Mackerel

Mackerel

Pacfic mackerel, © Amadeo Bachar

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Atlantic Mackerel (Canada)
Best
Low
High

MORE ABOUT ATLANTIC MACKEREL

A relative of the tuna, the Atlantic mackerel is found in the Atlantic's cold temperate waters. It forms large schools and can live up to 17 years. It grows to a maximum of 2 feet (61 cm).

Commercial Sources

Atlantic mackerel are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, they range from the southern Baltic Sea and Iceland to northern Africa, including the Mediterranean and Black Seas. In the western Atlantic, they range from Labrador to Cape Lookout in North Carolina.

Capture Methods

Atlantic mackerel come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with purse seines and trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets, pound nets, beach seines, traps and hooks-and-lines.

+-Atlantic mackerel (U.S.)
OK
Low
High

MORE ABOUT ATLANTIC MACKEREL

A relative of the tuna, the Atlantic mackerel is found in the Atlantic's cold temperate waters. It forms large schools and can live up to 17 years. It grows to a maximum of 2 feet (61 cm).

Commercial Sources

Atlantic mackerel are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, they range from the southern Baltic Sea and Iceland to northern Africa, including the Mediterranean and Black Seas. In the western Atlantic, they range from Labrador to Cape Lookout in North Carolina.

Capture Methods

Atlantic mackerel come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with purse seines and trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets, pound nets, beach seines, traps and hooks-and-lines.

+-King mackerel
Unrated
Elevated

MORE ABOUT KING MACKEREL

A relative of the tuna, the king mackerel lives along outer coastal reefs in the temperate and tropical waters of the western Atlantic. It can grow up to nearly 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length. In some areas, it may contain ciguatoxin or scombroid toxin, which cause illness.

Commercial Sources

King mackerel are found in the western Atlantic, from Massachusetts to São Paulo, including the West Indies. However, they only inhabit the coastal waters from Massachusetts to Florida during the warmer months of the year. King mackerel also occur around St. Paul's Rock in the equatorial Mid-Atlantic.

The main sources of king mackerel are Mexico, Brazil, the United States and Venezuela.

Capture Methods

King mackerel come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with hooks-and-lines and gillnets.

+-Spanish mackerel
Unrated
Elevated

MORE ABOUT SPANISH MACKEREL

A silvery relative of the tuna, Spanish mackerel migrate in large schools along the shoreline. The species grows to nearly 3 feet (0.9 meter) in length. It may contain ciguatoxin, which causes illness.

Commercial Sources

Spanish mackerel are found in the western North Atlantic, from Cape Cod in Massachusetts to Yucatan in Mexico. They also occur around the Bermudas but are absent in the Bahamas.

The main source of Spanish mackerel is Mexico, followed by the United States.

Capture Methods

Spanish mackerel come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with gillnets. Additional types of fishing gear include hooks-and-lines, beach seines and trap nets.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
King mackerel Mercury < 1 0 0 0
Atlantic Mackerel (Canada) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Atlantic mackerel (U.S.) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Spanish mackerel Mercury 2 2 1 1
Eco details: 
  • Mackerel mature quickly, making them resilient to fishing pressure.
  • The type of fishing gear usually used to catch mackerel — purse seines and gillnets — result in low to moderate bycatch.
  • Atlantic and Spanish mackerel populations have both rebounded as a result of stronger regulations.
  • However, you should limit how much Spanish mackerel you eat because of mercury contamination (see below).