Whole Story

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Harpoon-Caught Swordfish

Get it while it’s here! Thanks to improved management, swordfish populations have recovered in North Atlantic waters, and Nova Scotia’s harpoon fleet is the first swordfish fishery to be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Harpooners bring us fresh swordfish for just a few weeks each summer, so now is the time to get cooking with this legendary fish. Learn more and find great cooking tips and recipes at Not Just Another Fish Story. The Nova Scotia harpoon fleet uses a traditional, time-honored fishing method, relying on knowledge and techniques handed down from generation to generation. Most of these boats are captain-owned, and most operate as day boats — returning to harbor each day to unload their catch fresh rather than processing and freezing it on board. Swordfish are a highly migratory species inhabiting tropical, temperate and even cold waters worldwide.  In the summer months we find North Atlantic swordfish in the deep waters off the coast of Nova Scotia. Skillful harpooners sight large, mature swordfish as they bask near the surface during the day, and target individual fish — one-by-one — with a harpoon attached to a line. Because fishermen actually see the swordfish they’re after, there is virtually no chance of accidentally catching small immature swordfish or other marine life (known as “non-targeted catch” or “bycatch”). And the slow, one-by-one approach helps prevent fishermen from catching too many fish and exceeding their legal quotas. It’s an age-old fishing technique with very low impact on ocean habitat. Following rigorous review and auditing, the Nova Scotia harpoon fishery has become the first swordfish fishery ever to be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). For more than a decade, Whole Foods Market has recognized the MSC as the world’s leader in sustainable fishery certification. Their strict standards and rigorous third-party certification program — including chain of custody — makes the MSC the most authoritative seafood sustainability program in the marketplace. By rewarding well-managed, ocean-friendly fisheries with their ecolabel, the MSC creates an incentive for fisheries and fishing communities to maintain healthy fish populations and ecosystems. Swordfish were once considered overfished in North Atlantic waters. Fortunately, with some improved management, the North Atlantic swordfish population has recovered. By certifying the Nova Scotia harpoon fishery as sustainable and awarding its catch with the ecolabel, the MSC has given harpooners a valuable way to differentiate their catch from that of conventional, non-certified fisheries. We’re proud to offer this harpoon-caught swordfish in our stores. Dan Rand, our port buyer, hand selects and grades the swordfish that we carry, and he only chooses swordfish of the highest grade — fish with white meat, a firm texture and bright blood lines (which signify optimum temperature and proper handling). Here are a few tips from our experts on how to cook up some fabulous harpoon-caught swordfish:
  • Swordfish is at its richest and juiciest when cooked until opaque with just a hint of pink or ivory at the center. Overcooking can dry it out.
  • Use the tip of a paring knife to “peek” inside swordfish steaks to judge doneness.
  • Don’t look for swordfish to flake when it’s done; this meaty fish remains firm and steak-like throughout cooking.
    • Swordfish skin is tough and unappetizing, so trim it off either before or after cooking.
    • Swordfish needs just a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil for absolute deliciousness, but its rich flavor also stands up beautifully to strong flavors and heavy spicing.
We’ve got more cooking tips and great recipes for our harpoon-caught swordfish at Not Just Another Fish Story. Remember, this special catch is only available for a few short weeks, so experience it now.

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Billo Heinzpeter Studer says …

@ C. Vidal: Like handlining or pole & line, harpooning COULD be a relatively «humane» fishing method – if the fish was truly killed right after harpooning. Please, let me know the source from where you gathered the information that the Swordfish sold by Whole Foods has been let for hours to die. Thx! billo@fair-fish.net

Jamison L says …

@Jayne I think in Europe women eat swordfish through pregnancy. A lot like wine. Young kids eat it too. We just make way too big a deal of it here.

Jayne Boyer says …

The US EPA does not recommend eating swordfish because of high mercury content. http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/outreach/advice_index.cfm

C Vidal says …

This may be a sustainable form of fishing, however, it is very cruel. The harpoon leaves a heavy copper tip in the swordfish. This is connected to ropes and buoys to show the site of the "kill", so the boat can continue searching for more swordfish. It may take a few hours for the swordfish to die. By then the boat returns to pull the dead catch aboard.

Jamison L says …

@C Vidal Who cares --- it is a fish. They taste great!

James says …

I truely enjoy the seafood choices in the store and the recipes. However, I was not able to find in information on-line or shop for frozen tilapia fish fillets farmed in the U.S. Is the absence of this product on-line due to the lack of availability. I would love to see this product on online shopping.

says …

@James Thank you for your support! Unfortunately, this may not be available at the online store for any number of reasons. If you'd like to order this product, I recommend you reach out to your community Whole Foods Market directly and a Team Member in the Seafood Department there will be happy to discuss all your ordering options for the frozen Tilapia. The link below will help you identify the contact information for that store. Happy fishing! www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores