Mahi Mahi (2020)

Coryphaena hippurus

  • James Larcombe (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Anthony Roelofs (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Jeff Murphy (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Paul Lewis (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Thor Saunders (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Northern Territory)

Date Published: June 2021

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Mahi Mahi is a highly migratory tropical and subtropical species that straddles multiple domestic and international jurisdictions. It is classified as undefined stock in Australian waters.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Indian Ocean Undefined Catch
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Stock Structure

There are two species of Mahi Mahi in Australian waters; Common Mahi Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) and Pompano Mahi Mahi (Coryphaena equiselis). Commercial and recreational catch is thought to be almost exclusively common Mahi Mahi and consequently it is the only species assessed here.

Mahi Mahi are a highly migratory tropical and subtropical species that straddle multiple domestic and international jurisdictions. Stock structure is not well resolved and for practical purposes, Mahi Mahi in the Indian Ocean and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are considered to constitute two distinct management units which are managed by separate regional fisheries management organisations: the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The boundaries of these units occur at the longitude of the Western Australia-Northern Territory border in northern Australia, and at the South Australia-Victoria border in southern Australia, reflecting the jurisdictional boundaries of these two RFMOs. The distribution of Mahi Mahi does not extend south of the Australian land mass.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the management unit level— Western and Central Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean.

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Stock Status

Indian Ocean

This cross-jurisdictional management unit has components in the Commonwealth, Western Australia and international and foreign waters. The status presented here for the entire management unit has been established using evidence from all jurisdictions.

Total reported commercial catch for the Indian Ocean (FAO areas 51 and 57) has increased progressively from 2 700 t in the year 2000 to a peak of 17 000 t in 2018 [FAO 2020]. Most of this reported catch, and most of the increase, has come from the western Indian Ocean Pacific (FAO area 51, west of 80oE).

There are likely to be significant artisanal, and to a lesser extent recreational, landings of Mahi Mahi, particularly through the northern Indian Ocean rim and in south east Asia, that are not included in the estimates above. In addition, Mahi Mahi may be discarded in some fisheries, although discard mortality levels are unknown.

In the Indian Ocean, the majority of Mahi Mahi are thought to be taken using a variety of artisanal fishing methods (such as troll and gillnet). In the industrial fisheries, catches are taken by all the major sectors including gillnet (notably for Indian Ocean), longline, purse seine (particularly floating object sets) and pole-and-line.

For the Commonwealth part of the management unit, commercial landings are negligible and have fluctuated without trend under 2.1 t annually.

For the Western Australian part of the management unit, commercial and recreational landings are negligible with the stock generally not being subject to targeted fishing. The Western Australian commercial and charter catches from 2008–19 each averaged less than 0.2 t per annum. Mahi Mahi is not a major component of recreational landings, comprising less than 500 fish in the 2017–18 state-wide survey of boat based recreational fishing [Ryan et al. 2019].

Catches in South Australia are rare.

There has been no formal stock assessment of Mahi Mahi for the Indian Ocean area encompassing the Australian Fishing Zone. Benjamin and Karup [2012] undertook a virtual population analysis stock assessment using FiSAT that was confined to the southwest coast of India and used data to 2009. They estimated fishing mortality at 0.37 which, in the context of natural mortality assumed to be 1.0 [Aires-da-Silva et al. 2016] indicates a relatively light level of exploitation in that region at that time. Australian catches form a small component of the total international Indian Ocean catch and no other indicators of biomass level are available. There is therefore insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Indian Ocean management unit is classified as an undefined stock.

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Mahi Mahi biology [Uchiyama et al. 1986, Massuti and Morales-Nin 1997, Castro et al. 1999, Massuti and Morales-Nin 1999, Uchiyama and Boggs 2006]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Mahi Mahi 4 years, > 1 490 mm Females 550 mm FL Males 620 mm FL
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Distribution of reported Australian commercial catch of Mahi Mahi
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Fishing methods
Western Australia
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Rod and reel
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
Catch restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Laws of general application apply
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
Western Australia
Commercial 49.00kg
Charter < 0.5 t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Insufficient data

Western Australia – Recreational (Catch) Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017–18 [Ryan et al. 2019]. Shore- based catch (if any) largely unknown.

Western Australia – Recreational (Management methods) Boat-based recreational fishing licence required.

Western Australia – Charter (Catch) The charter catch is an estimate based on numbers of fish caught multiplied by an average weight.

Queensland – Indigenous (Management Methods) In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and bag limits and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations can be obtained through permits.

New South Wales - Recreational Catch - The most recent estimate of the recreational harvest of Mahi Mahi in NSW was approximately 25 400 fish during 2017–18 [Murphy et al., 2020].  This estimate was based on a survey of Recreational Fishing Licence (RFL) households.  RFL households were comprised of at least one member who possessed a long-term (1 and 3 years duration) fishing licence and included other fishers resident within their households. Catch from exempt fishers and short-term licence holders is unknown but for Mahi Mahi long-term licence holders are estimated to be responsible for the vast majority of the catch.


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Catch Chart

Australian commercial catch of Mahi Mahi - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Aires-da-Silva, A, Valero, JL, Maunde, MN, Minte-Vera, CV, Lennert-Cody, C, Román, MH, Martínez-Ortiz, J, Torrejón-Magallanes, EJ and Carranza MN 2016, Exploratory stock assessment of dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee, 7th Meeting, Document SAC-07-06a(i)
  2. Benjamin, D and Kurup, M 2012, Stock assessment of dolphinfish Coryphaena hippurus (Linnaeus, 1758) off southwest coast of India. Marine Biological Association of India doi:10.6024/jmbai.2012.54.1.01675-12.
  3. Campbell, R 2016, Catch of mahi mahi in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery–summary of AFMA data and
  4. Castro, JJ, Santiago, JA, Hernandez-Garcia, V, Pla C 1999, Growth and reproduction of the dolphinfish (Coryphaena equiselis and Coryphaena hippurus) in the Canary Islands, Central-East Atlantic (preliminary results), Scientia Marina, 63(3-4): 317–,325
  5. Construction of an annual abundance index. Background Paper to the Tropical Tuna Resource Assessment Group, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship and AFMA, March 2016.
  6. FAO 2020 Fisheries and aquaculture software. FishStatJ - software for fishery statistical time series .v4.00.15 (May 2020), In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department [online]. Rome. [Cited 25 August 2020]. http://www.fao.org/fishery/
  7. Gilman, E, Veiga, P, Spear, B, Schmidt, C, and Sousa, P 2013, SFP Global Sustainability Overview of Pacific Ocean Fisheries that Supply Mahi Mahi. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation. 6 p.
  8. Massuti, E and Morales-Nin, B 1997, Reproductive biology of dolphin-fish (Coryphaena hippurus L.) off the island of Majorca (western Mediterranean), Fisheries Research, 30: 57-65.
  9. Massuti, E and Morales-Nin, B 1999, Otolith microstructure, age, and growth patterns of dolphin, Coryphaena hippurus, in the western Mediterranean, Fishery Bulletin 97: 891–899.
  10. Murphy, J.J., Ocwada-Doyle, F.A., Hughes, J.M., West, L.D. and Stark, K.E., 2020. The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. NSW DPI - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
  11. Palko, BJ, Beardsley, GL, Richards, WJ 1982, Synopsis of the biological data on dolphin-fishes, Coryphaena hippurus Linnaeus and Coryphaena equiselis Linnaeus. NOAA Technical Report NMFS Circular 443. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 130,
  12. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  13. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Tate, A, Taylor, SM and Wise BS 2019, Statewide survey of boatbased recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017/18. Fisheries Research Report No. 297, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 225pp.
  14. Sporcic, M, Hobday, A, Bulman, C, Hartog, J, and Fuller, M 2019, Ecological Risk Assessment for the Effects of Fishing: Report for the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery: Longline sub-fishery, data to 2015. Report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. 234p.
  15. Uchiyama, JH, Boggs, CH 2006, Length-weight relationships of dolphinfish, Coryphaena hippurus, and wahoo, Acanthocybium solandri: seasonal effects of spawning and possible migration in the central North Pacific. Marine Fisheries Review 68 (1–4): 19–29.
  16. Uchiyama, JH, Burch, RK and Kraul, S 1988, Growth of the dolphins, Coryphaena hippurus and C. equiselis in Hawaiian waters, as determined by daily increments on otoliths. Fisheries Bulletin 84:186– 191.
  17. Valero JL, Aires-da-Silva A, Maunder MN, Minte-Vera C, Martinez-Ortiz J, Torrenjon-Magallanes EJ, Carranza MN 2016, Exploratory management strategy evaluation (MSE) of dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee, 7th Meeting, Document SAC-07-06a(ii),
  18. Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013-14, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland. 

Downloadable reports

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