This photo may seem fishy, but it’s completely real.
Jay Rooker, a marine biologist and professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston, took the photo of a baby Atlantic swordfish in 2013 while he was surveying the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With the aid of a team, he conducts larval fish surveys, and this little guy was caught using a Neuston net the group towed at the surface.
It’s hard to believe but this tiny tot -- which can fit on top of a fingertip -- could have grown to be as big as 39 inches within its first year, according to marine biologist Juan C. Levesque.
Levesque told The Huffington Post that a typical swordfish weighs between 250 to 325 pounds, but it can grow to be much bigger.
For instance, the largest on record in Florida, where some of the biggest swordfish are believed to be found, was caught in Key Largo and weighed 612 pounds, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
That hefty weight is a sign of the species bouncing back from the overfishing it experienced from 1960 to 1996. During that time the average weight of the floundering species dropped to 90 pounds, according to The Washington Post.
Yet thanks to conservation efforts and commercial fishing regulations in the U.S., the Atlantic swordfish is thriving once again and its stock is completely rebuilt, according to NOAA Fisheries.
The same, however, cannot be said for the Mediterranean swordfish, which has been overfished in countries like Italy for the past three decades. The Malta Independent reported that in 2013, the species had the lowest total annual catch on record ever. To make matters worse, 72 percent of the swordfish caught on record were juvenile, which means they did not get a chance to reproduce and help repopulate the stock.
In November, Oceana met with the intergovernmental organization responsible for conservation of tunas and other marine species in the Atlantic Ocean and its surrounding seas, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, to propose a recovery plan for the Mediterranean swordfish that will hopefully rebuild the stock to sustainable levels by 2020.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified a white marlin and a sailfish as swordfish. We regret the error.
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