With a respectable finish for the summer and fall seasons in the Atlantic swordfish fisheries now logged in, Gulf of Mexico fishermen are heading out for their traditional winter voyages with the promise of healthy dock prices in their futures.

Traditionally, the gulf fleets lay off when the northern fishery is in full swing. Then during the winter, gulf swordfish are sold in the same markets as the northern fish.

“The East Coast produces so much, with boats bringing back plenty from the Grand Banks, that those guys take care of the market supply in the summer and early fall,” said David Maginnis of Gulf Seafood in Houma, La. “Our swordfish would have to drop the prices low enough to ship them in, then there are fuel surcharges and cost operations. So during that time our guys target yellowfin.”

Prices remained high at the gulf season’s start, hovering around $4 per pound. Dealers reported they wouldn’t be surprised if prices to the boat remained as high as $3.50 per pound for top grade specimens.

The market, dealers said, will remain strong through the winter in part because the Canadian fishery did not overproduce, keeping the markets balanced and leaving plenty of room for everyone else.

Central and South American swords, while an element of the market, cannot surpass the quality of the upcoming gulf catch, says Maginnis.

“Their production is way inferior to the Canadian and the Northeast U.S. fish,” he said. Those Canadian and Grand Banks fish are healthy and strong looking.”

As a species, meanwhile, the swordfish continues to be caught in U.S. waters well below sustainability limits.

The 2017 catch stands at 555.9 metric tons, which is below the 641.1 metric tons caught in 2016, according to figures released in October by NOAA.

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John DeSantis is the senior staff writer at The Times, a newspaper in Houma, La. and regularly contributes to National Fisherman.

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