Humphead Wrasse


  • Status
  • Scientific Name
    Cheilinus undulatus
  • Weight
    over 400 pounds
  • Length
    6 feet
  • Habitats

The humphead wrasse is an enormous coral reef fish—growing over six feet long—with a prominent bulge on its forehead. Some of them live to be over 30 years old. They roam through coral reefs in search of hard shelled prey such as mollusks, starfish, or crustaceans.

WWF urges local governments in the Coral Triangle to stop the trade and consumption of humphead wrasse—one of the most expensive live reef fishes in the world. Live reef fish trade in Southeast Asia continues to be a significant problem that threatens the region’s food security as well as its reefs, as poachers often resort to legal and destructive fishing methods to catch them.

New insights into the incredible animals of Fiji’s Great Sea Reef

Scientists from WWF, Fiji, and partner organizations spent 20 days scuba diving around the reef to collect data on the wildlife and ecosystem that they’ve compiled into a new report

A healthy patch of coral reef with purple and blue corals and a school of small bright blue fish

Why They Matter

  • These fish are very important to coral reef health. They eat crown-of-thorn starfish and therefore keep populations of this damaging coral reef predator in check.


  • Extinction Risk Endangered
    1. EX

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Humphead Wrasse

Here humphead wrasse are kept in a tank in Hong Kong, China before being sold to customers.

The humphead wrasse is highly vulnerable to overfishing because it’s a valued luxury food as a part of the live reef fish trade predominant across Southeast Asia.

What WWF Is Doing

Humphead Wrasse

In Malaysia, WWF helped to stop the export of this important fish. We work with partners to repopulate protected coral reefs with wrasses that were formerly intended for sale through a buyback program with local fishermen. Since 2010, over 860 humphead wrasse have been released back into the wild.

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