This article is an excerpt from the 2003 revised edition of FMRI*
Technical Report TR-9, Mercury Levels in Marine and Estuarine
Fishes of Florida 1989-2001.
The full text of FMRI* Technical Report TR-9 is available for
download on the
Technical Reports page of the Web site.
The wahoo, Acanthocybium solandri, is an offshore
pelagic species with a global distribution in tropical and
subtropical waters. The biology of wahoo is not well understood,
but FWC-FWRI is currently examining the life history
characteristics of this species in Florida waters. Wahoo in the
subtropical Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are thought to spawn during
summer months (Wollam, 1969; Hogarth, 1976), but preliminary data
from the northern Gulf of Mexico and Bahamas suggests the
possibility that limited spawning occurs in the early spring
(Brown-Peterson et al., 2000). Very little is known regarding the
abundance and distribution of wahoo, but they are caught year round
in Florida waters (SAFMC, 1998), with peak catches occurring during
summer months (FWC-FMRI, 2001). Wahoo can attain a length of
approximately 2,100 mm and a total weight of 83 kg (FWC-FMRI,
Preliminary results from a recent genetics study strongly
suggest that wahoo in the Gulf of Mexico and off the U.S. Atlantic
coast comprise one population (J. Franks, personal communication,
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs, MS). Wahoo feed
principally on pelagic fishes (e.g., flying fish,
Cypselurus spp.; ballyhoo, Hemiramphus
brasiliensis; porcupinefish, Diodon hystrix) and, to
a lesser extent, invertebrates (e.g., squids) (Manooch and Hogarth,
1983; FWC-FMRI, unpublished data).
Wahoo are an important recreational and commercial species in
Florida waters. In the recreational fishery, a total of 441,385
pounds of wahoo were landed on the Florida Atlantic coast and
92,620 pounds were landed on the Florida gulf coast during 2000
(NMFS, Fisheries Statistics and Economic Division, personal
communication). A total of 55,003 pounds of wahoo were landed by
the commercial fishery in Florida waters during 2000 (FWC-FMRI,
2001). The majority of commercially caught wahoo are landed as
incidental catch from fisheries targeting other pelagic species
A total of 61 wahoo were collected for mercury analysis from
offshore waters of the Florida Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The
majority of fish were collected in offshore waters adjacent to the
Indian River Lagoon (n = 30) and offshore waters adjacent to
Apalachicola Bay (n = 16). All wahoo sampled were of harvestable
size, ranging from 845 to 1,338 mm SL. Total mercury levels for
individual fish ranged from 0.04 to 1.40 ppm. The mean total
mercury level for fish collected offshore from the Indian River
Lagoon area was 0.27 ppm (median = 0.23 ppm). Eighteen percent of
all wahoo tested from Florida had total mercury levels greater than
or equal to 0.5 ppm, and no wahoo contained total mercury levels
greater than 1.5 ppm. Analysis of wahoo from offshore waters
adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon indicated a significant
positive correlation between total mercury level and fish length (P
In January 2003, based on additional data from south Florida,
DOH issued a health advisory recommending limited consumption of
wahoo from Florida Keys/Florida Bay (DOH, 2003).
Adams, D.H.; McMichael, R.H., Jr.; Henderson, G.E. 2003. Mercury
levels in marine and estuarine fishes of Florida 1989-2001. FMRI
Technical Reports TR-9. St. Petersburg, Florida. 58 pp.
Brown-Peterson, N. J., J. S. Franks, and A. M. Burke. 2000.
Preliminary observations on the reproductive biology of wahoo,
Acanthocybium solanderi, from the northern Gulf of Mexico
and Bimini, Bahamas. Pp. 414-427 in Proceedings of the Gulf and
Caribbean Fisheries Institute 51st Annual Meeting, St. Croix,
DOH (Florida Department of Health). 2003. Florida Fish Consumption
Advisories. Tallahassee, Florida. 7 pp.
FWC-FMRI (Florida Marine Research Institute). 2001. Catch Rate
Summary 1990-2000. FWC-FMRI Marine Fisheries Information System.
St. Petersburg, Florida. 46 pp.
Hogarth, W. T. 1976. Life history aspects of the wahoo
Acanthocybium solanderi (Cuvier and valenciennes) from the
coast of North Carolina. Ph.D. Dissertation. North Carolina State
University, Raleigh, NC. 107 pp.
Manooch, C. S., III, and W. T. Hogarth. 1983. Stomach contents and
giant Trematodes from Wahoo Acanthocybium solanderi
collected along the South Atlantic and gulf coasts of the USA.
Bulletin Marine Science 33(2): 227-238.
SAFMC (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council). 1998.
Dolphin/wahoo workshop report. South Atlantic Fishery Management
Council, Charleston, South Carolina. Unpaginated.
SAFMC (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council). 2000. Draft:
Fishery management plan for the dolphin and wahoo fishery of the
Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. SAFMC. Charleston, SC. 218
Wollam, M. B. 1969. Larval wahoo, Acanthocybium
solanderi, from the straits of Yucatan and Florida. Florida
Department of Natural Resources Marine Research Laboratory Leaflet
* Prior to July 1, 2004, the Fish and Wildlife Research
Institute (FWRI) was known as the Florida Marine Research
Institute. The institute name has not been changed in historical
articles and articles that directly reference work done by the
Florida Marine Research Institute.