The broadbill swordfish fishery has risen in the space of three years from an annual catch of less than 50 tonnes to ~1500 tonnes presently. A number of fishers with dormant licenses in the east coast longline fishery are now changing their boats over to take advantage of this new fishery. Others that have been in the fishery since its start are now upgrading their boats or buying new ones to improve their catches. At present there are ~ 100 licenses in operation with a further 100 still to become operational. However, there is as yet no idea of the size of the stock on which this fishery is based. Without a concerted effort to establish basic population parameters upon which suitable management advice can be given the swordfish fishery is in danger of reaching unsustainable levels of fishing. In the northern hemisphere, swordfish fisheries are already managed under strict quotas. Recently, there have been moves off Florida, USA to halt fishing of swordfish for up to three months to allow juveniles to grow through to maturity (Anon. 1998). There is a pressing need, therefore, to supply basic population parameters upon which effective management can be given.
The need for such information has been recognised by the Eastern Tuna MAC. They provided a list of 11 priority issues for the east coast tuna industry many of which related to the lack of understanding of the population parameters of broadbill swordfish. They concluded that research was needed for broadbill swordfish on stock structure (priority 1), determination of age and biological characteristics (priority 5), spatial and temporal dynamics of broadbill distribution (priority 7) and seasonal movement and migration patterns (priority 9). All of these priorities cannot be fully addressed without an understanding of the reproductive dynamics of this species.
Anonymous (1998) Florida asks U.S. to halt commercial swordfishing. National Fisherman