Monday the United States and other nations will sit down in Brazil to try to reach agreement on saving swordfish before they disappear from both our dinner plates and the oceans.
When Washington D.C. restaurant Nora prepares for another night of gourmet dining, swordfish is not on the menu. Chef Nora Pouillon began boycotting swordfish two years ago when her supplier told her the delicacy was disappearing.
"I said, 'how come all these center cut pieces are so small, don't you have any large ones?'" Pouillon recalls asking the supplier. "He said, 'noÂ… I can't get them anymore.' And so I said, 'what do you mean?' And he said, 'well, you know, the large fish is not out there anymore.'"
Thirty years ago, an average north Atlantic swordfish weighed 266 pounds. Today, it's less than 90, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
The problem, according to Rolland Schmitten, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs, is "too many fisherman, too many boats, leading to too few fish."
The international commission regulating swordfish catch begins its annual meeting Monday in Brazil. Schmitten, the U.S. representative, will be pushing for much tougher limits.
"This will not be an easy task," Scmitten said. "So many countries would like to just get along without putting pressure on their fishermen."
Undercover videotape shot at fish auctions in Spain shows that even existing limits are being violated.
"Swordfish are also a symbol for a global overfishing problem," said Scott Burns of the World Wildlife Fund. "The United Nations estimates that 70 percent of the world's fish stocks are either overfished or on the brink right now."
The World Wildlife Fund, an environmental group, secretly tracked Spain's swordfish catch. It found that more than a third of the fish were illegally small and far too young to reproduce.
"Unless Spain corrects its behavior, this swordfish population's never going to recover," said Burns.
American fishermen do comply with international limits. They point the finger at the boats -- mostly from Asia -- which operate outside all international rules.
Richard Gutting of the National Fisheries Institute estimates hundreds of boats skirt the laws. "No one knows for sure exactly how many vessels, but we think perhaps as many as three or four hundred vessels, " he said.
American fishermen complain the swordfish boycott unfairly targets them. But Chef Pouillon insists it's necessary to let the public know that the ocean's fish are disappearing.
"I think we have to realize that the oceans are not endless pits," Pouillon said. "We pollute them, we tke everything out of them, and we thinkÂ… we can do it forever. And it's not true."
Quotas introduced in the last decade have helped revive the north Atlantic swordfish, but the United States is proposing an even stiffer ten-year reduction, which the U.S. fishing industry supports. But it will only be adopted if other nations are convinced to take the long view.