Pacific Bonito

The Science

Bonito populations fluctuate in accordance with the warm/cold water periods associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation!

The Fishery

Fishing occurs offshore in 300-600 feet of water.

The Seafood

Very popular in Japanese cuisine.

The Science

Pacific Bonito
Ian Manning/CC BY-SA 4.0

Taxonomic description

  • Head pointed and conical with a large mouth
  • Compressed body with slanted dark stripes on their backs and upper sides
  • Lower jaw with 14-25 teeth, moderately large mouth
  • 79-102 cm (31-40 in)  length and can weigh up to 11 kg (24 pounds) [5]
  • Characterized by a large spleen and lack of swim bladder  [8]


  • Pacific Ocean from the coast of Alaska all the way down to the tip of Baja California, Mexico [11]

Life history

  • Reaches sexual maturity at the age of 2 and have a maximum lifespan of 6 years [3]
  • Spawning generally occurs from late January until May  [14]


  • Pelagic fish that lives 80-200 meters (262-328 ft.) deep, with older individual migrating farther offshore
  • Eats fish (such as sardines and anchovies) as well as squid [4]
  • Predators are larger fish such as tuna, bonito also prey on each other as well [1]

The Fishery

Seasonal availability

  • Available May-January , however it is legal to fish them all year [4]

Managing authority

  • Included in the  Federal Highly Migratory Species Management Plan as a “monitored species”, meaning it is not actively managed
  • California statutes and regulations apply to the taking of the Pacific Bonito (CA Fish and Game Code) [4]

Gear type

  • Jigs [12] and purse seine [4]

Status of the fishery

  • Currently placed in the category of least concern because the catch per year has decreased significantly since the 1990s due toincreased regulation  and decreased market demand
  • The catch peaked in 1966 with 4.6 million fish declining with a loss of 659,000 in the 1990s [4]
  • In 2014, 70,982 pounds (32,196 kg.) of Pacific Bonito were caught in California [7]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Jigging results in very low by-catch so it is fairly responsible fishing method, as it has low environmental impact [9]
  • Purse seines are  non-selective, so pose risks to non-target species [15]

The Seafood

jatrax, iStock, Getty Images

Edible portions

  • Can be eaten whole [5]

Description of meat

  • Meat is deep white to pink, soft with a fishy smell but a bold and flavorful taste [9, 13]

Culinary uses

  • Whole, fillets or steaks
  • Used in fish flakes at health food stores
  • Generally brined prior to cooking [6]

Nutritional information 

  • For fresh Bonito, there are 5 calories per 129 serving (100 g) and 28 grams of protein [16]

Toxicity report

  • As with other top predators, may contain high mercury levels; follow consumer guidelines especially for pregnant women and children [13]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round, but March- September is the freshest time to buy them in the market 


[1] Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental affairs.  2017. Atlantic Bonito. Web. Date accessed: 27 May 2017.

[2] Eat this much.  2017. Aged and Dried Bonito Flakes. Web.,573944/. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[3] CDFW. 2015. Bonito, Pacific. Web. Accessed: 19 May 2017.

[4] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Pacific Bonito, Sarda Chiliensis. Rep. no. 9. N.p.: n.p., 2008. Web.

[5] CDFW. 2016-2017. "California Marine Sportfish Identification: Tuna & Mackerels." Web. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[6] Canncel, C.. 2015. How to Cook Bonito Fish."Web. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[7] CDFW. 2014. Final Commercial Landings. Web. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[8] Food and Agricultural  Organization of the United Nations. 2017. Sarda Chilensis. Food and Agricultural  Organization of the United Nations. Web. Accessed: 12 April 2017. 

[9] Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 1999-2017. Fishing and Farming Methods. Web. Accessed: 1 May 2017.

[10] Shizuoka Gourmet. 2010. Japanese Seasonal Fish: Katsuo/Bonito. Accessed: 5 May 2017.

[11] Luna, S. 1983. Sarda chiliensis, Eastern Pacific Bonito. Web. Date Accessed: 21 April 2017

[12] "Pacific Bonito." Personal interview. 6 May 2017.

[13] Sushi311.  2017. Pacific Bonito. Web. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[14] NOAA Fisheries. 2014. Purse Seine: Fishing Gear and Risks to Protected Species. Web. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[15] Snow, J. Mexico- Fish, Marine Life, Birds and Terrestrial Life. Pacific Bonito. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[16] Pacific Bonito. Web. Accessed: 21 September 2017.