I used to think that mahi mahi was a type of dolphin, and was therefore scandalized whenever I saw it on a menu. Of course, these guys are not dolphins, they are a type of fish. But they are known as dolphinfish, so I can see where the confusion originates. There are other confusing things about mahi mahi nomenclature – there are two other species of dolphinfish, both of which are also called mahi mahi by some. A number of other names also refer to mahi mahi, including dorado, lampuga, rakingo, calitos, ti-rone and maverikos. The poor fish definitely have identity problems.
Mahi mahi are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, in warm waters. They rarely venture out of tropical or subtropical areas, though they have been found in areas quite far north, such as Ireland. Mahi mahi are commonly found near floating things, because much of their prey likes to take shelter beneath such objects.
Mahi mahi are reasonably big fish, growing to two meters in length, though they are more commonly around one meter long. They are beautifully coloured, with yellow-gold on their bellies and bright blues and greens along their sides and backs. Females have rounded heads, while male mahi mahi have strange-looking protruding foreheads.
These fish are designed to be quite fast, with sleek, streamlined bodies. They use up a lot of energy to hunt, and thus need a way to replenish oxygen lost on such ventures. Their gills have a very large surface area, and mahi mahi must continuously swim to keep water flowing over them. They hunt a wide variety of sea creatures, including squid, mackerel, crustaceans, and flying fish.
One of the most interesting things about mahi mahi is their explosive growth rate. They reach sexual maturity in less than a year, generally around four to five months of age. Spawning can occur year round, and female mahi mahi are prolific egg producers, laying between 80,000 and 1,000,000 eggs at each spawning.
Thanks to their high growth and spawning rates, mahi mahi have a healthy wild population. This is in spite of the fact that mahi mahi are popular both commercially and as a sport fish. Hopefully with proper management we can keep these neat fish around for a long time!