Common Jack Mackerel

Trachurus declivis

  • Tim Ward (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Andy Moore (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • John Stewart (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
New South Wales Eastern OTF Sustainable Catch, effort and CPUE trends, spawning biomass, ecosystem modelling
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
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Stock Structure

A study conducted to provide a basis for establishing management zones in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) concluded that there is evidence for at least two biological stocks of Common Jack Mackerel in Australian waters: one off eastern Australia and the other extending from western Tasmania to southern Western Australia1. Evidence supporting these conclusions include morphological, meristic and genetic differences between fish from these two areas2,3 and a lack of genetic difference between fish from eastern Tasmania and New South Wales4. There is some evidence that more than one stock may occur off eastern Australia, however further studies are required to address that issue3,4. In the SPF, Common Jack Mackerel and other target species managed as separate Eastern and Western biological stocks5,6.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Western and Eastern.

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Stock Status


The spawning biomass of Common Jack Mackerel East during 2014 was estimated to be 157 805 t (95 per cent confidence interval = 59 570–358 731 t)9 using the DEPM. This estimate is considered robust because it was based on reliable estimates of critical DEPM parameters such as egg production, spawning area and spawning fraction, and is within the range of preliminary estimates of spawning biomass off eastern Australia in 2002–04 of 114 900–169 000 t10. Total annual catches of Common Jack Mackerel off eastern Australia declined from 9873 t in 1997–98 to 381 t in 2000–01 and have not exceeded around 3000 t since 2003–047. Catches were mainly taken by purse-seining from 1997–98 to 2000–01 and by mid-water trawling from 2001–02 onwards7. Minimal fishing was conducted between 2010–11 and 2013–14. The total catch in 2014–15 was only 317 t. Recent low catches of Common Jack Mackerel East reflect low fishing effort, rather than low abundance7. Recent catches have been less than one per cent of the estimated spawning biomass9, and well below the sustainable exploitation rate of 12 per cent proposed as a target for this species. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of the stock is unlikely to be recruitment overfished and that the current level of fishing pressure is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished.


On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Eastern biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Common Jack Mackerel 17 years; 470 mm FL 5–6 years; 315 mm FL

Common Jack Mackerel biology11–13

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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Common Jack Mackerel

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Fishing methods
New South Wales
Purse Seine
Otter Trawl
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Limited entry
Mesh size regulations
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Bag limits
Section 31 (1)(c1), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority
Spatial closures
Bag limits
Spatial closures
Active vessels
New South Wales
6 in OTF
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
New South Wales
Commercial 333.90kg in OTF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Negligible
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)

Recreationala  Indigenousb,d,e

a The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in

Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management


b The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the

exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state

or territory immediately adjacent to those waters.

c Commonwealth – Commercial (management methods) Historically, no restrictions on vessel hold capacity have been in place in the Small Pelagic Fishery (Commonwealth).

However, in 2012, an interim declaration was made to prevent factory trawlers greater than 130 m in length with on-board

fish processing facilities, and storage capacity for fish or fish products in excess of 2000 t, from entering this fishery for a 2 year


d The Aboriginal Fishing Interim Compliance Policy allows an Indigenous fisher in New South Wales to take in excess of a

recreational bag limit in certain circumstances—for example, if they are doing so to provide fish to other community members

who cannot harvest themselves.

e The Aboriginal cultural fishing authority is the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the

recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1)(c1), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Common Jack Mackerel in Australia, in 2015 (calendar year)

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Purse-seine and mid-water trawl fisheries interact with marine mammals, including seals and dolphins. In Australian waters, some purse-seine fisheries commonly interact with the dolphins15. A Code of Practice has been successful in mitigating but not eliminating interactions with dolphins in the South Australia purse-seine fishery for Australian Sardine (Sardinops sagax)15. Mortalities of both seals and dolphins have been recorded during mid-water trawls in the Small Pelagic Fishery (Commonwealth) (SPF)16. Dolphins rarely interact with mid-water trawls, however, seals commonly enter and forage in these nets, with some mortalities16. Seal excluder devices in the trawl nets have reduced, but not eliminated, seal mortalities16.
  • Common Jack Mackerel are prey for a range of predatory fishes, marine mammals and seabirds. However, in Australia most predators forage on a wide range of prey are not dependent heavily dependent on one or two species17–19. Recent research also indicates that fishing for Common Jack Mackerel and other small pelagic species has only minor impacts on other parts of the ecosystem, as alternative food sources exist for large predator species17,18. Catch limits in the SPF at set at conservative levels which consider the ecological roles of Common Jack Mackerel5,6,17.
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Environmental effects on Common Jack Mackerel

  • A decrease in the presence and size of surface schools of Common Jack Mackerel in Tasmanian waters during the 1990s was initially considered to be due to the effects of heavy fishing pressure during the 1980s–90s by the Tasmanian Common Jack Mackerel (purse-seine) Fishery. However, there is evidence that strengthening of the East Australian Current has altered the swarming behaviour and abundance of Australian Krill (Nyctiphanes australis), a major prey for Common Jack Mackerel, and this contributed to the reduction in surface schools19,20. Associated with this ocean warming has been an apparent increase in the abundance of Redbait (Emmelichthys nitidus), a species that predominantly preys on small copepods21, which may have increased in abundance with the strengthening of the East Australian Current22.
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  1. 1 Bulman, C Condie, S Findlay, J Ward B and Young J 2008, Management zones from small pelagic fish species stock structure in southern Australian waters, Final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Australian Fisheries Management Authority (FRDC Project No 2006/076), CSIRO, Hobart Australia
  2. 2 Lindholm, R and Maxwell, JGH 1988, Stock separation of jack mackerel Trachurus declivis (Jenyns, 1841), and yellowtail T. novaezealandiae (Richardson, 1843) in southern Australian waters using principal component analysis, Australian CSIRO Marine Laboratories report 189, CSIRO, Hobart.
  3. 3 Richardson, BJ 1982, The geographical distribution of electrophoretically detected protein variation in Australian commercial fishes. I. The Jack Mackerel (Trachurus declivis Jenyns), Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 33: 917–926.
  4. 4 Smolenski, AJ, Ovenden, JR and White, RWG 1994, Preliminary investigation of mitochondrial DNA variation in Jack Mackerel (Trachurus declivis, Carangidae) from south-eastern Australian waters, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 45: 495–505.
  5. 5 AFMA 2008, Small Pelagic Fishery Harvest Strategy (last revised April 2015). Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra. 9 pp.
  6. 6 AFMA 2009, Small Pelagic Fishery Management Plan 2009. Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra, Federal Register of Legislative Instruments F2010L00081. 51 pp.
  7. 7 Ward, TM and Grammer, GL 2016, Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery: Fishery Assessment Report 2015. Report to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2010/000270-7. SARDI Research Report Series No. 900. 111pp.
  8. 8 Williams, K 1981, Aerial survey of pelagic fish resources off eastern Australia 1973–1977, CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceans report 130, CSIRO, Hobart.
  9. 9 Ward, TM, Burnell, O, Ivey, A, Sexton, SC Carroll, J, Keane, JB and Lyle, J 2016, Spawning biomass of jack mackerel (Trachurus declivis) off eastern Australia: critical knowledge for managing a controversial fishery. Fisheries Research 179: 10-22
  10. 10 Neira, FJ 2011, Application of daily egg production to estimate biomass of Jack Mackerel, Trachurus declivis—a key fish species in the pelagic ecosystem of south-eastern Australia, final report to the Winifred Violet Scott Charitable Trust, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
  11. 11 Lyle, JM, Krusic-Golub, K and Morison, AK 2000, Age and growth of Jack Mackerel and the age structure of the Jack Mackerel purse seine catch, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 1995/034, FRDC, Canberra.
  12. 12 Marshall, J, Pullen, G and Jordan, A 1993, Reproductive biology and sexual maturity of female Jack Mackerel, Trachurus declivis (Jenyns), in eastern Tasmanian waters, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 44: 799–809.
  13. 13 Webb, BF 1976, Aspects of the biology of Jack Mackerel Trachurus declivis (Jenyns) from south east Australian waters, Tasmanian Fisheries Research, 10: 1–17.
  14. 14 West, L.D, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle JM and Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14. Fisheries Final Report Series
  15. 15 Hamer, DJ, Ward, TM and McGarvey, R 2008, Measurement, management and mitigation of operational interactions between the South Australian Sardine Fishery and short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) Biological Conservation 141: 2865-2878
  16. 16 Lyle, JM and Willcox, ST 2008, Dolphin and seal interactions with mid-water trawling in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery, including an assessment of bycatch mitigation, final report to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, project R05/0996, AFMA, Canberra.
  17. 17 Bulman, CM, Condie, SA, Neira, FJ, Goldsworthy, SD, Fulton, EA 2010, Trophodynamics of Small Pelagic Fishes in the Southern Australian Ecosystems and the Implications for Ecosystem Modelling of Southern Temperate Fisheries. Final Report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC2008/023). CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania.
  18. 18 Smith, ADM, Ward, T, Hurtado, F, Klaer, N, Fulton, Eand Punt, AE 2015. Review and update of harvest strategy settings for the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery: Single species and ecosystem considerations. Final Report of FRDC Project No. 2013/028. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart. 74 pp.
  19. 19 Goldsworthy, SD, Page, B, Rogers, PJ, Bulman, C, Wiebkin, A, McLeay, L, Einoder, L, Baylis, A, Braley, M, Caines, R, Daly, K, Huveneers, C, Peters, K, Lowther, AD and Ward, T 2013, Trophodynamics of the eastern Great Australian Bight ecosystem: ecological change associated with the growth of Australia's largest fishery. Ecological Modelling, 255, 38– 57.
  20. 20 Young, JW, Jordan, AR, Bobbi, CM, Johannes, RM, Haskard, K and Pullen, G 1993, Seasonal and interannual variability in krill (Nyctiphanes australis) stocks and their relationships to the Jack Mackerel (Trachurus declivis) fishery off eastern Tasmania, Marine Biology, 116: 9–18.
  21. 21 McLeod, DJ, Hobday, AJ, Lyle, JM and Welsford, DC 2012, A prey-related shift in the abundance of small pelagic fish in eastern Tasmania, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 69: 953–960.
  22. 22 Johnson, CR, Banks, SC, Barrett, NS, Cazzasus, F, Dunstan, PK, Edgar, GJ, Frusher, SD, Gardner, C, Helidoniotis, F, Hill, KL, Holbrook, NJ, Hosie, GW, Last, PR, Ling, SC, Melbourne-Thomas, J, Miller, K, Pecl, GT, Richardson, A, Ridgway, KR, Rintoul, SR, Ritz, DA, Ross, DJ, Sanderson, JC, Shepherd, S, Slotwinski, A, Swadling, KM and Taw, N 2011, Climate change cascades: shifts in oceanography, species’ ranges and subtidal marine community dynamics in eastern Tasmania, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology And Ecology, 400: 17–32.

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