Pacific Mahimahi/Dolphinfish

Pacific Mahimahi

Coryphaena hippurus

ALSO KNOWN AS:

    Dolphinfish, Dorado

SOURCE:

    U.S. wild-caught from Hawaii, California, U.S. Pacific Island territories, and on the high seas
 

STATUS

  • POPULATION
  • FISHING RATE
  • HABITAT IMPACTS
  • BYCATCH
 

Click the icons to learn more about each criteria

 
 

OVERVIEW

Mahimahi on line.

Mahimahi on line.

LAUNCH GALLERY

Mahimahi is the Hawaiian common name for dolphinfish (no relation to dolphin the mammal). Dolphinfish is also known as dorado. Although most people associate mahimahi with Hawaii, this colorful fish is abundant in tropical and subtropical oceans and supports important commercial, artisanal, and recreational fisheries around the world. Mahimahi is also found along the Atlantic coast of the United States.

In the Pacific, U.S. commercial fishermen harvest mahimahi in troll and handline fisheries, and mahimahi are also harvested incidentally in longline fisheries for tuna and swordfish. The Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils manage these fisheries. No domestic regulations currently apply to mahimahi specifically. Their biology makes them resilient to fishing pressure, and catch trends indicate that regulations limiting catch or fishing effort are not necessary. However, several regulations are in place to reduce the impact of these fishing gears on other species, and the fisheries are monitored through logbooks, observer coverage (longline fishery), port sampling, and landing receipts.

Mahimahi is a highly migratory species – they travel across international boundaries and are harvested in other nations’ fisheries. To fully understand and manage impacts to the resource across its range, the United States is a member of international regional fisheries management organizations, which include other nations that also fish for mahimahi. While no specific international measures are in place for mahimahi, conservation measures are in place that apply to non-target catch in tuna fisheries (such as mahimahi).

Looking Ahead

The main challenge for scientists and managers will be collecting accurate data on catch and fishing effort for mahimahi (particularly for small artisanal foreign fisheries) to use in assessing the stock.

 
 
 

LOCATION & HABITAT

Mahimahi live near the surface in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. Young mahimahi swim together in schools, but older fish are usually found alone. Adults travel seasonally with changes in water temperature.

 
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BIOLOGY

Mahimahi grow fast, up to 7 feet and 88 pounds, and live a short time, up to 5 years. They’re a very productive fish. They’re able to reproduce early in life, at 4 to 5 months old, and scientists believe mahimahi spawn every 2 to 3 days throughout their entire spawning season, perhaps even year-round. Females release between 33,000 and 66,000 eggs each time they spawn.

Mahimahi feed in surface water during the day and eat a wide variety of species, including small pelagic fish, juvenile tuna, billfish, jacks, and pompano, as well as pelagic larvae of nearshore, bottom-dwelling species. They also eat invertebrates such as cephalopods (octopus, squid, etc.), mysids (small, shrimp-like creatures), and jellyfish. Large tuna, rough-toothed dolphin, marlin, sailfish, and swordfish feed on mahimahi, particularly juveniles.

 
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PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

Mahimahi are a brightly colored fish - the back is an electric greenish blue, the lower body is gold or sparkling silver, and the sides have a mixture of dark and light spots. Their bright pattern fades almost immediately after they’re harvested. Mahimahi can be distinguished from the pompano dolphin by the number of dorsal fin rays and a very wide, square tooth patch on the tongue.

 
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OVERVIEW

Scientists do not formally assess mahimahi populations.

 
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POPULATION STATUS

Although the population is not formally assessed, scientists assume mahimahi populations are stable because the species is highly productive and widely distributed throughout tropical/subtropical Pacific.

 
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Harvesting Pacific Mahimahi

A small amount of mahimahi is harvested incidentally off the West Coast. Most of the Pacific mahimahi harvest comes from U.S. Pacific Islands, where mahimahi are harvested in troll and handline fisheries and as non-target catch in longline fisheries for tuna and swordfish. Trolling involves towing lines with multiple hooks behind a vessel. Fishing lines are rigged to outriggers (trolling poles), which are deployed at about a 45° angle from the sea surface. Handlining is a traditional method of fishing that dates back hundreds of years. Handlining involves working several single lines with baited hooks and hauling catch in by hand. Pelagic longline gear consists of a main horizontal line that has shorter lines with baited hooks attached to it. The gear is used at various depths and times of day, depending on the species being targeted.

The amount of bycatch associated with the mahimahi fishery varies. U.S. longline fishermen, who may incidentally catch mahimahi, are required to use specific tools and handling techniques to mitigate bycatch. Several other management measures are in place, such as gear modifications and time-area closures, to limit and prevent interactions between longline gear and non-target species.

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Management

Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils

Current management:

Pacific Islands: Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific disclaimer.
No management measures specifically apply to mahimahi because catch trends indicate that regulations are not necessary. However, general management measures apply to the fisheries that harvest mahimahi.

  • Commercial fishermen must have permits and must maintain logbooks documenting their catch. A limited number of permits are available for the Hawaii and American Samoa longline fisheries to control the number of vessels active in the fishery.
  • Gear restrictions and operational requirements to minimize bycatch.
  • Longlines are prohibited in certain areas to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals and reduce the potential for gear conflicts and localized stock depletion (when a large quantity of fish is removed from an area). Longline vessels must carry a vessel monitoring system (satellite transponders that provide real-time position updates and track vessel movements) to enforce these area closures.
  • Hawaii and American Samoa based longline vessels must carry onboard observers when requested by NOAA Fisheries, in part to record any interactions with sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.
  • Mandatory annual protected species workshops for all longline vessel owners and operators.

West Coast: Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species.

  • Requires commercial fishermen to obtain a permit from NOAA Fisheries and maintain logbooks documenting their catch.
  • Gear restrictions and operational requirements to minimize bycatch.
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Annual Harvest

West Coast commercial fishermen catch a small portion of the mahimahi harvest and that catch is mostly recreational. U.S. commercial fisheries in the western and central Pacific harvest the majority of U.S. mahimahi. In 2012, Hawaii fishermen harvested more than 2 million pounds of mahimahi, and more than 1.5 million pounds in 2013.

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Economy

Mahimahi caught in the Hawaiian commercial fishery was worth more than $5 million in 2012 and more than $4 million in 2013. Mahimahi is also imported into the United States. Ecuador, Peru, and Taiwan are the leading suppliers of mahimahi to the U.S. market.

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Recreational

Mahimahi are a popular recreational fish. Off the West Coast, recreational fishermen are allowed to catch 10 mahimahi per person per day.

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OVERVIEW

Mahimahi has a sweet, mild flavor. For a milder flavor, trim away darker portions of the meat. Mahimahi is lean and fairly firm with large, moist flakes. The raw flesh is pinkish to grayish-white, although along the lateral line the flesh is dark. When cooked, the meat is off-white. The thick skin of mahimahi should be removed before cooking.

 
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SEASONAL AVAILABILITY

Mahimahi is available year round. In Hawaii most of the fish are caught from March to May and September to November.

 
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NUTRITION

Mahimahi is low in saturated fat and is a good source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, and potassium and a very good source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium.

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 85
Protein 18.5 g
Fat, total 0.7 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 0.188 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars, total 0 g
Fiber, total dietary 0 g
Cholesterol 73 mg
Selenium 36.5 mcg
Sodium 88 mg

Mahimahi Table of Nutrition

 
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