The wahoo is a large, predatory mackerel that lives in the epipelagic zone of the open ocean. Reaching lengths approaching seven feet (2 m) and weights of at least 180 pounds (82 kg), this species is larger than any other non-tuna in the mackerel family. (The largest true tuna, the Atlantic bluefin tuna, gets much larger.) wahoo is generally considered to be excellent table fare, and it is sometimes marketed by its Hawaiian name – Ono.
Wahoo are powerful swimmers and aggressive predators that feed on a variety of schooling fishes and pelagic squids. Unlike the true tunas and the billfishes, this species does not have the ability to regulate its body temperature, but it is still one of the open ocean’s fastest fishes. When excited – particularly when hunting – wahoo often flash different colors or display or hide dark vertical bars, perhaps in an attempt to confuse their prey. Adult wahoo are only eaten by the largest open ocean predators, like pelagic sharks and billfishes.
Individuals of this species are typically solitary or occur in only small groups. During mating, however, they form larger groups and reproduce by a behavior known as broadcast spawning. Females release their eggs and males release their sperm at the same time, increasing the likelihood that eggs will become fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators. Wahoo reproduce several times within a spawning season, and females produce several million eggs each year. This species is fast growing and reaches sexual maturity in its first year.
The wahoo is targeted heavily by sports fishers and is captured, in fisheries targeting other species, occasionally in very high numbers. It is a commercially important species, but is generally not the primary target of the fisheries that utilize it. Though landings of the wahoo can be very high in some places, its high reproductive output and fast growth rate have buffered it from overfishing. Scientists believe that the populations are stable and have assessed this species as one of least conservation concern.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.