Fun Atlantic Mackerel Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Jan 31, 2024 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Yashvee Patel
Altantic mackerel facts are educational for kids.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.5 Min

The Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is a common pelagic subspecies of the mackerel family. It also goes by other names such as Boston mackerel, Scottish mackerel, and Norwegian mackerel, and is related to tuna. The mackerel species has been divided into two subgroups which are Scombrini, the true mackerels (seven species), and Scomberomorini, the Spanish mackerel (21 species). Atlantic mackerel is found along North American and European coastlines, specifically in the north Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea. This fish species can survive a mild to cold water temperature and live up to the age of 20 years. Atlantic mackerel is a migratory fish that moves closer to the shore during the summer and spring months. Its prime catch season is during late winter and early spring.

These fish have an elongated blue-green colored body, structured in a way to increase their swimming speed. It can even retract its caudal fin while swimming. Females lay eggs in large numbers during the spawning season. Their eggs are large and pelagic in nature.

Read more to know about its catch areas, annual migratory patterns, the need for fisheries regulation, and tips for bait selection.

If you found this article interesting, check out our other articles on Spanish mackerel and king salmon.

Atlantic ​Mackerel Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Atlantic ​mackerel?

Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is a schooling, pelagic fish.

What class of animal does an Atlantic ​mackerel belong to?

Atlantic mackerel is a fish of the Animalia kingdom. Technically, they are classified under the class Actinopterygii, also known as ray-fished fish. They are characterized by bony spikes supporting their fins.

How many Atlantic ​mackerel are there in the world?

The Atlantic mackerel population has been divided into two subgroups, the eastern Atlantic and the western Atlantic. Both of these groups require separate investigation, as there is extremely little interaction between the two groups. Eastern Atlantic mackerel is constituted of three stocks, which are southern, western, and North sea.

Where does an Atlantic ​mackerel live?

This fish species can be found in the waters of North America and parts of Europe. In the United States, this species is found from Labrador to Cape Lookout. Other places across the eastern Atlantic where Atlantic mackerel can be found are Iceland, Mauritania, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea.

What is an Atlantic ​mackerel's habitat?

This fish is found in cold water temperatures and in temperate shelf areas. During the winter, they are found in deeper waters, whereas, during the summer and spring seasons, they tend to be nearer to the coast.

Who do Atlantic ​mackerel live with?

Atlantic mackerel is a schooling fish which means it swims in large groups also known as 'schools'. These schools are formed near the surface. Swimming together is the best way to avoid getting caught by predators.

How long does an Atlantic ​mackerel live?

A mackerel fish's life span can be up to 20 years. Western stock fishes are known to live until the age of 12 and eastern stock may live for 18 years. This variation can be attributed to varied assessment processes and environmental factors.

How do they reproduce?

Atlantic mackerel reproduces in large numbers. In a particular spawning season, female fish can lay from 285,000 to as many as two million eggs. This number is dependent on the size of the fish and a female releases her eggs in batches. During a spawning season, which takes place in the summer and spring months, a female can lay five to seven batches of eggs.  

These eggs hatch within a week and are pelagic which means they live on open oceanic floors. They remain off-shore until they reach sexual maturity and this happens after two or three years. In terms of physical development, they attain a length of 7.9 in (20 cm) after a few months.

Their catch areas are distributed according to the spawn areas. Once they spawn, adult mackerels migrate to different areas. For example, fish from the southern and western catch areas travel to the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Baltic Sea for the annual migration.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List, this species has been categorized as Least Concern. However, its population is decreasing due to overexploitation by the fisheries. The Atlantic mackerel is a very accessible catch for fisheries which may have contributed to its overexploitation. Certain measures have been taken to manage the eastern Atlantic stock. These include seasonal closures, minimum landing size, and restricted areas for the fisheries. These measures will help stabilize the spawning component. No such measures can be found for western stocks.

Atlantic ​Mackerel Fun Facts

What do Atlantic ​mackerel look like?

Pelagic fish of medium size called Atlantic mackerel may be found in big schools. Mackerels have bright blue-green coloration with wavy black stripes running along their lower bodies. They have a sleek body that tapers down into a branching tail at the end. It does not have a swim bladder which helps with buoyancy. Therefore, it has to swim with its mouth open to allow oxygen to pass through its gills. Also, they have small, sharp teeth. There are not many developmental differences between males and females. They both attain the same weight but females tend to be marginally larger. This is a sign of evolutionary adaptation resulting in more offspring. They both live up to the age of 20 years.

Altantic mackerel can be also found in the western Atlantic.

How cute are they?

This fish is definitely beautiful to look at with its uncommon color pattern and wavy black stripes.

How do they communicate?

Atlantic mackerel tend to use the acoustic perception channel to communicate among themselves. The sounds are used to communicate any sign of predators, food, or to find mates. Marine fish make crunching sounds when feeding which may communicate the availability of food to other fishes.

How big is an Atlantic ​mackerel?

An Atlantic mackerel weighs an average of 2.2-6.6 lb (1-3 kg) and 11.8-26 in (30-66 cm) in length. However, it rarely crosses the 19.7 in (50 cm) mark. The largest mackerel to have been caught was 26 in (66 cm) and this is the all-tackle game fish world record. Its close relative, the tuna, ranges between 15-78.7 in (38-200 cm).

How fast can an Atlantic ​mackerel swim?

Atlantic mackerel is known to be the fastest swimming fish in United Kingdom waters. Features such as a branched tail and the ability to tuck its fins allow it to gather speed. As its swim bladder is missing, it has to continuously swim to keep itself afloat and alive.

How much does an Atlantic ​mackerel weigh?

The weight varies across different catch areas. The average is 2.2-6.6 lb (1-3 kg). The heaviest mackerel with a weight of 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) was caught during the ’80s. Since then, the weight and the size of these fish have reduced, perhaps because of fishing pressure. This refers to an indicator that measures how the present catch rates of various fisheries affect the future catch rates. This helps formulate fishery management plans.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Males and females of this species do not harbor different names.

What would you call a baby Atlantic ​mackerel?

A baby Boston mackerel is known as a 'tinker mackerel'. However, this is used more for a chub mackerel, another species of the same family.

What do they eat?

Boston mackerel is predatory in nature. It eats other marine creatures such as krills, zooplankton, other small fishes, and crustaceans. Adult mackerels may even eat the eggs.

Are they dangerous?

In terms of the food chain, these pelagic mackerels are well placed. They are predators and prey on smaller creatures, such as zooplankton and crabs. However, they are not dangerous to humans and are, easily caught by using bait such as sand eels, squids, and at times small pieces of mackerel itself.

Would they make a good pet?

It seems unlikely that mackerels would make a good pet. Certain large aquariums do keep them but only after performing necessary preparations such as maintaining a suitable water temperature and resembling its habitat by generating artificial currents. Giving the same type of food is also important, like krill, small fishes, shrimp, and other smaller prey.

Did you know...

Atlantic mackerel is known to be extremely rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and selenium. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have several health benefits including but not limited to improving risk factors for heart diseases, boosting eye health, and fighting depressive or anxiety symptoms.

Due to overfishing, the NOAA Fisheries and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council now supervise all fishing-related matters and have placed restrictions on catch limits and the time period during which recreational and commercial fishery activity can be undertaken.

Atlantic mackerel are hunted by larger animals including pelicans, sharks, sea lions, and tuna.

What is the difference between king mackerel and Atlantic mackerel?

The king mackerel is a species of mackerel fish and they might seem similar if encountered. However, it is advisable to have a keen eye to distinguish between the two. This is because king mackerel was on the verge of depletion before the ’80s which led to the imposition of regulations for fisheries to follow. It is usually found in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic, whereas the Spanish mackerel are found along the US east coast and northern parts of Mexico.

An adult king mackerel is a medium-sized fish that grows up to 60 in (152.4 cm). An Atlantic mackerel will rarely reach this length. The former is known to have a sharp slope from their first dorsal fin towards the tail which is much more gradual for the northern mackerel. The king's dorsal spine has some color on it in comparison to the dark or black dorsal spine of the Atlantic mackerel. The common mackerel has a blue-green color across its body and spots in yellow color over the gills and tails.

What adaptations do Atlantic mackerel have?

Atlantic mackerel are migratory in nature. They make certain seasonal adaptations (annual) to reproduce and to search for feeding sources. During the winter, they seek warmer temperatures and settle in deep waters. Over the years, NOAA Fisheries Centre has observed changes in the distribution pattern of this fish. It has been seen that they are shifting towards the north-east direction because of the warming of the ocean water. This has been taken as a sign that this fish species is sensitive to climate change and water temperatures.

These findings have important implications for US fisheries. As the distribution spans over a greater area, it might be difficult to catch them.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fishes including drum fish or immortal jellyfish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our one fish, two fish coloring pages.  

Atlantic Mackerel Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Zooplankton, mollusks, fish eggs, and small fish

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?

285,000-2 million

How Much Did They Weigh?

2.2-6.6 lb (1-3 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

marine neritic and marine oceanic

Where Do They Live?

north america and europe

How Long Were They?

11.8-26 in (30-66 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Scomber scombrus

What Do They Look Like?

Blue-green color and wavy black stripes

Skin Type

Wet and slimy scales

What Are Their Main Threats?

overfishing and climate change

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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