About the Species
U.S. wild-caught mahi mahi is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Above target population levels.
At recommended levels.
Fishing gear used to catch mahi mahi rarely contacts the ocean floor and has minimal impacts on habitat.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.
- 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 and not subject to overfishing, but they have not conducted a formal stock assessment.
- 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.
- 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
Where They Live
- 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.
- NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils) manage the Atlantic stock of Mahi mahi.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery of the Atlantic:
- Permits are required to sell mahi mahi.
- Minimum size limit for mahi mahi caught off the coasts of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina to protect smaller fish.
- Commercial fishery:
- In 2019, commercial fishermen harvested more than 720,000 pounds of mahi mahi in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico (primarily from South Carolina, North Carolina, and Florida), according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. These figures may not match other agency sources of data due to confidential information.
- 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 2019, recreational fishermen harvested more than 13 million pounds of mahi mahi in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.