Atlantic Mackerel

(Scomber scombrus)

Mackerel

NOTE: The MSC certification of this fishery was suspended in March 2019 and remains so as of the 5th September 2019. Therefore the WWF-SASSI assessment outcome will be adopted for both fishing methods until such a time as the suspension is lifted.

1. What is it?

Atlantic Mackerel (Scomber scombrus) are small pelagic fish that form large schools near the ocean surface with a relatively long life span (17 years) making them moderately vulnerable to high fishing pressures. Current stock status is optimal but there are some concerns that fishing pressure is to high.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Purse seine

Atlantic mackerel is caught using purse-seine nets that are set around a school of fish in the surface to mid-water. Once the school is surrounded, the bottom of the net is closed by a footrope. Bycatch is considered to be low as purse seine nets target schools of fish. Discards are also considered to be low. Catches of juvenile Atlantic mackerel are thought to be quite high. There is no known damage to the benthic habitats.

Mid-water trawl

Atlantic Mackerel are caught using mid-water trawls. These nets are very large with a minimum mesh size of 75 mm when stretched to maximum size. Trawling takes place in the zone between the seabed and surface of the sea, and the net is dragged through the water without touching the seabed. As a result, there is very little impact on the benthic habitat or species other than the occasional bottom contact. Mid-water trawls tend to target large schools of fish of the same species so bycatch tends to be relatively small, although the proportion of bycatch discarded is currently unknown. In addition, catches of juvenile Atlantic mackerel are thought to be quite high.

3. Where is it from?

Purse seine

Atlantic Mackerel are fished primarily in the north eastern waters of the Atlantic Ocean (FAO 27) and imported to South Africa. The fishery is managed under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) enacted by the European Union. A management plan was agreed on in 2008 and tentatively approved by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) pending further evaluation. Challenges remain around establishing an international Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the region with combined catches exceeding ICES advice. Management is considered to be largely effective.

Mid-water trawl

Atlantic Mackerel are fished primarily in the north eastern waters of the Atlantic Ocean (FAO 27). The fishery is managed by under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) enacted by the European Union. A management plan was agreed on in 2008 and tentatively approved by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) pending further evaluation. Challenges remain around establishing an international Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the region with combined catches exceeding ICES advice. Management is considered to be largely effective.