This year's mid-August to mid-October U.S. Grand Banks swordfishery period has generally left its catchers, consumers and purveyors smiling.
"The fishes' quality was typical for then, but the volume (landings) was higher this year," explained Joe Mason, a seafood buyer for Pigeon Cove Whole Foods in Gloucester.
The East Coast's remaining distant-water swordfish longliners began arriving on the areas open to U.S. fishing around the Grand Banks off Newfoundland — namely, the tail of the Bank, about 800 miles from Gloucester, as well as The Flemish Cap — around May to longline swordfish until the end of October.
The Flemish Cap is about 1,200 miles east of Gloucester. Several in the fleet, vessels which range in length from the 55-foot Big Eye to the 110-foot White Water, were featured in Discovery Channel's recent swordfish series.
"There wasn't much there (swordfish on the open Grand Banks areas), and then they (the swordfish) just showed up," explained Charlie Johnson, 67, of Harpswell, Maine. "The fish were in the 54- to 57-degree water. It was real green water (as seen from the surface, probably due to phytoplankton blooms)."
Johnson, owner and operator of the 79-foot aluminum swordboat Seneca, and a veteran swordfisherman of more than 30 years, found swordfish at the Tail of the Bank.
"I was down in there trying to keep my noise (often radio conversations) quiet," Johnson said, "but the rest of the fleet figured it out (where he was and that he was on the fish). It didn't take them long."
Tim Malley, a former swordfisherman and spotter pilot, said the fish were 200 to 300 miles closer to the United States this time, at the Tail of the Bank.
"They were outside of Canada's 200-mile limit and accessible to U.S. fishermen," said Malley, who is CEO at Boston Sword & Tuna. The company, one of the Northeast's largest seafood dealers, purchases swordfish from nearly all over the planet, but "... we buy almost exclusively United States and Canadian-caught swordfish from September through November," Malley added.