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Bonito Tuna (Sarda australis & Sarda orientalis)
Photographs and Information

These two closely related fish are usually called bonito or Australian bonito, although this is often shortened to "bonny" or "bonnie". In some areas, these fish are also known as "horse mackerel" or "horsies". These two bonito may also be confused with a smaller, sub-tropical species known as the Watson's leaping bonito.

These two closely related fish are usually called bonito or Australian bonito, although this is often shortened to "bonny" or "bonnie". In some areas, these fish are also known as "horse mackerel" or "horsies". These two bonito may also be confused with a smaller, sub-tropical species known as the Watson's leaping bonito.

A surface fish which is blue-green above and silvery below with dark narrow bands extending the entire length of the body.  The fins are grey.  It's body is elongated and rounded and very streamlined, and has a single row of small teeth on both jaws.

Bonito have moderately large, strong jaws which carry a single row of relatively small, but distinct, conical teeth. They are generally dark green to blue on the back, silvery-green on the sides and silvery-white on the belly. A series of dark, longitudinal stripes are evident along the fish's upper and middle flanks. When fresh, these stripes may be broken into separate dashes by lighter, vertical bars. The stripes of the bonito are limited to the fish's upper and middle flanks, while those of the striped tuna or skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) are found on the lower flanks and belly.

Bonito are found around the entire coast of Australia and feed on small baitfish in coastal waters.  They grow to a maximum weight of about 5 kg.

Bonito are common to southeast coastal waters of the continent but can be found from Qld. around to W.A. The Australian Bonito continuously migrates along the east coast from southern Qld. to eastern Vic., Tas. and S.A. Similar species like the Oriental Bonito (Sarda orientalis) are found only in the southern coastal seas of W.A. and the Leaping Bonito [Watson's leaping bonito] (Cybiosarda elegans), a tropical species, can be found from northern Australia and occasionally further south along the east and west coasts. They prefer coastal waters attracted mainly to inshore and offshore reefs, inshore islands, rocky headlands, rocky inshore waters, ocean rocks and wharves often forming into large schools. The Leaping Bonito is known to frequent estuaries in search of bait fish populations during the winter months.

Available wild-caught, these free-swimming, marine fish, from the same family as Tunas, live in schools in open waters over the continental shelf off the eastern, southern and south-western coasts of Australia from Cape York (Qld) to Exmouth (WA), with Australian Bonito found in the east, Oriental Bonito in the west, and Leaping Bonito in tropical and sub-tropical waters along both the east and west coasts (venturing into estuaries in winter).

They often school with other Tunas near the coast. Australian Bonito, which makes up the bulk of the commercial catch, is caught using lines and purse seines and sold mostly in Sydney. Oriental Bonito is occasionally trolled off WA and a small quantity of Leaping Bonito is caught of NSW.

They’re generally all marketed simply as Bonito and look very similar, with blue-green torpedo-shaped bodies fading to silver on the belly and dark blue-grey stripes covering both upper and lower body; the stripes on Australian Bonito are almost completely horizontal, while those on Oriental and Leaping Bonitos are more slanted.

Bonito Tuna (Sarda australis & Sarda orientalis) photo

Map showing where Bonito Tuna (Sarda australis & Sarda orientalis) are found in Australian waters

How to distinguish from leaping bonito: no spots or dots on body, narrow stripes on sides.


Scientific Name Sarda australis
Sarda orientalis
Location Australia wide
Season Available all year
Size To 102 cm and 5 kg
Australian Species Code 37 441020
Taste, Texture Strong taste, firm texture.


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product
for Tuna fillet.

Kilojoules 521 (124 calories)
Cholesterol 30 mg
Sodium 37 g
Total fat (oil) 0.5 g
Saturated fat 33% of total fat
Monounsaturated fat 13% of total fat
Polyunsaturated fat 54% of total fat
Omega-3, EPA 14 mg
Omega-3, DHA 100 mg
Omega-6, AA 15 mg


Other Bonito Links:


Exporters of Bonito
Importers of Bonito 
Processors of Bonito 
Wholesale Suppliers of Bonito
Seafood Agents for Bonito

Angling & Fishing for Bonito:

Bonito can be caught by trolling a small lure just offshore and around offshore reefs. Bonito respond to the same techniques which take skipjack and mackerel tuna, and also fall for those employed to target salmon, tailor and kingfish. Boat anglers sometimes take good hauls by trolling diving minnows parallel with the shoreline, close to headlands and rock ledges, or by casting and retrieving lures around "washes" of broken white-water adjacent to these areas. Land-based anglers also do well at times by casting and retrieving lures from the ocean rocks, jetties and breakwalls. In addition to lures and flies, bonito will attack pilchards and garfish rigged on ganged hooks, as well as live baits and strip baits or cubes of fish flesh , especially when these are free-lined in a berley trail.


Cooking Bonito:

The flesh of Bonito is very strong, oily and "meaty" taste.  It is extremely good bait for reef fish. Usually sold whole, sometimes available as sashimi. In whole fish look for lustrous skin, firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. Cooking Methods are to Pan-fry, bake, grill, barbecue, smoke, raw (sashimi), pickle. Recipes for Tuna Rolls, Tuna Cheese Melt, Tuna salad, nutritional information on tuna and easy fish recipes.

Read more about Cooking Bonito Tuna and Bonito Recipes

Commercial Fishing for Bonito:

Australian Bonito is fully fished in Australia. It is a relatively fast growing species that supports seasonally significant commercial and recreational catches. Line methods within the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery account for the majority of the catch. Listed here are details of companies and contacts that are exporters of bonito, importers of bonito tuna and processors, wholesale supply of bonito.


More links about Bonito and Australian Bonito Information

New South Wales wild fish program, Australian Bonito information, Queensland government Dept Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry information on Australian Bonito, contacts from Sea-Ex Trade Seafood Industry directory for importers, exporters, wholesalers, processors of bonito.





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