About the Species
U.S. wild-caught Atlantic wahoo is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
- The population status and fishing rate of Atlantic 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.
- Atlantic wahoo can handle relatively high fishing rates, but precautionary management seeks to maintain current harvest levels.
- Atlantic wahoo are steel blue above and pale blue below.
- They are covered with small scales and have a series of 25 to 30 irregular blackish-blue vertical bars on their sides that fade rapidly after death.
- They have large mouths with strong, triangular, compressed, and finely serrated teeth.
- Their snouts are about as long as the rest of their heads.
- Atlantic wahoo grow fast, up to 8 feet and 158 pounds, though they are commonly between 3.3 and 5.4 feet long.
- They have a short life span, up to 5 or 6 years.
- They are able to reproduce at about 1 year old. For males, this is when they reach 2.8 feet in length, and for females, when they reach 3.3 feet.
- Atlantic wahoo spawn multiple times throughout the spawning season.
- They are very productive, releasing a half-million to 45 million eggs per year to compensate for eggs that might not survive to adulthood.
- They mainly feed on squid and fish, including frigate mackerel, butterfish, porcupine fish, and round herring. They generally compete with tuna, but can feed on larger prey by using their extremely sharp teeth to render prey into bite-size pieces.
- A number of predators that share their habitat feed on young 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 South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils) manage the Atlantic wahoo fishery.
- Managed under the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery of the Atlantic Fishery Management Plan:
- Commercial vessel, charter vessel/headboat, and dealer permits are required.
- Annual catch limits divided between the commercial and recreational fisheries, with the recreational fishery receiving a significant majority of the allocation.
- Commercial fishing trip, recreational bag, possession, and minimum size limits.
- Accountability measures are in place to ensure the overfishing limit is not exceeded, or to account for any overages.
- Management measures apply in the South Atlantic Council jurisdiction, but no management measures in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Compatible regulations in state waters, particularly Florida.
- Commercial fishery:
- In 2020, commercial landings of Atlantic wahoo totaled 59,000 pounds and were valued at $200,000, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.
- The majority of commercial landings came from Florida and North Carolina.
- Most (more than 95 percent) of the U.S. harvest of wahoo comes from the Pacific, mainly Hawaii.
- Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
- The authorized gear types in the fisheries for wahoo in the Atlantic include the automatic reel, bandit gear, handline, pelagic longline, rod and reel, and spearfishing gear (including powerheads).
- Hook-and-line gear has minimal impact on bottom habitat because it doesn’t contact the ocean floor.
- Longlines can incidentally catch sea turtles, marine mammals, and other species.
- Longline fishermen must use specific hooks and bait and must follow safe handling and release guidelines to prevent this bycatch.
- Fishing is prohibited in certain areas to protect species such as billfish.
- Recreational fishery:
- Atlantic wahoo is a popular fish for recreational fishermen.
- In 2020, recreational landings of Atlantic wahoo totaled more than 1.3 million pounds, according to the NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing landings database.
- Daily bag limits.
- Prohibition on the sale of recreational catch without approriate permits.