NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council – in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic and the New England Fishery Management Councils – manage the US Atlantic wahoo fishery under the Dolphin and Wahoo Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Effective as of 2004, the FMP and its amendments provide a precautionary and risk-averse approach to management by ensuring no new fisheries develop for mahi-mahi and wahoo. The intended effects of the FMP are to conserve and manage US Atlantic stocks of mahi-mahi and wahoo by setting harvest restrictions for both the commercial and recreational sectors (with the recreational sector receiving a significant majority of catch allocation). Among measures the plan establishes are:
- A permit system for commercial and charter vessels as well as dealers
- Longline restrictions to comply with sea turtle and highly migratory species protection measures
- Additional gear restrictions
- Commercial trip limits (500 pounds) and recreational bag limits (two wahoo per person per day)
- Prohibiting the sale of recreational catches (unless the seller holds commercial permits)
- Designating areas as Essential Fish Habitat and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern
State wildlife and fisheries agencies, the US Coast Guard, and NOAA enforce compliance with the FMP. Regulations within state-managed waters are compatible with those established in the FMP and this is particularly the case in the state managed waters off Florida. There are currently no management measures in place for wahoo in the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists do not formally assess the US Atlantic wahoo population and as such the population status and fishing rate of Atlantic wahoo are unknown. However, given their life history (highly productive, widely distributed) it is believed they are relatively resistant to high fishing rates. Scientists assume the current US Atlantic population is stable.
NOAA Fisheries and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific wahoo fishery in the western Pacific under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pacific Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region (FEP). The majority (about 90 percent) of the US wahoo harvest occurs in the Pacific, mainly Hawaii, and is covered under the 2009 FEP. According to 2011 data, the majority of the Hawaiian catch is landed primarily by troll (60 percent) and longline gear (37 percent). The FEP and its amendments do not establish specific management measures for wahoo as current trends indicate that regulations are not necessary. Instead, the FEP establishes measures that apply to all troll and longline fisheries operating in the region. Among these measures are
- A permitting and logbook system
- Area closures where longlining is prohibited to protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, reduce gear conflicts, and avoid local stock depletions
- Additional time-area closures
- A vessel monitoring system for longline vessels to track vessel movements and enforce regulations
- Carrying an onboard observer (when requested by NOAA) for longline vessels
- Requirements for longline vessels owners to attend annual protected species workshops
NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Coast Fishery Management Council manage the wahoo fishery off the US West Coast under the FMP for US West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species. The FMP intends to ensure the conservation and promotion of the optimum yield of highly migratory species both within and outside the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Wahoo are included in this plan as a monitored species as they are occasionally a non-targeted catch from another fishery operating in the region.
The current population status and fishing rate of Pacific wahoo is unknown, as scientists do not formally assess Pacific wahoo populations. Landings suggest the population is stable despite a lack of stock status and fishing mortality assessments. There are currently no size, bag, or trip limits and quota restrictions in Hawaiian states waters or the US Pacific EEZ.