Managing bigeye tuna in the Pacific is already challenging, and now a new study shows that climate change may affect our supply of this fish, used to make the deliciously popular ʻahi poke. The study projects the decline of catch in Hawai‘i
About the Species
U.S. wild-caught Pacific wahoo is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
The population level is unknown, but presumed stable.
At recommended level.
Fishing gear used to catch Pacific wahoo rarely contacts the ocean floor and has minimal impacts on habitat.
There is no directed fishery for Pacific wahoo. Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch in fisheries that incidentally catch this species.
- The population status and fishing rate of Pacific wahoo are unknown because scientists do not formally assess wahoo populations.
- Scientists assume wahoo populations are stable because they are highly productive and widely distributed throughout the tropical/subtropical Pacific.
- Wahoo can handle relatively high fishing rates, but precautionary management seeks to maintain current harvest levels.
- Wahoo are steel blue above and pale blue below.
- They’re covered with small scales and have a series of 25 to 30 irregular blackish-blue vertical bars on their sides.
- Wahoo have large mouths with strong, triangular, compressed, and finely serrated teeth.
- Their snouts are about as long as the rest of their heads.
- Wahoo grow fast, up to 8 feet and 158 pounds, though they are commonly between 3.3 and 5.4 feet long.
- Males are able to reproduce when they reach 2.8 feet in length, and females when they reach 3.3 feet. They’re usually about 1 year old at this stage.
- Wahoo spawn year-round in tropical waters and during the summer in higher latitudes, including Hawaii.
- Individual wahoo spawn multiple times throughout the spawning season. Females release millions of eggs per year to compensate for eggs that might not survive to adulthood.
- Wahoo mainly feed on fish, including frigate mackerel, butterfish, porcupine fish, and round herring. They compete with tuna for the same kind of food.
- Scientists have theorized that a wahoo is able to eat fish larger than itself by using its sharp teeth to render large prey into bite-size pieces.
- A number of predators feed on juvenile wahoo.
Where They Live
- Wahoo are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world.
- They are found in tropical waters year-round but are also found in higher latitudes during the summer.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific wahoo fishery in the Western Pacific.
- Managed under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pacific Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region:
- Commercial fishermen must have permits and maintain logbooks.
- Longlines are prohibited in certain areas to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals and reduce the potential for gear conflicts and localized stock depletion.
- Longline fishermen must carry a vessel monitoring system—a satellite transponder that provides real-time position updates and tracks vessel movements to enforce regulations.
- In Hawaii and American Samoa longline fishermen must also carry onboard observers when requested by NOAA Fisheries.
- Longline vessel owners and operators are required to attend annual protected species workshops.
- There are no management measures specific to wahoo because catch trends indicate that regulations are not necessary. However, management measures do apply to the troll and longline fisheries that incidentally harvest Pacific wahoo.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Coast Fishery Management Council manage fisheries that catch wahoo off the U.S. West Coast.
- Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species:
- Wahoo is included in this plan as a monitored species. They are occasionally caught as part of another fishery’s non-target catch and are monitored on a consistent and routine basis.