Habitat characterization, fishery development, and stock structure of swordfish off California

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
California Ocean Protection Council (OPC)
Focus Area(s)
Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

This project is focused on improving the essential fishery information and long-term sustainability of the north Pacific swordfish, a valuable West Coast fishery. California is one of the largest consumers of swordfish globally, but increasingly relies on imported swordfish to meet demand. Although currently suppressed, the California swordfish fishery continues to contribute significantly to jobs and economy in the state.  As with most swordfish industries, the California fishery has faced recent challenges that include interactions with protected species, as well as management concerns over the lack of information available regarding stock structure. 

In order to decrease bycatch of protected species, researchers and fishers have been developing new types of gear that can selectively target swordfish during the day in deeper waters where fewer protected species are found. Gear trials have shown that marketable catch remained above 95% with the new deep-set methods. Despite these advancements, managers currently lack fine-scale data on horizontal and vertical distribution of swordfish over much of the California coast.

This project will couple innovative tagging and population genomic analyzes to address important regional distribution and stock structure questions.  The work will also provide the first fine-scale vertical and horizontal movement data for habitat-use models currently being developed by collaborators at the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS).

As California moves towards initiating and sculpting the size and characteristics of the new West Coast deep-set fishery, clarifying the stock boundaries and better understanding which stock is being exploited by California fishers is important to ensure sustainable management of this important California resource.

Principal Investigators
Chugey Sepulveda
Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research

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