A typical Black Scabbard fishing vessel
The Black Scabbard is calculated to reside between 600 and 1,600 metres below sea level. Considered a veritable achievement due to the incredible range of depths that the fish swims. The theory is that the fish rise to the level of 600 metres below sea level when it is dark and then descend a couple of a hundreds metres further below when it is light. Some connection to solar rays has been surmised. But the mystery of why it is easier to catch the Black Scabbard at night remains unresolved. Especially since common reason has it that sunlight does not penetrate the depths of the ocean beyond 400 metres below sea level.
For most of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries the Black Scabbard was considered unique to Madeira. Recent discoveries of the same fish in places as far afield as Southern Ireland, and even Japan, have dispelled that special qualification for Madeira. The fish has been caught successfully for some years off the shores of North Africa, Portugal, and even the Canary Islands. However, it seems that the only locale where the fish is caught at sustainable economic or industrial levels is the village of Câmara de Lobos itself.
That unique status of the village has lent to the creation of some equally unique and unusual crafts for the catching of the Espada fish. The colourful fishing boats used to catch the fish are all made of wood with four or several oars, which one or two persons can use to row the boat out to sea or on to shore. It also enjoys one single sail and is left to the whims of the ocean currents to change its position once the general target area for the fishing grounds are reached.