Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They may be found in all tropical and temperate seas. Most live offshore in the oceanic environment but a few, like the Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus), enter bays and can be caught near bridges and piers. Common features of mackerel are a slim, cylindrical shape (as opposed to the tunas which are deeper bodied) and numerous finlets on the dorsal and ventral sides behind the dorsal and anal fins. The scales are extremely small, if present. A female mackerel lays about one million eggs at a time.

Shearwater, tuna, dolphins, whales, orca, seagulls, marlins, sharks, and humans may hunt mackerel. Mackerel are prized (and are highly harvested) for their meat, which is often very oily. They are known for their fighting ability, and are an important recreational and commercial fishery. The meat can spoil quickly, especially in the tropics, causing scombroid food poisoning—it must be eaten on the day of capture, unless properly refrigerated or cured. For this reason, mackerel is commonly salt-cured sushi. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council king mackerel is contaminated with high levels of mercury. [1] [2]



Family Scombridae

Family Carangidae

  • Atlantic horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus
  • Blue jack mackerel Trachurus picturatus
  • Cape horse mackerel Trachurus capensis
  • Cunene horse mackerel Trachurus trecae
  • Greenback horse mackerel Trachurus declivis
  • Japanese horse mackerel Trachurus japonicus
  • Mediterranean horse mackerel Trachurus mediterraneus
  • Pacific jack mackerel Trachurus symmetricus

Family Hexagrammidae

Family Gempylidae

  • Black snake mackerel Nealotus tripes
  • Blacksail snake mackerel Thyrsitoides marleyi
  • Snake mackerel Gempylus serpens
  • Violet snake mackerel Nesiarchus nasutus
  • White snake mackerel Thyrsitops lepidopoides

Use as an adjective

"Mackerel" is also used as an adjective in the vernacular names of other animals or breeds thereof, often used to indicate types with a mackerel-like pattern of vertical stripes:

  • Mackerel icefish - Champsocephalus gunnari
  • Mackerel pike - Cololabis saira
  • Mackerel scad - Decapterus macarellus
  • Mackerel shark - several species
  • Sharp-nose mackerel shark - Isurus oxyrinchus
  • Mackerel trevalla - Seriolella punctata
  • Mackerel tuna - Euthynnus affinis
  • Mackerel tabby cat - Felis silvestris catus
  • Mackerel Tail Goldfish - Carassius auratus

Use in prisons

Pouches of mackerel have become a currency in United States federal prisons after cigarettes, the previous currency, were banned.[3]


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mackerel — Mack er*el, n. [OF. maquerel, F. maquereau (LL. macarellus), prob. for maclereau, fr. L. macula a spot, in allusion to the markings on the fish. See {Mail} armor.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any species of the genus {Scomber} of the family {Scombridae}, and of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mackerel — (n.) edible fish, c.1300, from O.Fr. maquerel mackerel (Mod.Fr. maquereau), of unknown origin but apparently identical with O.Fr. maquerel pimp, procurer, broker, agent, intermediary, a word from a Germanic source (Cf. M.Du. makelaer broker, from …   Etymology dictionary

  • mackerel — [mak′ər əl, mak′rəl] n. pl. mackerel or mackerels [ME makerel < OFr maquerel < ?] any of various scombroid fishes; esp., an edible fish (Scomber scombrus) of the North Atlantic, that has a greenish, blue striped back and a silvery belly …   English World dictionary

  • Mackerel — Mack er*el, n. [OF. maquerel, F. maquereau, fr. D. makelaar mediator, agent, fr. makelen to act as agent.] A pimp; also, a bawd. [Obs.] Halliwell. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mackerel — ► NOUN ▪ a fast swimming sea fish with a greenish blue back, important as a food fish. ORIGIN Old French maquerel …   English terms dictionary

  • mackerel — /mak euhr euhl, mak reuhl/, n., pl. (esp. collectively) mackerel, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) mackerels. 1. a food fish, Scomber scombrus, of the North Atlantic, having wavy cross markings on the back. 2. See Spanish mackerel …   Universalium

  • mackerel — [[t]mæ̱kərəl[/t]] N VAR (mackerel is both the singular and the plural form.) A mackerel is a sea fish with a dark, patterned back. Almiro s boat had sailed out to the middle of the bay to fish for mackerel. N UNCOUNT Mackerel is this fish eaten… …   English dictionary

  • mackerel — noun (plural mackerel or mackerels) Etymology: Middle English makerel, from Anglo French Date: 14th century 1. a scombroid fish (Scomber scombrus of the family Scombridae) of the North Atlantic that is green above with dark blue bars and silvery… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • mackerel — UK [ˈmækrəl] / US [ˈmæk(ə)rəl] noun Word forms mackerel : singular mackerel plural mackerel a) [countable] a sea fish with flesh that contains a lot of natural oil b) [uncountable] this fish eaten as food …   English dictionary

  • mackerel — /ˈmækərəl / (say makuhruhl) noun (plural mackerel or mackerels) 1. Also, slimy mackerel. a common iridescent greenish fish with irregular darker markings on the back, Scomber australasicus, widely distributed in Australian and New Zealand waters… …  

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