seem to stay away from crawfish country!
The other two Atlantic recaptures originated in Florida. One moved from the Northeastern tip of Florida to the sunny SoFlo waters, while the other originated in the Keys and followed it’s Louisiana friend north to Nova Scotian waters.
Three swordfish were recaptured in the Mediterranean. All three recaptures originated in the Sainte Maxime/Saint Tropez area of France. Incredibly, all three recaptures were tagged by father-son team Capt Rudy Urbain and Samuel Urbain. The Urbains have been absolutely vital in establishing swordfish tagging in the Mediterranean and are responsible for tagging every single Mediterranean swordfish that has been recaptured to date.
Finally, seven swordfish recaptures occurred in South Florida in 2020. All but one of these recaptures have original tagging locations in the Florida Keys. Time at large ranged from over two years to less than two weeks! H0wever, these fish stayed fairly local. In fact, all seven of these SoFlo swordfish were recaptured either in South Florida or just south off the northern coast of Cuba.
Thank you to all of the captains, mates, and anglers that tagged, released, and recaptured swordfish in 2020. We are incredibly appreciative of everyone that helped us gather data on swordfish in 2020, and we are excited to learn more in 2021! To stay up-to-date with all things billfish, become a member, subscribe to our newsletter, visit our online shop, and follow us on social media, @TheBillfishFoundation.
*Please note that this review contains only data that was recorded between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 and received by TBF by February 30th, 2021.