Mackerel: Fish to Avoid

Written by on January 23, 2013 in Fish, Policy & Ocean Law
Mackerel (Scomber scombrus).

Mackerel (Scomber scombrus). Photo credit: NOAA/NEFSC.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) recently removed mackerel from its list of acceptable fish to eat. The reason? Mackerel fish stocks have started to move…

MCS maintains up-to-date Fish to Eat and Fish to Avoid guides to help the public make more informed decisions about the seafood they eat and to help ensure that healthy fish stocks don’t fall victim to overfishing.

Mackerel is generally a healthy fish, packed full of Omega 3, but MCS has moved it to the list of fish to eat only occasionally. This is due primarily to overfishing which lead the Marine Stewardship Council to suspend its certification, meaning it is no longer a sustainable fishery. In addition, the stocks have been found further northwest in the Atlantic.

“The stock has moved into Icelandic and Faroese waters, probably following their prey of small fish, crustaceans and squid. As a result both countries have begun to fish more mackerel than was previously agreed,” explained MCS Fisheries Officer, Bernadette Clarke. “The total catch is now far in excess of what has been scientifically recommended and previously agreed upon by all participating countries. Negotiations to introduce new catch allowances have so far failed to reach agreement.”

“If people want to continue eating mackerel they should ensure they buy it from as sustainable a source as possible. That means fish caught locally using traditional methods–including handlines, ringnets and drift nets–or from suppliers who are signatories to the principles of the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance,” Clarke said.

Or, simply stop eating mackerel and replace it with MCS-recommended herring or sardine.

MCS has also removed gurnard from its Fish to Eat list. This decision seems to come at a good time, as we recently reported on the finding of plastic in several species of fish found in the UK, including red gurnard.

“Gurnard, specifically red and grey are now classified by scientists as ‘data-limited stocks’ meaning there is little information available on stock levels and how much is being fished,” said Clarke. “Because gurnard have historically been taken as bycatch–accidentally caught when fishing for other species and are not targeted by commercial fishing interests–there are no catch restrictions or minimum landing sizes. If the species is to become commercially targeted sustainably, we need to understand the biology of the stocks and manage them appropriately.”

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Find MST on Instagram Connect with MST on Google Plus

Comments are closed.