Pacific Bonito

Sarda lineolata

Luke Armstrong/flickr

The Science


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

Ian Manning/iNaturalist

Taxonomic description

  • Head is pointed and conical with a large mouth.
  • Has a compressed body with slanted dark stripes on their backs and upper sides.
  • Lower jaw has 14-25 teeth, and is moderately large.
  • Reaches 79-102 cm (31-40 in) in length and can weigh up to 11 kg (24 pounds). [4]
  • Characterized by a large spleen and lack of swim bladder. [7]
  • Was formerly considered subspecies of Sarda chiliensis. [18]


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

Life history

  • 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]


  • Bonito is a pelagic fish that lives 80-200 meters (262-328 ft.) deep, migrating farther offshore as it grows older.
  • 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 for bonito occurs offshore in 300-600 feet of water.

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

Seasonal availability

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

Regulatory and managing authority

  • As established by the Marine Life Management Act, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) collects data on and manages this fishery. [2,15]

Gear type

  • 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.
  • 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


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


Edible portions

  • Can be eaten whole. [4] 

Description of meat 

  • 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. 
  • Should be bled and put on ice immediately after catching, and bloodlines should be removed. [14]
  • Generally brined prior to cooking. [5]
  • For a Japanese simmered bonito recipe, visit Recipe Tin Japan. [16]
  • For recipe for grilled bonito, visit Greedy Gourmet. [17]

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.


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

[2] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2019. Pacific Bonito, Sarda chiliensis, Enhanced Status Report. Web. Accessed 4 September 2020. 

[3] Lewis, M. 2008. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Pacific Bonito, Sarda chiliensis. Status of the Fisheries 2008. Web. Accessed 4 September 2020. 

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

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

[6] CDFW. 2014. Final Commercial Landings. Web. 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. Accessed: 12 April 2017. 

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

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

[10] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2017. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012). Web. Accessed 4 September 2020. 

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

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

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

[14] Finn's Fishing Tips. n.d. What does Bonito Fish Taste Like? Web. Accessed 28 Sept 2020. 

[15] Marine Life Management Act. n.d. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Web. Accessed 24 August 2020. 

[16] Yukimo. Recipe Tin Japan. 2019. Bonito Kakuni. Web. Accessed 19 January 2021. 

[17] Minnaar, M. Greedy Gourmet. 2018. Grilled Bonito. Web.…. Accessed 19 January 2021. 

[18] Binohlan, C.B. FishBase. n.d. Sarda lineolata, Pacific Bonito. Web. Accessed 18 February 2021. 

[19] Armstrong, L. iNaturalist. 2008. Digital image. Web. Accessed 18 February 2021. 

[20] Manning, I. iNaturalist. 2015. Digital image. Web. Accessed 18 February 2021. 

[21] Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. Facebook. 2020. Digital image. Web. Accessed 18 February 2021. 

[22] jatrax. iStock. 2015. Tuna steak grilled with orange sauce stock photo. Digital image. Web.…. Accessed 18 February 2021.