Proceedings of the 20th Annual Trinational Sardine and Small Pelagics Forum (TSF) held on December…
About The Species
U.S. wild-caught Pacific mackerel is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Above target population levels.
At recommended levels.
The gear used to catch Pacific mackerel is used at the surface and has little impact on bottom habitat.
Bycatch is low because gear used is selective.
- According to the 2019 stock assessment, Pacific mackerel are not overfished, and are not subject to overfishing based on 2018 catch data.
- Pacific mackerel naturally experience “boom and bust” cycles of abundance, which is typical of other small pelagic species that have relatively short life spans and high reproduction rates.
- The Pacific mackerel stock is well above its target population level. However, in historical terms, the population remains at a relatively low abundance level, due primarily to oceanographic conditions.
- The body of the Pacific mackerel tapers at both ends.
- They have a pointy head and a large mouth.
- The head is dark blue, the back is dark blue with about 30 dark wavy lines, and the undersides are silver green.
- Pacific mackerel can be distinguished from other mackerel by counting the finlets on their back; Pacific mackerel typically have four to six finlets.
- Pacific mackerel grow fast, up to 25 inches and more than 6 pounds.
- They can live up to 18 years but are able to reproduce by age 4, and sometimes as early as age 1.
- They spawn at different times of the year, depending on where they live. Pacific mackerel spawn from late April to September off California, year-round off central Baja California peaking from June through October, and from late fall to early spring off Cabo San Lucas.
- They spawn several times a year, releasing batches of almost 70,000 eggs each time. The eggs usually hatch within 4 to 5 days.
- Pacific mackerel feed on plankton (tiny floating plants and animals) and the younger stages of all the pelagic species such as anchovies and sardines, as well as their own young.
- Various larger fish (such as sharks and tunas), marine mammals, and seabirds eat Pacific mackerel.
- Pacific mackerel school as a defense against predators. Often they will school with other pelagic species such as jack mackerel and sardines.
- As adults, they migrate north to Washington in the summer and south to Baja California in the winter. The northerly movement in summer is accentuated during El Niño events.
- They also travel inshore and offshore off California—they’re more abundant inshore from July to November and more abundant offshore from March to May.
Where They Live
- Pacific mackerel are found from southeastern Alaska to Mexico but are most common south of Point Conception, California.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific mackerel fishery.
- Managed under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan:
- Catch limits are in place to end and prevent overfishing.
- Permits are needed to harvest Pacific mackerel.
- Gear restrictions are in place to reduce bycatch.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Subsistence Fishing Regulations
Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska Harvest Specifications for 2006-2007: Environmental Assessment and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands harvest specifications
Regulatory Impact Review for a Regulatory Amendment to Reduce a Harvest Restriction for Participants in the Harvest Limit Area Atka Mackerel Fishery in the Aleutian Islands Subarea
This Regulatory Impact Review (RIR) evaluates the costs and benefits of a proposed regulatory…
Biological Opinion on the Authorization of Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Fisheries Based on the Respective Fishery Management Plans as Modified by Amendments 61 and 70 - Supplement
This supplement to the 2001 Biological Opinion is a focused response to issues outlined by the…
Data & Maps
Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius) are widely distributed along the continental shelf…
Atka mackerel are a substrate-spawning fish with male parental care. Single or multiple clumps of…
The National Standard Guidelines for Fishery Management Plans published by the National Marine…
The Trinational Sardine and Small Pelagics Forum comprises sectors of government, academia, and industry from Mexico, Canada, and the United States to collaborate in improving coast-wide stock assessments.
The Fisheries Oceanography Program, composed with the Ichthyoplankton Ecology and Ship Operations groups, work to contribute to the understanding of the effects of climate change and climate variability on pelagic fisheries, with a primary focus on the…
The aquarium at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center facilitates research across many species, including the endangered black and white abalone.
The Fish Population Dynamics and Modeling Program conducts analyses in support of the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Fishery Management Plans for coastal pelagics species and highly migratory species. We also conduct analyses in support of U.S…