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Product Spotlight: Mahimahi
Consistent supply makes mahi a restaurant staple
By April Forristall
May 01, 2008
During times when consumers and industry professionals alike
are bombarded with news of how the oceans' fish supply is being
depleted, supplying mahimahi is one decision that allows
companies to rest easy. Mahimahi is one of the most plentiful
species in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, one that isn't
on conservation groups' "high alert" or "red" list and hasn't
been pegged with bad methylmercury PR. Still considered
somewhat exotic by consumers, mahimahi, also known as dorado or
dolphin fish, is now commonplace on most restaurant menus,
holding its own among species like salmon and tilapia.
Mahi is available through both domestic and imported
sources, with the latter bringing in the majority of the
supply. Approximately 80 percent of the mahi supply is from the
Pacific and the rest domestic product, says Tim Lycke, general
manager of Incredible Fish in Miami.
Last year, mahi imports totaled more than 35 million pounds.
This year, imports through February are at almost 13 million
pounds, 4 million more than the same period last year,
according to National Marine Fisheries Service statistics. In
2006, domestic landings were just over 2 million pounds.
Ocean Technology in Glen Burnie, Md., began carrying mahi
just three years ago and already sells nearly 1 million pounds
"Demand has been fantastic," says President Bob Stryker.
The same goes further down the coast at Incredible Fish.
Lycke says mahi boasts the largest production of fresh fish for
the company and he sees its popularity increasing annually.
Demand for mahi has grown steadily since it entered the
restaurant scene, and its significant rise in popularity shows
no signs of slowing, say producers.
"It's got commonplace status. It's a staple fish on a lot of
restaurant menus now, because it's been readily available,"
says Stryker. "It's a commodity that's pretty much driven by
pricing and availability."
"It's actually a very prolific species. It's one of the
fastest growing fish in the ocean," says Henry Lovejoy,
president of EcoFish in Dover, N.H. "It can gain 10 percent of
its body weight in one day. They are voracious eaters and can
withstand a lot more fishing pressure than other species like
shark or swordfish."
Landings are holding steady from year to year, with volumes
taking a dip when the Pacific season ends around May and
Atlantic production gears up a few months later, but there is
always plenty of frozen fish to get suppliers through the
"It's a plentiful fish," says Lycke. "Price-wise compared to
grouper and snapper it usually tends to be a lot cheaper and at
the source level there is much more production."
Price fluctuates during the off-season, but usually no more
than a quarter a pound, according to Lycke, whose company sells
about 20,000 pounds weekly.
"It's common sense that if grouper is on the menu at $20 and
right below it is mahi for $14, people are going to try it," he
says. "It's a more interesting fish to try."
When served at Fore Street in Portland, Maine, Chef Sam
Hayward says it sells anywhere between 20 to 40 portions on a
night of 150 to 300 covers. "Considering the size of our menu,
that's pretty good," Hayward says.
Sampling the species in restaurants gives consumers the
faith they need to test it at home.
"Like in so many cases, the culinary world takes the lead on
a species and as people become familiar with it on menus, then
they start using it at home," says Lycke. "And there are so
many different ways of cooking it. It can be grilled, baked,
fried, sautéed - there is all kinds of stuff to do with
But that's not to say mahi doesn't have its hurdles.
"The biggest challenge recently with mahi is the price is up
this year," says EcoFish's Lovejoy.
However, the weather, not overfishing, is at fault. El
Nino's absence held water temperatures down and slowed growth
rates, according to Lovejoy, forcing an increased amount of
smaller than usual mahi to be caught.
"[The price is] no where near where halibut got," says
Lovejoy, comparing mahi to the species his company dropped when
costs got too high. "I don't see mahi going in that
Editorial Assistant April Forristall can be e-mailed at