“Espada Preta” or Black Scabbard fish

The black scabbardfish, (Scientific name: Aphanopus carbo, Portuguese name: Peixe Espada Preto), is a deep-water predator that rarely meets any type of rod and line anglers, due to the immense depth in which it lives. An adult black scabbardfish generally lives in depths between 180 to 1,700 m (591 to 5,577 ft), but can make vertical migrations to depths of several hundred meters below the toplayer of darkness.

In Madeira, the black scabbardfish is considered a regional delicacy. Fishermen from Madeira Island use specialised deepwater lines to catch these black scabbardfish. The is also found in some areas of mainland Portugal waters (mainly Sesimbra) and in the Azores (although much later than in Madeira). In Madeira, one of the main localities that are dedicated to the capture of this species is Câmara de Lobos.

No other dish served here in Madeira defines the Madeira's cuisine closer than this fish, however it should not be confused by the semantically similar but also traditional Madeiran delicacy called "Espetada". Espetada is the other typical Madeiran dish made usually of large chunks of beef rubbed in garlic and salt, skewered onto a bay leaf stick cooked over hot coals or wood chips.

Coming back to the Espada (scabbard fish), we advise first-time visitors to try the Espada com Banana dish first, which is offered in many local restaurants here on Madeira Island, before seeing the actual (lifeless) fish in the market (Mercado dos Lavradores). In case you already had the fish dish or you dare to make an acquaintance before you have tasted it, then you can visit the well-known Farmers market during our Funchal Delights half day tour.

Espada - black scabbardfish - Aphanopus carbo

It has an elongated, eel-like body. Its dorsal fin runs through the entire length of the body, as does lateral line. Its tail fin is very small and deeply forked. The head and snout are relatively large, as is the mouth which is full of (very) sharp, fang-like teeth and a protruding lower jaw. The eyes are also very large. The colour of the Espada is generally a dark metallic black.

Here is list of a few name designations:

Portuguese peixe-espada-preta, peixe-espada-preto
English black scabbardfish, cutlass fish, hairtail, scabbard fish
German Degenfisch, schwarzer Degenfisch
French sabre, sabre noir
Danish sort sabelfisk
Dutch zwarte degenvis, zwarte-kousenbandvis
Norwegian dolkfisk
Spanish pez cinto, sable negro
Swedish dolkfisk


Comments are closed.