Pacific Mackerel

Scomber japonicus

Pacific_mackerel
luczoillustration.com

The Science

pacific_mackerel
Aleph1, wikipedia

Taxonomic description

  • Tapered, large-mouthed fish with dark blue, pointy head [1]
  • Dark blue back with wavy dark lines, silvery green undersides [1]
  • Reaches lengths up to 63 cm (25 in) and weight up to 2.7 kg (6 lbs) [1] 
  • Swim bladder attached to esophagus [2]
  • Large eyes relative to other mackerel species [2]

Distribution

  • Ranges from southeastern Alaska to Mexico [1]
  • Most common south of Point Conception, California [1]
  • Migrate north to Washington in summer, south to Baja California in winter [1,2]

Life history

  • Pelagic species living up to 18 years
  • Fast growers, able to reproduce by 4 years of age
  • Spawn from late April to September off of California, spawning events taking place several times a year and yielding about 70,000 eggs each time
  • Found in dense schools as defense mechanism against predators, often with other pelagic species [2]
  • Feed on plankton, other pelagic fish (e.g. sardine, anchovy) and their own young [1,2]
  • Eaten by sharks, tunas, marine mammals, and seabirds [1,2]

Habitat

  • Usually live within 20 miles offshore in water between 50 and 72 degrees
  • Move inshore and offshore seasonally off California - more abundant inshore from July to November, and offshore March to May [1]
  • Juveniles frequent sandy beaches, kelp beds, open bays, and congregate at piers [1]

The Fishery

mackerel_fishing
mackerelfishfrozen.com

Seasonal availability

  • Year-round, though more abundant in summer [3]

Managing authority

  • Managed by NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council under Coastal Pelagic Species Management Plan [3]
  • Annual assessments of stock population by NOAA scientists determine harvest parameters [4]
  • Harvest of stock within Mexican waters goes unregulated, but scientists exchange data transnationally to assess entire population of Pacific mackerel [4]

Gear type

  • Commercial fisheries use round haul gear consisting of purse-seines, lampara nets, drum seines, and dip nets [4]

Status of the fishery

  • Currently harvested by two fisheries, commercial and sport fishing, both localized in Southern California [3, 5]
  • Stock collapsed in 1960s, resulting in moratorium on the fishery in the 1970s [4]
  • Recovered in the late 1970s, but demand has not rebounded for canned mackerel so harvest remains low [4]
  • Last mackerel cannery in Southern California closed in 1992 with diminished demand for the product [4]
  • Recent landings fall well under sustainable harvest limits [3,5]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Harvesting with round haul gear takes place in surface waters, minimally impacting the environment [3]
  • Schooling lifestyle of Pacific mackerel means bycatch is low, as they are densely grouped together [3]
  • Bycatch primarily consists of other coastal pelagic fish species [3]

The Seafood

mackerel_seafood
Katorisi, Wikipedia

Edible portions

  • Sold fresh, frozen, or cured; whole or filleted

Description of meat

  • Firm, oily, dark meat with a strong flavor, rich in omega-3 fatty acids [6]
  • Has large bones which are easily removed from the cooked flesh [7]
  • Flesh spoils quickly - should be promptly frozen, refrigerated, or cured [7]

Culinary uses

  • Best prepared without adding additional oils or fats to the meat, i.e. roasted, baked, or grilled, as the naturally oily meat self-bastes during cooking [7]
  • Robust flavor well- complemented by acidic, spice-heavy, or fruity sauces [7]
  • Meat is often smoked, substituting for smoked salmon
  • Raw, pickled fillets popular in Japanese dishes
  • Fried meat forms the base for escabéche, a spicy mixture of pickled vegetables

Nutritional information  

  • 1 fillet, cooked with dry heat
  • Good source of riboflavin

Toxicity report

  • No known contaminants [6]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round [6]

References

[1] NOAA FishWatch. Fish Watch and Seafood Profiles. – Pacific mackerel – Available: www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/mackerel/species_pages/pacifi...

[2] Kramer, D. Synopsis of the Biological Data on the Pacific Mackerel, Scomber Japonicus Houttuyn. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 40. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 1969. www.fao.org/docrep/017/ap916e/ap916e.pdf

[3] NOAA FishWatch. Fish Watch and Seafood Profiles. – Pacific mackerel – Available:

www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/mackerel/species_pages/pacifi...

[4] Kramer, D. Synopsis of the Biological Data on the Pacific Mackerel, Scomber Japonicus Houttuyn. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 40. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 1969. www.fao.org/docrep/017/ap916e/ap916e.pdf

[5] Pacific Mackerel. California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. 2014. www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/cpshms/pacificmackerel.asp

[6] NOAA FishWatch. Fish Watch and Seafood Profiles. – Pacific mackerel – Available:

www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/mackerel/species_pages/pacifi...

[7] BBC Good Food, Glossary: Mackerel, http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/mackerel