Where does a mackerel live?

Pelagic fish species like mackerels are typically found in tropical and temperate waters. These fish are migratory in nature and can be found in the oceans near the coast. They are found near the surface while in migration. During the day, they mostly remain near the surface, but at night, they descend into deeper waters. The warmer months are when Atlantic mackerel prefers to hang out by the shore, but as soon as winter begins, they move to deeper waters. To remain in warmer waters, they move more southward from the north.

How cute are they?

Some mackerel species may not be particularly adorable to look at.

Distribution King mackerels cruise on long migrations at 10 kilometres per hour.

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 NiƱo.
  • The Australasian, Chilean, and Pacific jack mackerels are three of the jack mackerel species that inhabit the coastal waters near New Zealand. They are managed as a single stock that contains various species and are primarily caught using purse seine nets.

    Some mackerel species migrate vertically. With a diel vertical migration, adult snake mackerels spend the day in deeper water and come to the surface at night to feed. Although they migrate vertically as well, the young and juveniles do so in the opposite direction, remaining close to the surface during the day and diving deeper at night. This species consumes pelagic crustaceans, flying fish, lanternfish, sauries, and other mackerel in addition to squid. It is in turn preyed upon by tuna and marlin.

    Due to the females’ floatable eggs, mackerel must breed close to the water’s surface because they are prolific broadcast spawners. Individual females lay between 300,000 and 1,500,000 eggs. Their larvae and eggs float freely in the open ocean because they are pelagic. The larvae and juvenile mackerel feed on zooplankton. When fully grown, they hunt copepods and other small crustaceans as well as forage fish, shrimp, and squid with their razor-sharp teeth. They are then pursued by larger pelagic animals like pelicans, sharks, tuna, billfish, sea lions, and sharks.

    Off Madagascar, spinner sharks follow migrating schools of mackerel. Brydes whales feed on mackerel when they can find them. They employ a variety of feeding techniques, such as bubble nets, lunging, and skimming the surface.

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