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mahi mahi


Mahi Mahi are a very tasty fish mainly landed at Viking Village as an incidental catch in the swordfish and tuna longline fishery. Mahi-Mahi which means "very strong" in Hawaiian, is also known as the dolphin, causing some confusion with the more widely-known marine mammals called dolphins. 

     Mahi are distinguished by dazzling colors: golden on the sides, and bright blues and greens on the sides and back. Mature males have prominent foreheads protruding well above the body proper. Females have a rounded head and are usually smaller than males.

Fishwatch Facts

•Geographic range: In tropical and subtropical waters of all oceans


•Habitat: Oceanic pelagic fish; generally restricted to waters warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit


•Life span: Short, maximum is 5 years; males live longer than females


•Food: Dolphinfish are voracious predators and feed in surface water during the day. They eat a wide variety of species including small pelagic species (living in the water column) such as flying fish, halfbeaks, man-o-war fish, Sargassum fish, and rough triggerfish, juveniles of large pelagic species (tunas, billfish, jacks, and dolphin), and pelagic larvae of nearshore, bottom-living species (flying gurnards, triggerfish, pufferfish, and grunts). Dolphinfish also eat invertebrates such as cephalopods (octopus, squid, etc.), mysids (small, shrimp-like creatures), and scyphozoans (jellyfish), which suggests they are essentially non-selective, opportunistic foragers.


•Growth rate: Growth is extremely rapid. Specific rates vary among regions and are sensitive to water temperatures. The life history of dolphinfish suggests the species may be able to withstand a relatively high rate of exploitation.


•Maximum size: The largest dolphinfish length reported is almost 7 feet; the maximum weight reported is 88 pounds.


•Reaches reproductive maturity: Dolphinfish reach maturity at 4 to 5 months. 


•Reproduction: Dolphinfish are prolific spawners, reproducing repeatedly. Recent research suggests that they may spawn every 2 to 3 days for the duration of the entire spawning season, perhaps even year round. Females may have 33,000 to 66,000 eggs per spawning event.


•Spawning season: Spawning is thought to occur year round in waters with temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but peaks vary with latitude. For example, in the Florida current, spawning occurs from November through July and during June and July in the Gulf Stream near North Carolina. Off southern California and Mexico, peak spawning occurs from August to September. 


•Spawning grounds: In the central North Pacific, dolphinfish appear to spawn in waters less than 50 nautical miles from islands and banks. Off the continents, they appear to spawn on the continental shelf. There does not seem to be any spawning in the open ocean in the Pacific. In the Atlantic spawning occurs under Sargassum patches.


•Migrations: Young dolphinfish school, but older individuals are more solitary. Adults make seasonal north-south migrations.


•Predators: Predators include large tuna, rough toothed dolphin, marlin, sailfish, and swordfish (particularly preying on juveniles). 


•Commercial or recreational interest: Both


•Distinguishing characteristics: Bright turquoise, green, and yellow patterns; can be distinguished from the pompano dolphin by its 55 to 66 dorsal fin rays and a very wide, square tooth patch on the tongue.

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