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Save the Mahi: Call to Action

It's time for action. We, the recreational angler, need to be heard if we want to, expect to, catch a dolphin on future offshore trips.

Save the Mahi: Call to Action

Dolphin stocks are not only crashing but the average size continues to get smaller, many anglers say.

It’s time for action. We, the recreational angler, need to be heard if we want to, expect to, catch a dolphin (mahi) on future offshore trips.

Unfortunately for those of you who have fished off the east coast of Florida for dolphin in the last three years you already know there’s a problem with the fishery. Charterboats in the Florida Keys aren’t catching slammers (twenty-plus-pound fish) and anglers from Miami to Jacksonville bemoan the absence of both large and small mahi.

Houston, we have a problem.

The house is on fire, yet the guy standing in front of the blaze hasn’t called the fire department.

The issues facing mahi are widely recognized among many staff, Advisory Panel members and Council members within the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, yet the only change on the horizon for dolphin is reducing the boat limit from 60 to 54. A reduction of six fish.


graphs of recreational and commercial fishing catches of dolphin, aka mahi
A clear trend is happening, and it's not looking good for one of the most valuable fisheries in the world. Recreational landings on top, Commercial on bottom.

“We failed miserably,” exclaimed Art Sapp, who served on the South Atlantic Council from 2018-2021. “Clearly there’s a problem with dolphin and we need to reduce the bag limits,” said Sapp. “Shoot, anglers have been begging for us to do something for years, and we didn’t.”

“The stock is collapsing,” exclaimed Jon Reynolds, a charterboat captain in Islamorada, and president of SAFE, South Atlantic Fishing Environmentalists. “Our organization, and countless other anglers, have worked through this regulatory process for around 5 years now. It’s clear that the Council does not have the recreational anglers in mind.”

dolphin landings charts
Long-term trends show a concerning pattern. Each section represents five year averages of mahi landings, dating back to 1990. Graph created in 2020 for an issue of Florida Sportsman

Echoing the call to dramatically reduce the recreational angler’s boat limit, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is looking into reducing the recreational vessel limit to 30 fish per vessel and possibly modifying the bag limit. Staff will return with a draft rule for dolphin in Atlantic state waters at a Commission meeting later this year.

Unfortunately, the heavyweight testimonials, public comments, letters and phone calls to significantly reduce the current 60-fish boat limit for recreational anglers have fallen on deaf ears. So has the call to institute a maximum commercial trip limit.

Why? Or better, how? Well, simply put, the recreational angler, the true 800-pound gorilla in the room, is being ignored.

Incredibly, the Council is putting the health and future of one of the most important fish of the offshore recreational fishing industry at risk in favor of 70 longline boats, and a handful of charterboats from North Carolina.

It’s time for the Council to hear from us, I mean really hear from us. And not from just a hundred of us, but thousands. Tens of thousands.

For starters, let’s get on public record demanding meaningful action be done now to save the mahi fishery.

Go to and sign the petition to:

✓ Reduce the Boat Limit for mahi from a proposed 54 fish to 30 fish

✓ Create a 2,000 pound maximum trip limit for licensed commercial boats

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