Mahi Mahi: Fish Price Leaps to a 4-Year High


Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Emma Jayne Smith, market analyst at Mintec.

U.S. mahi mahi prices reached a four-year high in July, up 41% month-over-month and up 24% year-over-year, driven by lower catches from South America.

Mahi Mahi prices

Mahi mahi, meaning “strong strong” in Hawaiian, is a fish growing in popularity in U.S. restaurants, with its sweet-mild taste. They are also known as dorado in Latin America and dolphinfish in the U.S., despite not looking like dolphins as they are slimmer with an iridescent green, blue, yellow and orange color. They are an ocean fish and are sold and traded as both freshly caught and frozen.

Peru is the world’s leading producer of mahi mahi, with over 50% of the total catch and 24% of all exports to the U.S., with Ecuador and Taiwan closely following as suppliers to the U.S. The mahi mahi fishing season runs from October to March, with catches peaking in January/February when it is most available in large quantities, causing prices to seasonally dip at this time of year.

The recent El Niño weather phenomenon, which started in 2015, has encouraged mahi mahi to relocate away from the South American coast into more remote waters, out of reach of most fishing vessels, causing catches to fall in Central and South America. It has been reported that the fishing in Peru has been the worst in 10 years, at about 30% of capacity. As a result, the mahi mahi fishing season closed on May 1, until Sept. 30. This in turn is causing pressure for the fishing markets in the U.S., leading to shortages with mahi mahi.

Mahi mahi shipments to the U.S. market remain notably down from the five-year-average. Frozen imports are down 14% at 27 million pound, and fresh shipments are down 16% at 9.9 million pounds, with both figures lower in the 2015/16 season compared to the five-year-average.

The last time mahi mahi prices reached a similar level was in 2014. Back then the fish priced itself off the market and was taken off U.S. restaurant menus for months until the prices came down. Prices are likely to stay high until at least the start of the next season in October, so it might be time to wave bye bye to mahi mahi on our menus for the time being.

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