Jack Mackerel

The Science

Highly productive! A serial spawner with females laying an average of about 34,000 eggs per spawning event [1]

The Fishery

Regulated along with other coastal pelagic fish, such as northern anchovy, market squid, Pacific sardine, and Pacific mackerel [2] 

The Seafood

Some of the best barbeque fish are Mackerel species [1] 

The Science

Jack Mackerel
Robertson, D Ross/CC BY-NC

Taxonomic description

  •  Scientific name means “naturally formed rough tail”
  •  Average length of 55 cm (21.6 in)[3]
  •  Metallic blue to olive green[4]
  •  Dorsal fin has 8 spines followed by 31 to 33 rays[4]


  • Eastern Pacific, from Southeast Alaska to Southern Baja California, Mexico, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico[3]

Life history

  • Eggs and larvae are commonly encountered beyond 320 km (200 mi) offshore[5]
  • Can live up to 30 years[6]
  • Matures at a relatively young age of one to three years[6]
  • Lowest adult natural mortality compared to every other pelagic schooling species in the same region[5]


  • Pelagic; Lives and migrates within the open ocean [3]
  • Adults are often found offshore- can be up to 800 km (500 mi) offshore, 400 m (1310 ft) deep [3]
  • Prefers subtropical regions at 8 degrees Celsius [3]
  • Found within mixed schools consisting of sardine, Pacific mackerel, and anchovy [6]
  • Primarily feed on large zooplankton, juvenile squid, and anchovy [2]
  • Serves as prey by larger tuna, billfish, and marine mammals [7]
  • A 1980’s decline in availability of Pacific and Jack mackerel [5]  led to rapid expansion in the 1990s of the market squid and sardine fisheries in Southern CA [5]

The Fishery

Jack Mackerel fishery
D. Haworth

Seasonal availability

  • Primarily caught from December through April [5]

Managing authority

  • NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fisheries Management Council hold the ultimate decision making authority [8]

Gear type

  • Generally targeted with “round-haul” gear [8], such as purse seines, drum seines, lampara nets, and dip nets [8]
  • Also caught incidentally [8] in midwater trawls, pelagic trawls, gillnets, trammel nets, pots, and with trolls, hook-and-line, and jigs [8]

Status of the fishery

  • Peak catch occurred in 1953, bringing in 70,000 metric tons of yield [6]
  • Since 1991, catch averages have been less than 2,000 tons each year [5] ; composing only about 2% of CPS landings [5]
  • Managed under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan (CPS FMP) [8]
  • Listed as an “Ecosystem Component” species, generally infrequently encountered in CPS fisheries, monitored to ensure that it is not overfished [8]
  • All finfish landed south of 39o N latitude are covered under a “Limited Entry” program established by FMP [8]
  • Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) are allocated depending on distribution in US (65 percent) [8]
  • Actively managed- annual assessment of stock status and fishery management [8]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Assessed with “Least Concern” in northeastern Pacific [9] no current indication of widespread population decline [10]
  • Midwater gear has minimal impact on environment because it does not contact seafloor [1]

The Seafood

Jack Mackerel seafood
Maangchi, maangchi.com

Edible portions

  • Similar to sardine: flesh is edible
  • Bones can be edible if in canned form (boiled)

Description of meat

  • Tastes similar to sardine.
  • Meat is dense, rich and oily.

Culinary uses

  • Can be fried, baked, poached, grilled, marinated, smoked and barbecued [1]
  • Sold fresh, smoked, canned and frozen [3]
  • Recipe: Barbecued mackerel with ginger, chilli & lime drizzle [12]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutritional facts shown for drained, canned, jack, mackerel [13]

Toxicity report

  • Flesh spoils quickly, which can lead to bacteria growth [14]
  • Can be prone to scombroid food poisoning; symptoms include flushing of the face and body, nausea, burning in the mouth, headache [14]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round 


[1] Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Jack Mackerel. http://www.afma.gov.au/portfolio-item/jack-mackerel/. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[2] Pacific Fishery Management Council. Coastal Pelagic Species: Background. http://www.pcouncil.org/coastal-pelagic-species/background-information/. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[3] Luna, S.M., N. Bailly. Trachurus symmetricus. Fish Base. http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Trachurus-symmetricus.html#. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[4] Snow, J.T. Jack Mackerel. Mexico- Fish, Marine Life, Birds, and Terrestrial Life. http://www.mexican-fish.com/.  Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[5] Mason, J., Bishop, T. 2001. Jack Mackerel. Pages 309-311 in W.S. Leet, C.M. Dewees, R. Klingbeil, E.J. Larson. California’s Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. California Department of Fish and Game, Richmond, CA.

[6] Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Mackerel Research. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Division=FRD&id=1119. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[7] California  Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Jack Mackerel. www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Marine/CPS-HMS/Jack-Mackerel#29347838-selected-articles-and-publications. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[8] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2016. Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan as amended through amendment 15. Pacific Fishery Management Council.. www.pcouncil.org/coastal-pelagic-species/fishery-management-plan-and-amendments/. Accessed: 04 June 2017.

[9] International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Trachurus symmetricus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/183729/0. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[10] Smith-Vaniz, B, Robertson, R. & Dominici-Arosemena, A. 2010. Trachurus symmetricus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T183729A8166054.

[11] Best Fish Guide: Jack Mackerel. Forest & Bird. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/the-best-fish-guide-/fish-species-/jack-mackerel. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[12] Jackson, CJ. 2007, July. Barbecued mackerel with ginger, chili & lime drizzle. Good Food magazine. BBC Worldwide. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4465/barbecued-mackerel-with-ginger-chilli-and-lime-dri. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[13] Nutritional Value. Fish, drained solids, canned, jack, mackerel. NutritionValue.org. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Fish%2C_drained_solids%2C_canned%2C_jack%2C_mackerel_nutritional_value.html. Accessed: 28 May 2017.

[14] American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Histamine Toxicity. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/related-conditions/histamine-toxicity. Accessed: 28 May 2017.