Māori Name: Kahawai
Name Scientific: Arripis trutta, A. xlabion
Availability: Year-round. Often targeted in winter when skipjack tuna have moved north.
Attributes Weight: 2–3kg, up to 5kg
Attributes Length: Length: 40–55cm, reaching 65cm
They are found around the New Zealand coast and are often sighted close to shore, frequently schooling by size. Kahawai are migratory along the coast.
Greenish-blue body above, sometimes shading to dark blue or purple, with irregular dark markings and spots, and shading to a silver-white below. The body is streamlined and slightly flattened at the tail. There is a high front dorsal fin joined to the soft dorsal fin by a notch.
Kahawai are a pelagic school fish of the Arripidae family (kahawai). Related species: Northern kahawai (A. xylabion) was only recognised as a separate species in the 1990s. The fish are a dark bluish-green with grey spots. At 95 centimetres, they are bigger than the common Kahawai. They are found in northern New Zealand waters and around the Kermadec Islands.
Kahawai spawn on the seabed, 60 to 100 metres deep, in late summer. Small juveniles are found in sheltered bays and some estuaries.
Kahawai has been managed under the Quota Management System (QMS) since its introduction in 2004.
The main fishing grounds are around the North Island, in Cook Strait and north of Kaikoura in the South Island. Commercially, most Kahawai are caught by purse seine year-round, but are often targeted in the winter when the Skipjack tuna have moved north. When caught, they need to be bled and chilled.
Did You Know
Kahawai feed en masse by herding baitfish to the surface. The foaming waters attract throngs of seabirds, particularly terns and shearwaters, to the conveniently arranged feast.
Kahawai flesh is dark-coloured with medium to thick flakes. It is popular as a smoked fish but can also be baked; marinated; poached; fried or used in a curry.
When buying whole kahawai, always check the... EYES: Bright and clear cornea, shiny black pupil GILLS: Rosy pink pastel coloured gills SKIN: Bright, with a luminous sheen When buying kahawai fillets, always check the... FLESH: semi-transparent and glossy If the fish looks sticky or mushy then it is not fresh.