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
New South Wales Western and Central Pacific 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

Western and Central Pacific Ocean

This cross-jurisdictional management unit has components in the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory 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 Western and Central Pacific Ocean (FAO areas 61, 71 and 81) peaked at over 30 000 tonnes (t) on a number of occasions during the 1980s and 1990s [FAO 2020]. Catch in 2018 was 22 180 t and has averaged 22 144 t over the most recent five years.  Recent reported catches have been predominantly from the northwest Pacific (FAO area 61, north of 20oN) and the western central Pacific (FAO area 71, 20oN–25oS), with minor commercial catches reported in the southwest Pacific (FAO area 81, south of 25oS).

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

For the Commonwealth part of the management unit, commercial landings over the period 2010 to 2019 peaked in 2011 at 345 t and have averaged 190 t over the most recent five years. Pelagic tuna longline is the primary gear used to catch this species.

For the New South Wales part of the management unit, commercial landings are relatively minor, at less than 10 t for 2019 and averaging 7.2 t over the last decade. The most recent recreational estimate was from a survey done in 2017–18 with an estimated 25 400 fish being harvested [Murphy et al. 2020].

Queensland annual commercial landings have averaged around 2.5 t over the previous decade [QFISH 2020] while approximately 75 t were harvested recreationally in 2013–14 [Webley et al. 2015].

For the Northern Territory part of the biological stock, landings have been very low (< 70 kg) and only relate to charter operators fishing offshore. The last catch of Mahi Mahi recorded in this jurisdiction was in 2015.

Catches in Victoria and Tasmania are rare.

In the western central Pacific, the majority of Mahi Mahi are taken using hook methods such as pelagic longline and troll, as well as significant bycatches by tuna purse seine fishing using fish aggregating devices (FADs).

There has been no formal stock assessment of Mahi Mahi for the western central Pacific. Gilman et al. [2013] undertook a sustainability overview of fisheries that supply Mahi Mahi in the western central Pacific and concluded that, overall, it was relatively “poorly managed” and “high risk” due to a lack of management and a lack of information on management and stock status. However, they concluded that there was a “medium risk” relating to current biomass and fishing mortality due to the highly productive life history characteristics of Mahi Mahi.

Campbell [2016] standardised Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF) pelagic longline catch rates to develop an index of abundance for Mahi Mahi within the Australian area of operations. For the period 1998–2014 the abundance index showed moderately high year-to-year variability and little, if any, overall trend through this period. Campbell [2016] also examined time-series of Mahi Mahi size data and found strong seasonal changes in the mean weights of Mahi Mahi caught in the ETBF but no long term trend over the same period. Sporcic et al. [2019] undertook ecological risk assessment of the ETBF and found Mahi Mahi to be a low risk species in the context of ETBF interactions and within its operating area.

However, Mahi Mahi are not highly targeted by the Australian commercial sector and Australian catches form a small component of the total international Pacific Ocean catch. There is therefore insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Western Central Pacific 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
New South Wales
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Bag limits
Limited entry
Possession limit
Size limits
Spatial closures
Bag limits
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
New South Wales
Commercial 5.21t
Recreational 25,400 (numbers-2017/18)

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. 

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