In parts of the western Pacific, notably Palau, Fiji, Cook Islands, Yap and Pohnpei, the Humphead wrasse has, or had, strong cultural significance and was formerly only available to higher ranking members of Society or for special occasions. This may partially account for the many different names by which this species is known, and for management protecting the species in some of these countries. In English the species is mostly commonly referred to as the Humphead, Maori or Napoleon Wrasse.
The CITES webpage has the complete details of management under CITES Appendix II.
The Humphead Wrasse is caught in different ways according to its size, whether it is needed alive or dead and depending on local traditions. Smaller individuals may be attracted by bait of cut or living fish and crabs on hook and line or fish traps: special traps are used in the Solomon Islands. Recently, cyanide has been used to extract the fish from among corals if fish are to be maintained alive. Cyanide seems to be particularly widely used where this species was not formerly part of a traditional fishery and the poison is often introduced or supplied by foreign, especially Chinese, traders in live reef fish. When the species is not wanted alive, it may be speared, often in its resting places and at night, such as in Palau, Tahiti and Fiji. Overall, Humphead Wrasse is particularly vulnerable to fishers using cyanide and working on compressed air, as well as when taken at night from caves in which they sleep.
While there is some capture for local use, particularly in the western and central Pacific, the Humphead Wrasse is nowadays primarily taken for export as part of the valuable live reef food fish trade (LRFFT) which is centred in SE Asia where Hong Kong is the trade hub. All animals in this trade are wild-caught since commercial level hatchery supply of this species is not yet possible. The major importing countries are China (especially Hong Kong) with some trade to Singapore and Taiwan. Animals are exported especially from Indonesia. Malaysia now has a zero export quota and the Philippines does not legally export CITES Appendix II species. Much of the trade into and through Hong Kong in 2015 appears to be illegal and the subject of CITES attention.
More Information About Trade of Humphead Wrasse
- Mostly Legal, But Not Sustainable: how airlines can support sustainable trade in live reef food fish.
- The humphead wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus: synopsis of a threatened and poorly known giant coral reef fish by Sadovy, Y, Kulbicki M., Labrosse P., Letourneur Y., Lokani, P., and T. J. Donaldson in Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 13(3):327-364): (Note that there is an error in Table 7 in the column for the year 2003 in above paper. The corrected CSD total for January to September is 12,203, the AFCD total is correct at 12,159. All other numbers from the 2003 column should be removed).
- The Humphead wrasse is conservation dependent.
- Management of Humphead Maori Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) in the Coral Sea Fishery. Australian government.