Last month, we put out a request among our network to aid in wahoo tissue sample collection for a study that intends to estimate the genetic connectivity and diversity of wahoo around Puerto Rico and the Western Central Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea by sequencing nuclear DNA from the samples collected. A special thanks to the following captains and vessels who have collected samples so far: Chris Frost, Lightning Strike; Don Gates, Killin’ Time II; Andrew Blake, Trainwreck; Bryant Stokes, Georgetown Hole Marina. If you catch a wahoo over the next two months, please collect a fin clip for this research. Read below to learn more about our overall research on wahoo or click here to email us for guidance on sample collection and preservation. Thank you for your consideration and support of this important endeavor!
In response to the lack of knowledge and data presented in conjunction with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Dolphin-Wahoo Fishery Management Plan with respect to wahoo, beginning in 2021, our group made it a priority to address this challenge. Since then, we have deployed four popup satellite archival transmitters on large wahoo, began a regional conventional tagging component for the species whereby 10 anglers have received wahoo tagging kits, initiated research on international fishery trends, and became engaged in a population structure study with a graduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (more on that below). In many ways, the step previously
outline resemble the steps we used to expand the Dolphinfish Research Program around Puerto Rico in 2009, a program which continues to expand to this day on the island and throughout the region. Based on our group’s past successes in engaging the public in research on dolphin and publishing scientific results from that public engagement, working with wahoo made sense. Much like our work on dolphin, we intend to build upon the scientific knowledge obtained from previous studies by Oxenford et al. (2003), which provided a summary of aspects of the species biology pertinent to management, and Sepulveda et al. (2011) and Theisen and Baldwin (2012) that conducted movement studies on wahoo in the Eastern Tropical Pacific and Western Central Atlantic Oceans, respectively. In addition, the latest effort to further refine and describe the genetic
connectivity of wahoo in the Western Central Atlantic will build off of Garber et al. (2005) and Theisen et al. (2008) which were previous genetic studies conducted in the Western Central Atlantic Ocean, and around the globe, respectively. While additional genetic results are forthcoming, the tagging work we have already done with Captain Jesus Duran, anglers Dagobuerto Rodriquez, Emmanuel Markham, and Dan Hack of the Lalooli and Danger Fishing teams showed a movement pattern contrary to those angler’s suppositions. The anglers who helped us tag a 47″ wahoo off the west coast of Puerto Rico in 2021 hypothesized that the fish would remain in the same relative area, yet the tag surfaced nearly 80 miles to the northwest a week after it was tagged. Depth data from that deployment indicated the fish remained at depth during the day and at the surface during night with a dive to nearly 900′ recorded. This pattern is contrary to that observed for dolphinfish tagged in the same region, which shows niche partitioning
and major differences in movement ecology between species. On top of the likely major differences in water column behavior between dolphin and wahoo, what remains to be determined is whether wahoo follow similar movement pathways described scientifically by our tagging program for dolphin (click here for that information). With support from our sponsors, Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and engagement with Amanda Prieto-Garcia, a master’s student majoring in Biological Oceanography at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, we hope in the next several years to have a better understanding of wahoo movements and population dynamics in the Western Central Atlantic Ocean. The best part about this ambitious effort is you can help. You can assist Amanda with her work to estimate the genetic connectivity and diversity of wahoo around Puerto Rico and the Western Central Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The success of her research relies on the
availability of high-quality wahoo samples (fin clips and/or white tissue) from various locations around the Western Central Atlantic Ocean. If you catch wahoo over the next several months along the U.S. East Coast or in the Caribbean Sea, cut a 1″ piece of the fin off and freeze the sample along with sampling date, location, and fork-length. Then, we will collect your samples and provide them to Amanda for her research. If you have any questions about this process please email us (Click here). In addition, if interested, you can request a wahoo tagging kit to participate in our conventional tagging component for the species (click here to request a kit). By participating in this research, you can actively contribute to the knowledge of the species’ genetic connectivity, stock structure, diversity, and movement ecology throughout the Western Central Atlantic Ocean and ultimately aid in the development of effective management strategies to conserve our wahoo stock for future generations. Thank you for your consideration and support of this important endeavor!
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