Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

mackerel by Sarah McCartney

Image | by Sarah McCartney, copyright Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Description

Beautiful tigerstripes of black and green blue are unmistakable. Mackerel is a delicious fish, closely related to tuna, its moist flesh is high in omega 3 oils and is best eaten when very fresh, barbequed, baked or raw as sushi.


Sustainability Overview

One of the best Cornish seafood choices - sustainable, delciious and very good for you. Cornwalls handline caught mackerel are very hard to beat. Stocks are healthy and well monitored and within Cornish waters industrial fishing is banned. traditional small scale fishing vessels target mackerel with simple handlines which are a selective and low impact method that produces the finest quality product. Try fresh mackerel on the barbeque and you won't be dissapointed. 

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When is best to eat?

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Handlining

Cornwall areas VIIe and VIIf

A low impact, selective method of fishing using hook and line.

Learn more

How we rate fish

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Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.

Sustainability Overview

One of the best Cornish seafood choices - sustainable, delciious and very good for you. Cornwalls handline caught mackerel are very hard to beat. Stocks are healthy and well monitored and within Cornish waters industrial fishing is banned. traditional small scale fishing vessels target mackerel with simple handlines which are a selective and low impact method that produces the finest quality product. Try fresh mackerel on the barbeque and you won't be dissapointed. 

mackerel by Sarah McCartney

Biology

Mackerel are fast swimming migratory, shoaling fish that range all around the North East Atlantic. They feed on plankton and small fishes and come into Cornish waters in huge numbers at certain times of year.  Juvenile mackerel grow quickly and can reach 22cm after one year, and 30cm after 2 years. Mackerel can attain a maximum length of about 70cm and weight of 3.4kg.They may live for more than 20 years. By 3 years old, most mackerel are mature (at a length of approximately 28cm). Females shed their eggs in about twenty separate batches over the course of the spawning season. Mackerel are batch spawners, they spawn mainly in March to July; the eggs and larvae are pelagic. During this time spawning fish are not targetted as handlines only catch a small percentage of each shoal and only when they are feeding not when they are spawning. Mackerel are moderately vulnerable to fishing effort, 44% (Cheung et al 2005).

Stock Info

According to the latest advice from the International Convention for Exloration of the Seas (ICES) stock levels are above healthy levels and fishing effort is sufficiently low not to currently endager the stocks.
It is estimated that the total stock of mackerel in this area is over 4 million tonnes. Landings each year are close to 1 million tonnes. (ICES popular advice Mackerel).
Landings to Cornish ports have been stable for the last 20 years at around 1000 tonnes per year, a tiny fraction of the total EU catch.
 

Management

Mackerel are managed throughout their range through an international agreement called the Coastal states agreement between the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands. 

Cornish mackerel stocks have been protected by the setting up fo the mackerel box in 1980's that still prohibits industrial scale fishing for mackerel in 67,000km2 of the coast of south west England. 

The minimum landing size for mackerel within Cornish waters is 20cm. 

Mackerel handline fishermen are given an annual quota which is a tiny share of the overall allocated catch of the members of the coastal states agreement.

Capture Info

Handlining is low impact and selective and inefficient compared with industrial fisheries
 
The South West Handline Fishing Association was originally set-up to represent the many mackerel handline boats fishing in SW England and in 2000, the Association was one of the first to receive accreditation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for the SW Handline Mackerel Fishery.
Today, our members now fish for mackerel almost 12-months of the year. In the Spring a fleet of 20-25 boats of mostly single-handed boats between 15 -25ft in length fish from Newlyn, Mousehole and the surrounding Coves of Penberth and Lamorna. These boats tend to fish at dawn and dusk using lines of 25 or 30 hooks baited only with brightly coloured feathers or plastic tubing.
 
During the Summer the fishery moves onto St Ives on the North Cornish Coast where a fleet of upto 40 boats from St Ives, Hayle, Sennen and Portreath handline for mackerel until the Autumn.
From October to January a fleet of fast, modern vessels ranging from 30 to 40ft in length handline for mackerel from Looe with two or three crew per boat. These boats often have to travel upto 50 miles a day to search for fish.

 

References

MMO data
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111 Source www.fishbase.org
 

Recipes for Mackerel

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