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Atlantic Mahi Mahi

Coryphaena hippurus

Also Known As

  • Dolphinfish
  • Dolphin
  • Dorado

U.S. wild-caught mahi mahi is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population levels.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Fishing gear used to catch mahi mahi rarely contacts the ocean floor and has minimal impacts on habitat.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    Wild-caught from Massachusetts to Texas.

  • Taste

    Mahi mahi has a sweet, mild flavor. For a milder flavor, trim away darker portions of the meat.

  • Texture

    Mahi mahi is lean and fairly firm with large, moist flakes.

  • Color

    The raw flesh is pinkish to grayish-white, although the flesh along the lateral line is dark. When cooked, the meat is off-white.

  • Health Benefits

    Low in saturated fat and a good source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, and potassium.

The U.S. Fishery

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2017, commercial fishermen harvested more than 603,400 pounds of mahi mahi in the Atlantic (primarily from Florida and North Carolina) valued at $2 million, and about 3,400 pounds in the Gulf of Mexico (primarily from Florida) valued at more than $5,400.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Hook-and-line gear (including handlines and longlines) is used for commercial harvest.
    • Hook-and-line gear has minimal impact on habitat because it does not contact the ocean floor.
    • Longlines can incidentally catch sea turtles, marine mammals, and other species.
    • Longline fishermen follow measures to prevent bycatch and protect other species. These include using specific gear and safe handling techniques to reduce impacts on sea turtles, as well as not fishing in certain areas to protect species such as billfish.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • The mahi mahi fishery in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico has historically been recreational.
    • In 2017, recreational fishermen harvested more than 13.3 million pounds of mahi mahi in the Atlantic, the majority of which was caught in the South Atlantic and Caribbean, and about 65,000 pounds in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Science

Population Status

  • Scientists assume populations are abundant because they are highly productive and widely distributed throughout tropical/subtropical oceans.
  • Scientists conducted an exploratory assessment of mahi mahi in 2000 and determined that the stock was not overfished, but they have not conducted a formal stock assessment.
  • Atlantic mahi mahi is not subject to overfishing.

Location

  • Mahi mahi are found in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, and are caught from Massachusetts to Texas.
  • About one-third of U.S. commercial harvest of mahi mahi comes from the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. The rest comes from the Pacific, mainly Hawaii.

Habitat

  • Mahi mahi live near the surface in tropical and subtropical waters.
  • Juveniles swim together in schools.
  • Older fish are usually found alone.
  • Larger males prefer open ocean habitat.
  • Females and smaller males are commonly found near natural and artificial floating objects, including floating brown algae called Sargassum (in the Atlantic and the Caribbean).

Physical Description

  • Brightly colored back is an electric greenish blue, lower body is gold or sparkling silver, and sides have a mixture of dark and light spots.
  • Bright pattern fades almost immediately after mahi mahi is harvested.
  • Adult males have a square head.
  • Females have a rounded head.
  • Distinguished from the pompano dolphin by its 55 to 66 dorsal fin rays and a very wide, square tooth patch on the tongue.

Biology

  • Atlantic mahi mahi grow up to almost 7 feet and 88 pounds.
  • They live up to 5 years.
  • They are capable of reproducing at 4 to 5 months old.
  • Believed to spawn every 2 to 3 days during the spawning season, releasing between 33,000 and 66,000 eggs each time.
  • In the Atlantic, spawn under patches of floating brown algae called Sargassum.
  • Mahi mahi are top predators that feed in surface water during the day.
  • They eat a wide variety of species, including small pelagic fish, juvenile tuna, invertebrates, billfish, jacks, pompano, and pelagic larvae of nearshore, bottom-living species.
  • Predators include large tuna, marine mammals, marlin, sailfish, and swordfish.
  • NOAA Fisheries

Research

  • An ongoing research program using anglers to tag and track mahi mahi has documented movement, behavior, and habitat utilization patterns.

Last updated: 07/29/2020