American cooks are a little timid when it comes to cooking with mackerel. But mackerel is worth a try. Its assertive flavor stands up well to strong, robust seasonings, and it is packed with heart-healthy Omega-3 oils.

In addition to the health benefits, mackerel is an ocean-friendly seafood choice, which makes it a good choice all around. Experiment with mackerel in your kitchen—look for recipes that call for other strong-flavored fishes, such as tuna or bluefish. Or try Atlantic mackerel pan seared with a warm tomato and feta compote, or grilled with spring onions. If you prefer a more delicate flavor, try marinating your mackerel in citrus juices before cooking.

Also known as:

Atlantic mackerel, mackerel

Availability:

Year-round

Product forms:

Fresh or frozen fillets, whole fish, headed and gutted, or smoked

Shopping tips:

Mackerel is available year-round, but the best time of year to try this affordable fish is during the late summer or fall. After a summer of heavy feeding, Atlantic mackerel have developed a high oil content, and are especially delicious when grilled.

Substitutions:

Atlantic mackerel can be substituted for any other oily fish, such as tuna or bluefish.

Recipes:

Pan seared wild-caught Atlantic mackerel with warm tomato and feta compote

Wild-caught Atlantic mackerel with grilled spring onions
Mackerel fishery:

Atlantic mackerel is typically fished using purse seines or trawl nets. More.

Conservation notes

Atlantic mackerel is considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because it is a fast-growing fish and the fishing gear used does not cause significant habitat destruction. More.
Last updated April 2008

Mackerel Fishery

Atlantic mackerel is typically fished using purse seines or pelagic and mid-water trawl nets.

Fishermen use boats to set purse seines—basically large nets—around schools of fish. After encircling the fish with the net, the fishermen collect their harvest by hauling the net onto their boat. Purse seining is a fairly targeted fishery because the nets are set only after the fishermen locate and identify the fish.

Atlantic mackerel are also caught using pelagic or mid-water trawl nets. These large rope or mesh nets are pulled through the water by fishing boats. Pelagic or mid-water trawl nets have less damaging impacts on the bottom habitat because they are fishing for mackerel that are swimming off the ocean floor. As a result, these nets have less contact with the ocean bottom than bottom trawl nets, which are dragged continuously across the seafloor.

While Atlantic mackerel is fished from Canada to North Carolina, the majority of U.S.-caught mackerel is harvested from Maine to New Jersey.

Conservation Notes

Atlantic mackerel is considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because it is a fast-growing fish and the fishing gear used does not cause significant habitat destruction.

Some fishes grow very slowly, which means their populations do not recover quickly when they are overfished. Since Atlantic mackerel is a fast-growing species, it can handle a relatively high amount of fishing pressure without risking the population’s survival.

Many types of commercial fishing gear can cause significant habitat destruction, or may catch large numbers of unwanted fishes and other animals. The pelagic and mid-water trawl gear used to catch Atlantic mackerel is highly efficient, and has a very low rate of bycatch relative to the amount of harvested mackerel. Since the fishing gear is pelagic, it has less contact with the seafloor than bottom trawls, which are dragged continously across the bottom. This significantly reduces the risk of habitat destruction.