Mackerel ©Alexander Mustard/2020VISION


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.

Species information


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.

How to identify

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


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.

How people can help

Choose sustainably sourced mackerel - either locally sourced fish caught by handline or from an MSC-certified fishery. Look for the blue Marine Stewardship Council logo. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action pages.