Illustration of Mackerel

Mackerel

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Atlantic mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Method

Wild

Purse seine

Location

US

Overall Rating

3.3 / 5

Summary

Atlantic mackerel has been caught by purse seine since the 1870’s. A recent increase in market demand has caused an increase in landings. Most Atlantic mackerel is caught by either bottom or mid-water trawl, with purse seines comprising a small fraction of the fishery.

Purse seines are highly selective; little to no bycatch is caught. If an at-risk, non-target species is caught such as marine mammals or sea turtles, they are usually returned to the ocean live and unharmed. Purse seines do not reach the seafloor, therefore habitat damage is minimal. Atlantic mackerel are critical to the functioning of the ecosystem; they are known as an exceptional species. This means that the role that they play in the ecosystem is disproportionately important compared to their biomass. Considering their significance, management effort should be increased.

The two most recent stock assessments were conducted in 2005 and 2009. However the results were conflicting and both studies are considered unusable. Consequently, stock status is uncertain, although reduced productivity and a lack of older, larger, fish in catches has been observed. As a preventative measure, catches have been set to conservative amounts. The fishery is closed when 95% of the annual quota is reached.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Atlantic mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Method

Wild

Purse seine

Location

Canada

Overall Rating

N/A / 5

Summary

Atlantic mackerel have been caught since before the 1800’s. Landings have been historically very variable with a decrease in catches in the 1990’s, and high catches rebounding in the mid 2000’s due to a large 1999 year-class.

The Atlantic mackerel has life history characteristics which make them inherently resilient against fishing pressure. Population abundance is highly variable and fluctuates with environmental changes. There is some concern over the uncertainty of the latest stock assessment. Stocks have been monitored since 1915 and stock assessments have been conducted since 1960. The management of Atlantic mackerel in Canada is considered to be highly effective because of regular monitoring, enforcement, regulations for reducing bycatch, and compliance with scientific advice.

Purse seines are highly selective; they are typically associated with minimal amounts of bycatch. However, due to the absence of observers, it is difficult to ascertain the exact amount of bycatch associated with Canadian Atlantic mackerel fisheries. Purse seines cause minimal damage to the surrounding habitat. However, mackerel are a very important part of the food web and the removal of significant numbers could result in considerable ecosystem changes.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Atka mackerel

Pleurogrammus monopterygius

Method

Wild

Bottom trawl

Location

Alaska

Overall Rating

3.4 / 5

Summary

Groundfish in Alaska are caught as part of a multi-species fishery. Out of the 43 species/gear combinations, only 1 was found to be unsustainable: shortspine thornyhead caught by bottom trawl. This species is covered in a separate report. Alaskan groundfish are exported worldwide.

Management of a multi-species fishery can be challenging. However in this case, management is excellent as regular stock-assessments are performed with up-to-date assessments available, and regulations exist regarding biological reference points, harvest control rules, and incorporation of uncertainty when determining catch limits. Much information is available on stock status, and data indicates that populations are healthy. The groundfish are fished at a sustainable rate.

Some non-targeted species caught in the Alaskan groundfish fishery include: steller sea lions, giant grenadiers, killer whales, starry flounders, tanner crabs, snow crabs, Pacific sleeper sharks, longnose skates, spiny dogfish, northern fulmar, atka mackerel, sharpchin rockfish, harlequin rockfish, black-footed albatross, laysan albatross, and Pacific halibut. Amongst these species include those whose stock status is of concern, whose inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure is high, or whose fishing mortality rates are high.

Bottom trawls have the potential to cause large amounts of habitat damage due to the fact that they drag across the ocean floor. Although longlines, pots, and jigs are immobile gear types, they nevertheless make contact with the ocean floor and have the potential to cause damage. In order to mitigate these impacts, a number of regulations including spatial restrictions are in place.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Atlantic mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Method

Wild

Midwater trawl

Location

US Atlantic

Overall Rating

N/A / 5

Summary

Atlantic mackerel has been caught by purse seine since the 1870’s. A recent increase in market demand has caused an increase in landings. Most Atlantic mackerel is caught by either bottom or mid-water trawl, with purse seines comprising a small fraction of the fishery.

Midwater trawls do not reach the seafloor, therefore habitat damage is minimal. When they do accidentally contact the seafloor, habitat damage occurs. Bottom trawls are associated with high levels of habitat damage. Atlantic mackerel are critical to the functioning of the ecosystem; they are known as an exceptional species. This means that the role that they play in the ecosystem is disproportionately important compared to their biomass. Considering their significance, management effort should be increased.

Little information is available regarding the bycatch associated with mackerel fisheries due to a lack of observer coverage. However, it is known that vulnerable species such as spiny dogfish and herring have been caught by mackerel fisheries. Although the mortality of marine mammals has declined over time, it is still a concern.

The two most recent stock assessments were conducted in 2005 and 2009. However the results were conflicting and both studies are considered unusable. Consequently, stock status is uncertain, although reduced productivity and a lack of older, larger, fish in catches has been observed. As a preventative measure, catches have been set to conservative amounts. The fishery is closed when 95% of the annual quota is reached.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

King mackerel, Spanish mackerel

Scomberomorus cavalla, S. maculatus

Method

Wild

Gillnet, Handline

Location

Gulf of Mexico, US South Atlantic

Overall Rating

2.9 - 4.4 / 5

Summary

King mackerel are a coastal migratory pelagic species which is fished both commercially and recreationally. Historically, king mackerel were discarded in large numbers as bycatch from the Gulf shrimp fishery. Discards have decreased recently. In 2011, the US Atlantic landed 1,381 mt of king mackerel whereas the US Gulf of Mexico landed 1,206 mt. The majority of king mackerel is landed by handline.

Overall, management of the mackerel fisheries is effective. King mackerel are managed together with Spanish mackerel under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal and Migratory Pelagic Resources. The plan has successfully maintained healthy stocks of both species while managing bycatch. According to the last stock assessment performed in 2014, the king mackerel stock was found to be healthy. King mackerel have life history characteristics which make them resilient against fishing pressure. These include a short lifespan, quick time to maturity, repeated spawning, and high fecundity.

Little bycatch is caught in the mackerel fishery due to the use of selective gear types. Of exception is the handline fishery in the Gulf of Mexico which causes the bycatch of greater amberjack which is a species of concern. The gear types used to catch mackerel in the US Atlantic and US Gulf of Mexico do not make contact with the ocean floor. Minimal habitat damage occurs.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Northern Ireland Pelagic Sustainability Group(NIPSG) Irish Sea-Atlantic mackerel & North Sea herring

Variety

Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Method

Midwater trawl

Location

North East Atlantic ICES Areas VI, VII, IVa.

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Northern Ireland Pelagic Sustainability Group(NIPSG) Irish Sea-Atlantic mackerel & North Sea herring

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Faroese Pelagic Organisation (FPO) North East Atlantic mackerel

Variety

Mackerel scad

Scomber scombrus

Method

Wild

Midwater trawl, Purse seine

Location

North east Atlantic. FAO statistical area 27

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Faroese Pelagic Organisation (FPO) North East Atlantic mackerel

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods

Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - ISF Iceland Mackerel

Variety

Mackerel

Scromber scombrus

Method

Wild

Handline, Pelagic trawl, Purse seine, Trawl

Location

Iceland

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
ISF Iceland Mackerel

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods

Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - MINSA North East Atlantic mackerel

Variety

North East Atlantic mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Method

Wild

Handline, Midwater trawl, Purse seine, Various

Location

North East Atlantic, Europe & Norway

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
MINSA North East Atlantic mackerel

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods