Atlantic Mackerel | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Atlantic Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Also known as

Mackerel, split, joey, Boston mackerel


Throughout the northern Atlantic; in the western Atlantic from Newfoundland & Labrador to Cape Hatte


Cold and temperate shelf areas

Feeding Habits

Filter feeder

Conservation Status

Not listed


Order Perciformes (perch-like fish), Family Scombridae (mackerels, tunas and bonitos)


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Atlantic mackerel are a small, abundant forage fish that live across the Northern Atlantic. They have been fished recreationally, commercially and by Indigenous fisheries for hundreds of years. This species is easy to catch because of their annual migrations in towards shore. One community has even turned this into an annual event: a festival in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, called the “Mackerel Toss,” challenges participants to dress up as a fisher and try to toss the most mackerel into a bucket.

Atlantic mackerel have a slender, streamlined body that narrows towards a strongly forked tail. Their back has a bright, metallic-blue to green colour that becomes a lighter silver on the sides and white on their belly. They can be distinguished by dark, wavy vertical bars that start on their back and, like most other forage fish, have a protruding lower jaw. Atlantic mackerel have been recorded at 66 centimetres in length; however it is not common to find mackerel more than 50 centimetres long.