Page 26 - Hawaii Seafood Buyers Guide

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I. Biological Description
Mahimahi (Coryphaena hippurus) is commonly
known as dolphin (the fish, not the mammal),
dolphinfish, or dorado. When a mahimahi takes
the hook, its colors are brilliant blue and silver
dappled with yellow. These fade quickly when the
fish dies. Large aggregations of mahimahi are
common around flotsam drifting at sea and off fish
aggregation buoys.
II. Of Special Interest For Buying/Distributing
Availability And Seasonality:
The supply of locally-caught mahimahi is extremely limited and seasonal
considering the high demand for this species. Although available most of the year, mahimahi catches
usually peak in March-May and September-November. Most of the fish are between 8 and 25 pounds,
but larger fish are caught by trollers and smaller fish by the pole-and-line skipjack tuna fleet.
Fishing Methods:
About 80% of the commercial mahimahi landings in Hawaii are by trollers. The
remainder is caught on longline gear or by aku fishermen using live bait in the pole-and-line fishery.
Although mahimahi have been raised successfully in tanks, the high cost has made commercial
production unfeasible to date.
The popularity of fresh mahimahi in the tourist industry has created a steady demand
and consistently good prices. Troll-caught mahimahi is marketed through fish auctions in Honolulu
and Hilo, through intermediary buyers on all major islands, and directly to restaurants. The longline
catch is sold primarily through the Honolulu auction.
Hawaii’s mahimahi is a highly-regarded product which is best eaten when fresh. Local
mahimahi is superior in quality to the available substitutes — lower-priced fresh mahimahi from Latin
America and imported frozen fillets from Taiwan, Japan, and Latin America.
Many tourists were first introduced to Hawaii’s fish species through their initial experience with a
fresh mahimahi. Some restaurants offer locally-caught ono as a substitute, however the flesh lacks
the sweet flavor of mahimahi and is drier. All of the “white-flesh” local species served in restaurants
are subject to seasonal fluctuations in availability, so chefs rely on a combination of species which
alternate as “catch of the day” based on their availability and affordability.
The bulk of the fast-food and general public restaurants in Hawaii cannot afford to put high-priced,
fresh mahimahi on their menus, but large imports of frozen mahimahi fillets from Taiwan, Japan, and
Latin America have made low-budget mahimahi dinners feasible for such establishments. The fresh
and frozen products each have separate niches, with little overlap or conflict.
Mahimahi (Dolphinfish)