New: The FWC approved several changes to how swordfish are managed in state waters at the November 2013 meeting. These changes will go into effect soon. Please check back for an effective date.
Changes affecting commercial harvest include:
- Designating swordfish as a restricted species.
- Exempting commercial harvesters who possess a Swordfish General Commercial permit or a Highly Migratory Species Charter/Headboat permit (when not on a for-hire trip) from the recreational bag and vessel limits. Permit holders must abide by HMS regional vessel limits.
- Allowing the sale of commercially caught swordfish under these permits.
- Closing state waters to commercial harvest if adjacent federal waters are closed.
- Requiring wholesale dealers purchasing swordfish to possess a valid federal Atlantic Swordfish Dealer permit. This change affects wholesale dealers in both the Atlantic and Gulf.
- Allowing transit of swordfish through state waters when harvested in federal waters with gear that is legal to use in federal waters.
Changes that affect commercial and recreational harvest:
- Modifying the minimum cleithrum-to-keel (CK) limit from 29 to 25 inches for all harvesters. The cleithrum is the bony area right behind the gill slit, and the keel is the horizontal ridge right before the tail fin (see photo). There is no change to the lower jaw fork length measurement also used when measuring swordfish.
- Restricting gear to hook and line in state waters.
- Clarifying federal rule references.
HMS Angling Permit
Recreational anglers who target any HMS fish must purchase a federal permit. The permit is issued to the fishing vessel, so it will cover all anglers onboard. Anglers can apply for a permit online at www.nmfspermits.com or by calling 888-872-8862. This permit is not required for anglers fishing for billfish, swordfish or sharks in state waters.
Any HMS fish caught in federal waters (excluding sharks and non-bluefin tunas) that is landed (killed and brought to shore) must be reported to NOAA Fisheries within 24 hours. Call 800-894-5528 to report landings of swordfish and billfish, and 888-872-8862 to report bluefin tuna landings.
In addition, new state regulations require persons landing billfish and swordfish caught in state waters to report to NOAA at the phone number above.
Swordfish Bag and Size Limits for State Waters
Anglers are limited to 1 swordfish per person with a vessel limit of 4 per recreational vessel per day in state waters. Charter boats are limited to 6 swordfish per vessel and headboats are limited to 15 swordfish per vessel. Captain and crew of for-hire vessels have a zero swordfish bag limit, but the individual daily bag limit of one swordfish per person per day still applies to customers aboard for-hire vessels. Regardless of the length of the trip, no more than the daily limit may be possessed onboard a vessel. This bag limit includes charter boats and head boats. The minimum size limit for swordfish in state waters is 47 inches lower jaw fork length or 29 inches cleithrum to keel length. A swordfish that is damaged by shark bites may be retained only if the remainder of the carcass is at least 47 inches lower jaw fork length or 29 inches cleithrum to keel length.
Roundscale spearfish is included in the one fish bag limit for marlin and sailfish, has a 66 inch lower jaw to fork length minimum size limit and possession exemptions are allowed for taxidermists, restaurants and wholesale dealers who mount or smoke these fish. View an FWC press release on the changes.
Links for more information