Australian Bonito, Sarda australis (Macleay 1881)

Other Names: Bunnies, Bunny, Common Bonito, Horse Mackerel, Horsies, Little Bonito, Skipjack, Skippies, Striped Bonito

Australian Bonito, Sarda australis. Source: Australian National Fish Collection, CSIRO. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


This fast-moving, schooling predator is a popular target for recreational fishermen and is only found in Australian and New Zealand waters.

Cite this page as:
Schultz, S., Sarda australis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Apr 2024,

Australian Bonito, Sarda australis (Macleay 1881)

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Restricted to the south-eastern Australia region, as well as New Zealand. In Australian waters, the species is found from Wistari Reef (QLD) to Cape Otway (VIC), and Tasmania. An inshore pelagic species.


D XVII-XIX, 0, 0, 13-18; A 14-17; P 25-27; GR 19-21.

Dorsal fins separated by a narrow space. Second dorsal and anal fins followed by seven and six finlets, respectively. Pectoral fins short. Body elongate and slightly compressed. Large, conical teeth forming a single series, 16-26 in upper jaw, 11-20 in bottom jaw. Body with anterior corselet and covered in small scales, posterior to corselet. Lateral line curves gradually downwards from origin to caudal peduncle. Caudal peduncle with well-developed keel, flanked on each side by a smaller keel. Swim bladder absent.


Reaches at least 100 cm and 9.5 kg. Commonly captured at around 45 cm fork length and 2 kg in weight.


Dark blue to black dorsally, grey on sides, belly whitish. The dorsal stripes are almost horizontal and may occasionally extend onto the belly.


Feed on a variety of fishes, cephalopods and crustaceans. Members of the genus Sarda are known to be cannibalistic.


The Australian Bonito generally schools by size class, but schools forming during the spawning season may contain a range of year classes. Spawns from January to April, during which months the "Bonito run" occurs in inshore waters of the Sydney and South Coast regions.


The commercial catch of between 150 to 200 tonnes per annum is mainly taken by trolling and long-lining. The recreational catch is estimated to be around 80 tonnes per annum. The species is used both as a food fish and as bait for gamefishing.




The specific name australis is from Latin meaning "southern" in reference to its distribution.

Species Citation

Pelamys australis Macleay 1881, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (1)5(4): 557, Port Jackson, NSW.


Schultz, S.

Australian Bonito, Sarda australis (Macleay 1881)


Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 6. Bony fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles, sea turtles, sea snakes and marine mammals. Rome, FAO. 2001. pp. 3381-4218.

Collette, B.B. and C.E. Nauen, FAO species 1983, catalogue. Vol. 2. Scombrids of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of tunas, mackerels, bonitos and related species known to date. FAO Fish.Synop., (125)Vol.. 2: 137 p.

Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, J.R. Paxton, & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. in Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.

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CAAB Code:37441020

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