The Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus) is a type of wrasse that lives in sandy outer reef slope areas where gorgonians are abundant. It does not look like other wrasses: it has a large laterally compressed body instead of the typical small cigar-shaped body of wrasses; its first three dorsal fin spines are also unusually thick and elongated. It varies a lot in color, from pearl white to brownish-red, depending on its age and sex. The conspicuous dark spot at the back of its dorsal fin fades away with age. Males are more intensely colored than females, and also have a thick black band that covers the top part of their head.
The Hogfish gets its name from its long, pig-like snout that it uses to search for food buried in the sand. It eats bivalves, gastropods, sea urchin, crabs, and other mollusks, and its strong jaws and canine teeth are well adapted for crushing this hard-shelled prey. Hogfish are known to live in harem-type groups, where one male protects and mates with several females. What is fascinating is that Hogfish, like other wrasses, are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that they begin life as female and mature to being male at around 3 years of age.
Sadly, the Hogfish is highly valued as a food source, and while once quite abundant within the Caribbean, populations are now depleted. This wrasse species is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Spearfishing alone is believed to have caused a 30% decline in its global population. The Hogfish is quite an uncommon sight within our islands, so consider yourself lucky if you spot one. Keep a safe distance, and if you see someone causing harm to this fish or any other marine life, please report it to your local marine park authority. Hopefully, with the safe haven offered by our Marine Parks, these quirky looking wrasses will one day abound again within the warm tropical waters of our islands.