Swordfish & Billfish
Xiphias (Swordfish) and Istiophoridae
Include marlin, sailfish, swordfish and spearfish
Armed and in danger
These fish dominate the seas as a top predator, but their pursuit and harvest by humans puts them under threat.
They are distinguished by their elongated nasal bones which form the 'bill'. Sailfishes also have an erectile dorsal fin, known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back.
Swordfish and billfish are found worldwide in tropical, subtropical and temperate seas. Their diet consists of smaller pelagic and benthic fish, squid and octopus.
Swordfish and billfish are built for speed with their long bills cutting through the water and their aerodynamic bodies allowing them to reach speeds of up to 120 kph making them among the fastest fish in the ocean.
What are the main threats?
A significant number of swordfish are also caught by illegal driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean. Labelled “walls of death”, driftnets are also indiscriminate, catching any animal that crosses their path. Both species of marlin face a specific threat to their future due to bycatch by tuna or swordfish fisheries.
There is also insufficient regulation to ensure that fisheries comply with rules.
News: Swordfish slip through the net.
What is WWF doing?
WWF also monitors catch to ensure fisheries are adhering to minimum size limits and argues for stronger controls to ensure regulations are enforced.
WWF promotes sustainable fishing through its support for the Marine Stewardship Council.
WWF seeks to address the problem of bycatch by working with fisheries to develop smart fishing methods which gather only the target species and not other endangered species.