Atlantic Mackerel – Kings Fraserburg

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The Product

General Name: Atlantic Mackerel – Kings Fraserburg


Alternative names: Mackerel, Boston Mackerel, Saba (sushi), Caballa (Sp)


The fishers

A big 79metre long pelagic trawler (pelagic means fish that swim in the middle of the water column and therefore unlike bottom trawling the sea bottom and eco-system habitat is NOT affected) called F/V Kings Cross based in Fraserburg.

FAO Area: FAO 27 IV

Port: Fraserburg

Authority: Scotland/United Kingdom

Seasonal information: Late summer and autumn

The Method

Pelagic Trawl

Pelagic trawls are towed in mid-water to target large schools of mackerel or other pelagic fish with the depth of the net controlled by altering towing speed and/or cable length. Hydraulic forces push two "doors" outward causing the net to open horizontally. A heavier groundline on the bottom of the net and lighter float line cause the net to open vertically. Although this is industrial large scale fishing pelagic mid water trawling should not be confused with bottom trawling - first because the seafloor is never impacted by pelagic trawls and second and, in marked contrast to bottom trawls, the catch is essentially or in most cases limited to the target species.

The Species


Two major stock of scomber scombus or Atlantic Mackerel exist. The first and largest is in North Europe surrouding the UK and EIRE all the way up to the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland as well into the whole of the Baltic Sea and with a smaller cohort along the Iberian paninsula and even into the Mediterranean. The second mirrors the first on the North American Atlantic Coast ranging from from North Carolina up to Newfoundland. Mackerel is fast swimming and forms vast schoals of fish, can live to the age of 20 years old and are able to reproduce by the time they reach age two to three. Most the UK mackerel is caught North of Scotland and originates from two different spawning stocks - a Western (towards Ireland and the South of England) and a North Sea component. Mackerel head south to spawn and then return well fed, fatter, oilier and larger into the North East Atantic, North of Scotland.

The Location:

North East Atlantic between Scotland, Faroe Islands and Norway.


Eco-ratings/certifications: Scomber scombrus lost it’s MSC rating in 2019 – for the second time due to an ongoing dispute between Norway/EU (including Scotland) and Iceland over catch levels. Iceland has fished outside the agreed TAC levels and as a result is accused of endangering stock levels. The situation is vastly complicated by a) the fact the resource has moved further North due to warming seas and b) differing models and estimates of what the maximum catch should be and how healthy stock levels are, assessed for example through fish egg sampling, and the observation of fishers involved in the fishery.

Resource Management: ICES provides the science. Catch levels have in recent years (2018/19/20) been in excess of the catch levels recommended by ICES with fishing nations failing to agree on the allocations. The “rogue” country being Iceland which is finding more mackerel entering in the high seas as well as it’s own 200 mile fishing zone. Suprisingly it’s the fishing industry that might be right on this one with the stock appearing to be in robust condition and recruitment i.e. new spawning stock, also strong. The loss of MSC certification is down to the failure to agree management and consequently the lack of a “what if?” management plan.

Local Management: Marine Scotland which is part of the Scottish government as marine resources are a devolved responsibility, working with UK government. Post Brexit arrangements and management uncertain.

Monitoring & Traceability: /

Conservation Measures: See Resource management. With warming seas fish populations change their distribution and this causes a knock on effect for competitor and predator species complicating the situation in terms of sustainabiltiy issues – for example too many mackerel could have an impact on herring in the waters further North.

By-catch/discard: Although this is an industrial volumes fishery the schools of mackerel swimming here in late summer and early autumn are vast and trawl nets targetting the schools do not have by-catch issues.

Endangered Species: No impact.

Eco-system damage: Pelagic mid-water fishing with no impact on sea bottom and habitat.

How is it made?

This is industrial large volume fishing. Fish4Ever generally supports small scale boats with lower catch volumes but our rule is that our fish should be fished by local votes with no by-catch or damage to the environment and in an equitably socially positive or responsible way. This mackerel first is caught in huge volumes and all the fishers in the North Atlantic are large-scale players, boats go far out to sea in often difficult seas where coastal boats would not want to navigate AND did not do so historically. Furthermore the method whilst undeniably industrial in scale is highly selective and fishing is by boats “local” , as in nearest, to the resource.

Production: Our mackerel is packed and prepared in Fraserburgh, North of Aberdeen where the very modern and advanced boats that form part of the Scottish pelagic (mackerel and herring) fleet are based.

Social factors: The Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group which represents the Scottish/UK element of the North Atlantic mackerel business is composed of 27 large pelagic trawlers, the owners of which “lucked out” with what has proved to be a disproportionately successful UK waters fishery making many of them millionaires. However the owners are local families, the boats are UK flagged, the catch is landed in Fraserburg where our mackerel is produced in a locally owned family business with the highest QC standards and good worker welfare standards.

Political factors: None