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Atlantic Chub Mackerel

Scomber colias

Illustration of Atlantic chub mackerel

Also Known As

  • Mackerel
  • Chub mackerel
  • Tinker mackerel

U.S. wild-caught Atlantic chub mackerel is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

The stock has never been assessed. The population level is unknown but presumed stable.

Fishing Rate

At recommended level.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitat that are affected by some types of trawl gear.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild caught from Southern New England to the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Taste

    Rich, pronounced flavor.

  • Texture

    Soft, flaky, and moist.

  • Health Benefits

    Chub mackerel is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council manage the Atlantic chub mackerel fishery.

  • Managed under the Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish Fishery Management Plan:

    • Atlantic chub mackerel was added to the Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan in 2020.

    • Atlantic chub mackerel was added to the FMP after a directed commercial fishery developed in federal waters. Due to that, and other considerations, the Council concluded that this species is in need of specific conservation and management measures of its own. 

    • Atlantic chub mackerel are managed in federal waters. There are no state management measures for mackerel.

    • Managed using annual catch limits allocated between the commercial and recreational fisheries.

    • Managers monitor commercial catch on a weekly basis and will close the fisheries if the limits are reached before the fishing season is over.

    • Fishermen must have a Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish permit to harvest Atlantic chub mackerel.

Harvest

  • Commercial Fishery
    • In 2019, commercial landings of Atlantic chub mackerel totaled 58,000 pounds and were valued at $38,000, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.
    • Most commercial vessels fishing for Atlantic chub mackerel are participants in the shortfin squid fishery.
    • Bottom trawl gear is used to catch Atlantic chub mackerel.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Many habitat areas in the Atlantic chub mackerel fishery have been impacted by fishing activities over many years.

    • There are gear restricted areas in place for shortfin squid vessels, designed to protect essential fish habitat. 

    • There are mesh size and other restrictions for shortfin squid vessels but no specific gear restrictions for Atlantic chub mackerel.

  • Recreational fishery:

    • In 2019, recreational anglers landed more than 74,000 pounds of Atlantic chub mackerel, according to the NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing landings database.   

    • Recreational catch is monitored and included in annual catch levels. 

    • Commercial vessels must possess a charter party permit in order to possess Atlantic chub mackerel. 

    • There are no size or gear limits for the recreational fleet. 

The Science

Population Status

Atlantic chub mackerel has never been assessed and the population status is unknown. Fishing level recommendations were recently put into place.

Location

  • Atlantic chub mackerel in the western Atlantic Ocean range from Nova Scotia (where they are rare) through Argentina, including the Gulf of Mexico.  
  • They are a schooling pelagic species that are found on the continental shelf to depths of about 250–300 meters throughout much of the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean.

Habitat

  • Atlantic chub mackerel are a schooling pelagic species. 
  • They are found on the continental shelf to depths of about 250–300 meters throughout much of the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean. They can be found throughout U.S. Atlantic waters. 
  • Most Atlantic chub mackerel catches in offshore surveys occur south of the Hudson Shelf Valley in warm waters. 
  • State trawl surveys and recreational catch data suggest that Atlantic chub mackerel are also found in inshore waters.

Physical Description

  • Atlantic chub mackerel are elongated and streamlined with deeply forked tails. 
  • They have small spines on the dorsal fin. 
  • They are silvery in color, with greenish-blue backs. The upper surfaces have dark zigzagging stripes, and the bellies are pale and marked with wavy lines.

Biology

  • Atlantic chub mackerel grow up to 22 inches long and 3.5 pounds.
  • They have a life span of up to about 7 years.
  • They mainly feed on small crustaceans called copepods and tiny aquatic animals known as wheel animals or rotifers.

Last updated: 05/19/2021