A project of SeaWeb and
Natural Resources Defense Council

October 3, 2002 -- North Atlantic swordfish have recovered to 94% of levels considered healthy over the last three years, according to a new report issued by the scientific arm of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. (See Press Release)

Beginning in 1998, Give Swordfish a Break, along with other conservation organizations, successfully advocated for recovery measures to restore north Atlantic swordfish, which had been severely depleted after decades of overfishing and mismanagement.

Give Swordfish a Break was the first large effort to mobilize chefs and consumers in support of stronger fish conservation. Over the course of the campaign, hundreds of chefs signed the Give Swordfish a Break pledge, while others -- the Peabody hotel chain, cruise lines, grocery stores, airlines, and uncounted others -- agreed to remove north Atlantic swordfish from their menus and dining choices.

The campaign officially ended in August 2000 when the U.S. government closed nursery areas in U.S. waters, thus meeting the second goal of the campaign. International quota restrictions were adopted in 1999.

See below for a timeline of campaign activities.

Visit the archived site

Swordfish Campaign Timeline:

January 20, 1998
"Give Swordfish a Break" campaign launched in New York. Twenty-seven leading East Coast chefs announce they are taking north Atlantic swordfish off their menus until a recovery plan is in place. A related New York Times ad encourages consumers to "Try the Pasta!"

April 1998
Royal Caribbean Cruises announces they will stop serving swordfish aboard its ships, and Bon Apetit magazine stops publishing swordfish recipes. More than 100 chefs around the country have signed onto the campaign.

June 9, 1998
The prestigious Peabody Hotel Group in Florida announce they are removing north Atlantic swordfish from both their restaurant and catering menus.

June 12, 1998
President Clinton calls for a ban on the sale and import of north Atlantic swordfish weighing less than 33 pounds, one position also advocated by the campaign. The same day, an ABC News correspondent call a swordfish "a symbol for the crisis of the oceans."

July 1998
More than 200 chefs and three cruise ship lines -- including Princess and Celebrity -- have said they will stop serving swordfish.

October 6, 1998
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces measures to ban the importation of swordfish weighing less than 33 pounds. Because female swordfish do not reproduce until they reach 150 pounds, however, the ban by itself will not significantly contribute to the recovery of the species.

October 23, 1998
Campaign praises government proposal to protect swordfish overall, but criticizes inadequate provisions regarding protection of juveniles in nursery areas.

November 1998
Seafood Business -- a trade publication -- writes that the campaign has "adversely affected short term demand for the fish."

December 21, 1998
Time magazine declares Give Swordfish a Break campaign one of the top 10 environmental stories of the year.

February 1, 1999
Charleston chefs join more than 500 chefs nationwide to call for protection of South Carolina swordfish nurseries. Members of the youth environmental group Earthforce attend NMFS hearing in Charleston wearing shirts saying "Juveniles Protecting Juveniles."

March 12, 1999
Letter submitted to Secretary of Commerce William Daley by 78 Members of Congress asking for stronger government protection of swordfish.

April 26, 1999
NMFS finalizes a swordfish recovery plan that the campaign calls, "all talk, no action." The plan is sharply criticized for failing to close critical nursery areas off the South Carolina and Florida coasts.

August 1999
Major grocery chain Wild Oats announces it will no longer sell north Atlantic swordfish until adequate conservation measures are adopted.

November 1999
Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Rio de Janeiro. ICCAT determines that swordfish populations should be rebuilt within ten years and adopts quotas for the next three years that, if fully implemented, will go a long way toward restoring the north Atlantic swordfish population.

August 2000
NMFS decides to protect baby swordfish by protecting key nursery areas within U.S. waters, thus solidifying the recovery of swordfish. Give Swordfish a Break campaign formally ends with declaration of victory.

ICCAT scientific committee determines that swordfish have reached 94% of full recovery.

1731 Connecticut Ave. NW 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20009

SeaWeb is a non-partisan, multimedia public education project designed to raise awareness of the world ocean and the life within it.

Natural Resources Defense Council
40 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011

Supported by 350,000 members nationwide, NRDC's mission is to preserve the environment,
protect the public health, and ensure the conservation of wilderness and natural resources.