It is a streamlined, fast-swimming pelagic fish, common in tropical waters throughout the world, where it inhabits surface waters in large shoals (up to 50,000 fish), feeding on fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and mollusks. It is an important prey species for large pelagic fishes and sharks.
It is an important commercial and game fish, usually caught using purse seine nets, and is sold fresh, frozen, canned, dried, salted, and smoked.
The skipjack is a kosher fish as it has scales.
Although the most fecund of the main commercial tunas, the commonest method for catching tuna which involves drawing a large net under an artificial fish aggregation device, is still regarded as highly ecologically damaging because of the high bycatch, including turtles, sharks and juveniles of other tuna species.
In Japanese cuisine, skipjack tuna is known as katsuo, and is commonly smoked and dried to make katsuoboshi, the central ingredient in making dashi (fish stock). Skipjack tuna is also used in katsuo no shiokara. Katsuo is considered to have "moderate" mercury contamination, however, and pregnant women are advised against eating large quantities.