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Photo provided by the Fisheries Research Institute, COA

Introduction of Hsin-Kang Mahi Mahi Fishery

Hsin-Kang fishing harbor is located in Taitung County, Taiwan, also known as Chenggong fishing harbor, which is the biggest fishing harbor in the eastern Taiwan. Fishing vessels that register in Hsin-Kang are mostly small fishing vessels or fishing crafts, with one to five crew onboard. The Kuroshio Current (black tide) transports warm, tropical water northward and passes through the offshore waters around the Hsin-Kang fishing harbor, which contributes to environment that attract plenty and various fish species. And mahi mahi is the major species targeted by fishermen in Hsin-Kang.

Mahi Mahi(coryphaena hippurus), also known as dolphin fish or dorado, is a highly migratory species. Mahi Mahi grows very fast, and its life-span is not so long, which is about 4 year in average. The size of male mahi mahi is usually lager than female. It usually stays in pelagic sea area and feed on pelagic fish species, such as flying fish and sardine. Its preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical waters (about 25-28°C). Therefore, in Taiwan surrounding waters, it mostly migrates along with the Kuroshio Current, and is an important marine living resource with economic value in eastern Taiwan sea area.

Mahi mahi can be found in the eastern Taiwan sea area all the year, and Hsin-Kang of Taitung county is one of the major region targeting mahi mahi. According to the Taiwanese Fisheries Statistics Yearbook in 2013, the total catch amount of Taitung County was about 5,797 metric tons, with catch of tuna species(about 782 metric tons), billfish species(915 metric), mackerel species (about metric 411 tons), mahi mahi (about 2,024 metric tons), and other species (about 1,665 metric tons). Among which, mahi mahi is the species with most amount, which contribute significant economic value to local fishing village. There are two fishing seasons in Taiwan for mahi mahi: one is from April to June, and the other is from September to November. The catch amount is higher in the first fishing season.

Mahi mahi are mostly caught by longline, but some of the fishing vessels would use troll line in the water. Fishermen usually use live milkfish, frozen Pacific saury and squid as bait, and employ a highly selective hook, which is locally called four-angle hook, to catch mahi mahi. The major fishing ground is in the eastern Taiwan sea area, but each captain would decide the location of fishing operation based on his own experience, mostly in the area between 20°N to 25°N. In order to secure a better fishing location, fishing vessels usually leave port before midnight. After arrived the chosen location, the captain and crew onboard would have a simple meal and start to prepare fish bait and fishing gear. Most of the time, fishing vessel would start to deploy the longline at 3-4 am, while most of people are sleeping in bed.

The duration of longline deployment would be different in accordance with the number of hooks to be deployed. It usually take two hours to complete the deployment. After longline deployed, the captain and crew would take some rest before they start to retrieve the fishing gear. The duration of hauling may be different at each operation, based on the catch amount in this set. Of course, when the catch condition is good, the duration of hauling would be longer. It is quite often to spend more than ten hours to finish the hauling. Sometimes, if the duration of hauling is longer than expectation thus the fishing vessel is unable to enter port before fish auction, some fishing vessels would chose to stay at sea for next fishing set.

In general, most of the Hsin-Kang mahi mahi fishing vessels would return to the port for landing daily, but sometimes some bigger vessel may spend 5-7 days for one trip. To better reserve the catch, Hsin-Kang fishermen have developed their unique procedures to maintain the freshness of the fish, so as to have a better price.

In the last decade, the mahi mahi annual catch of Hsin-Kang is about 2,600 metric tons, with the value about 5 million US dollars. During the fishing season, one fishing vessel may catch more than one thousand kilogram of catch in one day. Therefore, for local fishermen, mahi mahi is a very important economic resource to ensure their livelihood. In order to conserve this important fish resource, the Hsin-Kang Fishermen Association, service wholesaler, processing plants, fish trade agent, and local fishermen have jointly initiate the Hsin-Kang mahi mahi FIP. It is hoped that through the implementation of the FIP, this fish resource can be conserved and managed in a good manner, thus all the stakeholders can sustainably engage in this fishery.