Saving the swordfish

Published: Wednesday 30 September 1998

LE BERNARDIN, a four-star restaurant in Manhattan, USA, serves caviar-topped oysters and salmon with truffle sauce. But what the hotel does not serve is their clients' popular choice the swordfish. A notice on the menu says that the restaurant is supporting a conservation campaign and will not serve swordfish in 1998.

This is not the only restaurant in the us that refuses to serve swordfish, there are about 250 others which have banned swordfish from their menus. Most of them may resume serving it in 1999, others will wait until the fish, which has been severely depleted in the North Atlantic because of overfishing, is out of danger. Fishermen, however, say the boycott is threatening their livelihood.

Problems started showing up in the 1960s, when harpooning started to be replaced by a swordfishing method called longlining where fishermen unspool long filament dangling hundreds of hooks into the sea. Harpooners tended to catch only a few of the largest adult swordfish. But the new method increased the catches, including many young fish that haven't had a chance to reproduce.

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