What are mahi mahi eating? Researchers teamed up with Hawaii anglers to find out

Anglers are donating the stomachs of mah imahi to NOAA researchers.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:52 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 11:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mahi mahi is a popular fish to eat in Hawaii.

And now we have a better idea of what they eat.

That’s thanks in part to local anglers who are donating the stomachs of mahi mahi to NOAA researchers.

”We want mahi mahi to be here for generations to come and to ensure that, we need to make sure that their essential fish habitat is there and part of that is their diet,” said Jonathan Whitney, of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

”Fishermen themselves are often scientists. They want to know what their fish are eating that they’re catching,” added Keith Kamikawa, of the Fishery Management Specialist.

NOAA researchers team up with local fishers to find out what mahi-mahi eat.
NOAA researchers team up with local fishers to find out what mahi-mahi eat.(Courtesy: Mayti Kriedler)

Researchers have identified more than 500 different types of prey for mahi mahi using a machine that determines DNA.

After two years of analyzing more than 300 mahi mahi stomachs, they found there is one fish in particular that the mahi mahi like to eat.

”We’re seeing a large number of goat fish are commonly observed in the stomachs,” said Nan Himmelsbach, of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

”What we’re finding is that healthy reefs feed pelagic predators even far offshore, including the mahi mahi. So, juvenile stages of reef fish spend their first couple of weeks, two months out offshore, and they’re actually helping to feed these big predators that we rely on for fisheries,” said Whitney.

Based on NOAA’s findings, anglers can modify the color of their lures to match what the mahi mahi are biting at this time, in this case, baby goatfish.

Researchers also made an unexpected discovery.

They were surprised at the lack of plastics in mahi mahi stomachs.

”There was fewer than 1% which shows plastic is not a prevalent food item for mahi mahi,” said Himmelsbach.

So far, more than 60 anglers have participated.

NOAA is offering an added incentive to keep the valuable researching going. For every 10 mahi mahi stomachs turned in, NOAA will give anglers a $50 gift card to a local fishing store.

”The more data they can get, the better and it’ll help them to try and figure out how to take care of the oceans and the reef. The better it helps us, because we know how to better target those fish,” said fisherman Mayti Kriedler.

If you’re interested in participating, email: pifsc.info@noaa.gov