Pacific Bonito

The Science

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

The Fishery

Fishing for bonito occurs offshore in 300-600 feet of water.

The Seafood

Bonito is sometimes dried, fermented, and smoked to make bonito flakes, or Katsuobushi, in Japanese cuisine!

The Science

Pacific Bonito
Ian Manning/CC BY-SA 4.0

Taxonomic description

  • Its head is pointed and conical with a large mouth.
  • It has a compressed body with slanted dark stripes on their backs and upper sides.
  • The lower jaw has 14-25 teeth, and is moderately large.
  • This fish reaches 79-102 cm (31-40 in) in length and can weigh up to 11 kg (24 pounds). [4]
  • Its characterized by a large spleen and lack of swim bladder. [7]

Distribution

  • This fish ranges from the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Alaska all the way down to the tip of Baja California, Mexico. [9]

Life history

  • It reaches sexual maturity at the age of 2 and have a maximum lifespan of 6 years. [2]
  • Spawning generally occurs from late January until May. [11]

Habitat

  • Bonito is a pelagic fish that lives 80-200 meters (262-328 ft.) deep, migrating farther offshore as it grows older.
  • It eats fish (such as sardines and anchovies) as well as squid. [3]
  • Predators of bonito are larger fish such as tuna, bonito also prey on each other as well. [1]

The Fishery

fishing boats on dock
coolsandiegosights.com

Seasonal availability

  • Fishing is allowed year-round, but most catch is landed from June-November. [3]

Regulatory and managing authority

  • Pacific Bonito in state waters is currently managed by the state of California. [2]
  • California statutes and regulations apply to the taking of the Pacific Bonito (CA Fish and Game Code). [3]

Gear type

  • Bonito are mostly taken by purse seine, but are also caught by gill nets, trawl, and hook and line. [2,8]

Status of the fishery

  • Currently, bonito is placed in the category of least concern because the catch per year has decreased significantly since the 1990s due to increased 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. [3]
  • In 2014, 70,982 pounds (32,196 kg.) of Pacific Bonito were caught in California. [6]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Purse seines are non-selective, which poses risks to non-target species.  [12]

The Seafood

seared fish steak with grapefruit slices
jatrax/iStock

Edible portions

  • This fish can be eaten whole. [4] 

Description of meat 

  • The meat is deep red to pink, soft with a fishy smell but a bold and flavorful taste. [14]

Culinary uses

  • Available whole, as filets, or steaks. 
  • This fish should be bled and put on ice immediately after catching, and bloodlines should be removed. [14]
  • Generally brined prior to cooking. [5]

Nutritional information 

  • For fresh Bonito, there are 5 calories per 129 serving (100 g) and 28 grams of protein.  [13]

Toxicity report

  • As with other top predators, may contain high mercury levels; follow consumer guidelines especially for pregnant women and children. [10]

Seasonal availability

  • Available year round.

References

[1] Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental affairs.  2017. Atlantic Bonito. Web. http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dmf/recreational-fishing/atlantic-bonito.html#food. Date accessed: 27 May 2017.

[2] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2019. Pacific Bonito, Sarda chiliensis, Enhanced Status Report. Web. https://marinespecies.wildlife.ca.gov/pacific-bonito/. Accessed 4 September 2020. 

[3] Lewis, M. 2008. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Pacific Bonito, Sarda chiliensis. Status of the Fisheries 2008. Web. https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34441&inline. Accessed 4 September 2020. 

[4] CDFW. 2016-2017. "California Marine Sportfish Identification: Tuna & Mackerels." Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Fish-ID/Sportfish/Tuna-And-Mackerels#bonito. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[5] Canncel, C.. 2015. How to Cook Bonito Fish."Web. http://www.livestrong.com/article/547462-how-to-cook-bonita-fish/. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[6] CDFW. 2014. Final Commercial Landings. Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Commercial/Landings#26004609-2014. Accessed: 20 May 2017.

[7] Food and Agricultural  Organization of the United Nations. 2017. Sarda Chilensis. Food and Agricultural  Organization of the United Nations. Web. http://www.fao.org/fishery/species/3275/en. Accessed: 12 April 2017. 

[8] Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 1999-2017. Fishing and Farming Methods. Web. http://www.seafoodwatch.org/ocean-issues/fishing-and-farming-methods. Accessed: 1 May 2017.

[9] Luna, S. 1983. Sarda chiliensis, Eastern Pacific Bonito. Web. http://www.fishbase.org/summary/113. Date Accessed: 21 April 2017

[10] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2017. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012). Web. https://www.fda.gov/food/metals-and-your-food/mercury-levels-commercial-fish-and-shellfish-1990-2012. Accessed 4 September 2020. 

[11] NOAA Fisheries. 2014. Purse Seine: Fishing Gear and Risks to Protected Species. Web. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/interactions/gear/purseseine.htm. Accessed: 29 April 2017.

[12] Snow, J. Mexico- Fish, Marine Life, Birds and Terrestrial Life. Pacific Bonito.    http://www.mexican-fish.com/pacific-bonito/. Accessed: 12 April 2017

[13] Pacific Bonito. Web. Myfitnesspal.com. Accessed: 21 September 2017. 

[14] Finn's Fishing Tips. n.d. What does Bonito Fish Taste Like? Web. https://finnsfishingtips.com/bonito-fish-taste/. Accessed 28 Sept 2020.