MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

Atlantic mackerel are most readily identified by the strong dark markings on their back, which are oblique to near-vertical with relatively little undulation. The belly is unmarked and a mixture of silver and metallic blue in colour. Scomber scombrus is a streamlined fish with a total of 8-14 dorsal spines, 11-13 dorsal soft rays and 12-13 anal soft rays. They also show a conspicuous anal fin spine, joined to the fin by a thin membrane. They do not possess a swim bladder.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely distributed in the continental shelf seas around the British Isles and Ireland, usually at depths of less than 200 m. Found in greater abundance on the shelf edges during winter.

Global distribution

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Habitat

Atlantic mackerel is a pelagic species that makes extensive migrations, and there are a variety of hydrographical features such as temperatures as well as the abundance and composition of zooplankton and other prey is likely to affect its distribution. Scomber scombrus can be extremely common and found in huge shoals feeding on small fish and prawns.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Fast, streamline, fish usually found in dense shoals.
  • At full length Atlantic mackerel may reach over 60 cm in length and 3.4 kg in weight.
  • Strong dark markings on the back which are oblique to near straight in orientation.
  • Unmarked belly, silver to metallic blue in colour.

Additional information

Shoals up to 9 km long, 4 km wide and extending 40 m deep have been reported. This species is a highly commercial species for trawlers but is also targeted by anglers and sport fishers (Lockwood, 1988).

A similar species, the Scomber japonicus, is also found in the English Channel during the summer. The species are distinguished by five small finlets between the second dorsal and tail fin, and between the anal fin and the tail of Scomber japonicus (Knijn et al., 1993).

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Further information sources

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Bibliography

  1. Collette, B.B. & Nauen, C.E., 1983. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 2. Scombrids of the World. An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Tunas, Mackerels, Bonitos and Related Species Known to Date. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Fisheries Synopsies, 125

  2. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line] http://www.fishbase.org, 2008-02-18

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. Iversen, S.A. & Ljoeen, R., 1985. The Spawning and Distribution of Mackerel Eggs in the North Sea related to the Hydrography. ICES report. CM 1985/H:35., ICES

  5. Knijn, R.J., Boon, T.W., Heesen, H.J.L & Hislop, J.R.G., 1993. Atlas of North Sea Fishes. ICES cooperative research reports. ICES 194., Copenhagen

  6. Lockwood, S.J., 1988. The mackerel. It's biology, assessment and the management of a fishery.

  7. Moen, F.E. & Svensen, E., 2004. Marine Fish & Invertebrates of Northern Europe. Southend-on-Sea: Aqua Press.

  8. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: http://www.nbnatlas.org.  Accessed 01 April 2017

  9. OBIS,  2017. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2017-11-20

  10. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin., http://www.itsligo.ie/biomar/

  11. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Scomber scombrus Atlantic mackerel. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/44

Last Updated: 27/03/2008