Mackerel ©Alexander Mustard/2020VISION


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Scientific name: Scomber scombrus
Mackerel are a sign of summer's arrival, when they appear inshore in huge numbers all around the UK. As well as being a sustainable seafood choice, they are an important food source for many of our marine predators.

Top facts


Length: up to 50cm

Conservation status

Classified as a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and listed as of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

When to see

January to December


A streamlined, fast-swimming fish that is found in dense shoals that move as one. Mackerel migrate to shallower inshore waters in the summer and feed on zooplankton and small fish, particularly sand eels. They are identifiable by the beautiful tiger-like markings on their backs. Mackerel are an important source of food for our marine predators, including whales, dolphins, tuna, seals and sharks. There are many species of mackerel around the globe, the main species found in UK seas is the Atlantic mackerel.

What to look for

A streamlined fish with metallic blue-green colouration on the back interspersed with darker tiger-like stripes.

Where to find

Found all around UK coasts. Seen close inshore in summer months and further offshore during winter.

Did you know?

During spawning, both eggs and sperm are released into the sea. A single female may release up to 450,000 eggs in the spawning season.