Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of pelagic fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They are found in both temperate and tropical seas, mostly living along the coast or offshore in the oceanic environment.
This fish typically have vertical stripes on their backs and deeply forked tails. Many species are restricted in their distribution ranges, and live in separate populations or fish stocks based on geography. Some stocks migrate in large schools along the coast to suitable spawning grounds, where they spawn in fairly shallow waters. After spawning they return the way they came, in smaller schools, to suitable feeding grounds often near an area of upwelling. From there they may move offshore into deeper waters and spend the winter in relative inactivity. Other stocks migrate across oceans.
Smaller mackerel are forage fish for larger predators, including larger mackerel and Atlantic cod. Flocks of seabirds, as well as whales, dolphins, sharks and schools of larger fish such as tuna and marlin follow mackerel schools and attack them in sophisticated and cooperative ways. Mackerel is high in omega-3 oils and is intensively harvested by humans. In 2009, over five million tons were landed by commercial fishermen. Sport fishermen value the fighting abilities of the king mackerel.
Mackerel are prolific broadcast spawners and must breed near the surface of the water due to the eggs of the females floating. Individual females lay between 300,000 and 1,500,000 eggs. Their eggs and larvae are pelagic, that is, they float free in the open sea. The larvae and juvenile mackerel feed on zooplankton. As adults they have sharp teeth, and hunt small crustaceans such as copepods, as well as forage fish, shrimp and squid. In turn they are hunted by larger pelagic animals such as tuna, billfish, sea lions, sharks and pelicans.
Off Madagascar, spinner sharks follow migrating schools of mackerel. Bryde’s whales feed on mackerel when they can find them. They use several feeding methods, including skimming the surface, lunging, and bubble nets.
Most mackerel species have restricted distribution ranges.
*Atlantic Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus) occupy the waters off the east coast of North America from the Cape Cod area south to the Yucatan Peninsula. Its population is considered to include two fish stocks, defined by geography. As summer approaches, one stock moves in large schools north from Florida up the coast to spawn in shallow waters off the New England coast. It then returns to winter in deeper waters off Florida. The other stock migrates in large schools along the coast from Mexico to spawn in shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico off Texas. It then returns to winter in deeper waters off the Mexican coast. These stocks are managed separately, even though genetically they are identical.
*The Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is a coastal species found only in the north Atlantic. The stock on the west side of the Atlantic is largely independent of the stock on the east side. The stock on the east Atlantic currently operates as three separate stocks, the southern, western and North Sea stocks, each with their own migration patterns. Some mixing of the east Atlantic stocks takes place in feeding grounds towards the north, but there is almost no mixing between the east and west Atlantic stocks.
*Another common coastal species, the chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus), is absent from the Atlantic Ocean but is widespread across both hemispheres in the Pacific, where its migration patterns are somewhat similar to those of Atlantic mackerel. In the northern hemisphere, chub mackerel migrate northwards in the summer to feeding grounds, and southwards in the winter when they spawn in relatively shallow waters. In the southern hemisphere the migrations are reversed. After spawning, some stocks migrate down the continental slope to deeper water and spend the rest of the winter in relative inactivity.
*The Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), the most intensively harvested mackerel-like species, is found in the south Pacific from West Australia to the coasts of Chile and Peru. A sister species, the Pacific jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), is found in the north Pacific. The Chilean jack mackerel occurs along the coasts in upwelling areas, but also migrates across the open ocean. Its abundance can fluctuate markedly as ocean conditions change, and is particularly affected by the El Niño.
Three species of jack mackerels are found in coastal waters around New Zealand: the Australasian, Chilean and Pacific jack mackerels. They are mainly captured using purse seine nets, and are managed as a single stock that includes multiple species.
Some mackerel species migrate vertically. Adult snake mackerels conduct a diel vertical migration, staying in deeper water during the day and rising to the surface at night to feed. The young and juveniles also migrate vertically but in the opposite direction, staying near the surface during the day and moving deeper at night. This species feeds on squid, pelagic crustaceans, lanternfishes, flying fishes, sauries and other mackerel.It is in turn preyed upon by tuna and marlin.
Mackerel is an important food fish that is consumed worldwide. As an oily fish, it is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. The flesh of mackerel spoils quickly, especially in the tropics, and can cause scombroid food poisoning. Accordingly, it should be eaten on the day of capture, unless properly refrigerated or cured.
Mackerel preservation is not simple. Before the 19th-century development of canning and the widespread availability of refrigeration, salting and smoking were the principal preservation methods available. Historically in England, this fish was not preserved, but was consumed only in its fresh form. However, spoilage was common, leading the authors of The Cambridge Economic History of Europe to remark: “There are more references to stinking mackerel in English literature than to any other fish!” In France mackerel was traditionally pickled with large amounts of salt, which allowed it to be sold widely across the country.
Mackerel is one of the highly recommended oily fish for a healthy diet. It is also known as maccarello. The slim torpedo-shaped fish is found in deep temperate and tropical waters. It is rich in essential oils, vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids occur in high quantities in this fish. It contains vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. Various minerals also occur richly in the fish. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and selenium. Trace minerals include zinc and copper. The fish also contains protein and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10. The fish has several benefits to health.
Coenzyme Q10 helps to eliminate cancerous agents from afflicted cells. This improves cellular health. Antioxidants reduce the risk of some cancers. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to prevent breast, prostrate, renal and colon cancers. It has also been established that marine fatty acids hinder the proliferation of breast cancer cells. Several studies have concluded that essential fatty acids reduce the risk of breast cancer. The oily fish contains good amounts of vitamins B12 and selenium, which have been found helpful in the treatment of cancer.
Mackerel fortifies the immune system. It supports the functions of organs that have been weakened by sickness. Omega-3 fatty acids act as an anti-inflammatory agent. They help in the management of arthritis. They also help to lower the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Coenzyme Q10 protects cells from damage that increases the risk of cancer. It also enhances the body’s capacity to fight infections. It is a great item to be included in the diet of convalescents and those undergoing various treatments.
Inclusion of oily fish in the diet improves the condition of the blood. This promotes better heart health. Essential fatty acids help to thin the blood. This improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. It prevents build-up of cholesterol in the blood and prevents constriction of arteries. Essential fatty acids reduce bad cholesterol levels yet maintain good cholesterol levels. They make blood vessels more elastic, which facilitates improved blood flow. Cleaner, thinner blood reduces the risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease. The rich calcium content in the fish also helps to normalize heartbeat and regulate blood pressure. To reduce the risk of heart disease, it is recommended that two servings of oily fish are included in the diet each week.
Brain and Nerve Development:-
High concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the brain. It has been established that they play a vital role in cognitive and behavioral functions. This enhances memory and performance. It also prevents the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Essential fatty acids help to prevent problems of the central nervous system. They also facilitate the efficient transmission of nerve impulses. Essential fatty acids have been found helpful in the prevention of depression and dementia.
Known Hazards: Although mackerel is a highly nourishing fish, it is recommended that pregnant and nursing mothers avoid it. The fish may contain elevated mercury levels, especially if sourced from polluted waters. When consumed by pregnant women, it could damage the child’s developing nervous system. It also poses risks to the mother’s health.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.