Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Harpoon-Caught Swordfish

Get it while it’s here! Nova Scotia’s harpoon fleet was 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. Want to learn more? Check out this video:

The Nova Scotia harpoon fleet uses a traditional, time-honored fishing method, relying on knowledge and techniques handed down from generation to generation — 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 catching small immature swordfish or other marine life accidentally (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, became 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 the MSC 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.

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 on our website. Remember, this special catch is only available for a few short weeks, so experience it now.