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.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has not yet assessed or listed Atlantic mackerel, however, they have been assessed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Precautionary Approach Framework as Critical. Population estimates have proven difficult to determine due to the lack of swim bladders in Atlantic mackerel; a biological feature that is found in many other fish species and is necessary to conduct acoustic population surveys. Instead, Atlantic mackerel populations are estimated by analyzing egg surveys and commercial catch data. Egg survey indices, commercial landings in Canada, and those in the USA, just below the Canadian border, have all decreased significantly over the past decade or so, and the stock is currently believed to be overfished.

Oceana Canada is working to recover Canada’s fisheries, including Atlantic mackerel, find out more about our campaigns and join us in helping to bring abundance back to the ocean.