Blue Mackerel (2018)

Scomber australasicus

  • Tim Ward (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Nic Marton (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Jeff Norriss (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Jeremy Lyle (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • John Stewart (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Corey Green (Victorian Fisheries Authority)

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Blue Mackerel is a sustainable species fished in the waters of western TAS, southern WA and to the east of Bass Strait, mainly by commercial fishers. 

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia Western MSF Sustainable Catch, effort
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
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Stock Structure

Following a data synthesis undertaken to establish management zones in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF) [Bulman et al. 2008], Blue Mackerel off southern Australia is currently considered to be comprised of two biological stocks: the Western stock that extends from western Tasmania to southern Western Australia and the Eastern stock, which occurs to the east of Bass Strait [AFMA 2008, 2009]. Blue Mackerel and other target species in the SPF are managed in western and eastern sub-areas [AFMA 2008, 2009], which reflect this stock structure.

Assessment of the stock status of Blue Mackerel is presented at the biological stock level—Western and Eastern

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Stock Status


The most recent assessment of the Western stock of Blue Mackerel was completed in 2018 using fishery data for 2016 [Ward and Grammer 2018] and the results of an application of the daily egg production method in 2005 [Ward et al. 2009]. The primary biological performance indicators are spawning biomass and exploitation rate.

A preliminary application of the daily egg production method to Blue Mackerel off South Australia during 2005 provided an estimated spawning biomass of approximately 56 000 tonnes (t) [Ward et al. 2009]. This estimate of spawning biomass was considered to be conservative as the survey only covered a limited part of the area in which this stock occurs, and there was evidence of spawning activity outside the survey area in the western Great Australian Bight [Ward et al. 2009].

Total annual catches of Blue Mackerel from the Western stock were low in the late-1990s and early-2000s (less than 55 t) but increased to between 1 000 t and 2 000 t in 2008 and 2009. These larger catches were taken mainly by purse-seine vessels operating in the SPF off South Australia. Total annual catches of between 750 t and 1 000 t were taken in the SPF in 2015 and 2016, when a factory trawler operated in the fishery. Commercial fishing for Blue Mackerel by Western Australian licenced vessels was prohibited in 1999. Tasmanian catches of Blue Mackerel over the last decade have been low (< 5 t per annum). Small catches of Blue Mackerel from the western stock are taken by recreational fishers off Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

Low annual catches of Blue Mackerel from the Western stock reflect low levels of fishing effort rather than low biomass levels [Ward and Grammer 2018]. Recent catches (< 1 000 t) are less than 2 per cent of the estimated spawning biomass in 2005 of ~ 56 000 t [Ward et al. 2009], and well below the sustainable exploitation rate of 23 per cent suggested for this stock [Smith et al. 2015].

The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

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

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Blue Mackerel biology [Stevens et al. 1984, Ward and Grammer 2016, Ward and Rogers 2007]
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Blue Mackerel 8 years, 440 mm FL  2 years, 237–287 mm FL 
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Blue Mackerel
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Fishing methods
South Australia
Hook and Line
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method South Australia
Limited entry
Bag limits
South Australia
Recreational 103,764 fish in 2013-14 (Giri and Hall 2015)

Commonwealth – Recreational 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 regulations. Commonwealth data is presented for 2017.

Commonwealth – Indigenous 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.

Western Australia – Recreational (Management Methods) a Recreational Fishing from Boat License is required for use of a powered boat to fish or to transport catch or fishing gear to or from a land-based fishing location.

Tasmania – Recreational In Tasmania, a recreational licence is required for fishers using dropline or longline gear, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine.

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) Aboriginal Cultural Fishing Interim Access Arrangement—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 for themselves; (b) 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 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority; and (c) In cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources.

Tasmania – Indigenous (Management Methods) In Tasmania, aborigines engaged in aboriginal fishing activities in marine waters are exempt from holding recreational fishing licences, but must comply with all other fisheries rules as if they were licensed. Additionally, recreational bag and possession limits also apply. If using pots, rings, set lines or gillnets, aborigines must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities for issuing a UIC to a person for Aboriginal Fishing activity explains the steps to take in making an application for a UIC.

Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Victorian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs without the need to obtain a licence. Traditional Owners that have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) may also be authorised to fish without the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence. Outside of these arrangements, Indigenous Victorians can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise fishing for specific Indigenous cultural ceremonies or events (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). There were no Indigenous permits granted in 2017 and hence no Indigenous catch recorded.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Blue Mackerel - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2008, Small Pelagic Fishery harvest strategy (last revised April 2015). AFMA, Canberra.
  2. Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2009, Small Pelagic Fishery management plan 2009, Federal Register of Legislative Instruments F2010L00081, AFMA, Canberra.
  3. 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, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Hobart.
  4. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian Recreational Fishing Survey 2013/2014. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62
  5. Smith, ADM, Ward, TM, Hurtado, F, Klaer, N, Fulton, E and 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. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart.
  6. Stevens, JD, Hausfeld, HF and Davenport, SR 1984, Observations on the biology, distribution and abundance of Trachurus declivis, Sardinops neopilchardus and Scomber australasicus in the Great Australian Bight. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Marine Laboratories, Cronulla.
  7. Ward, TM and Grammer, GL 2018, Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery: Fishery Assessment Report 2017. Report to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (PDF 5.7 MB). South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2010/000270-9. SARDI Research Report Series No. 982. 114pp.
  8. Ward, TM and Rogers, PJ 2007, Development and evaluation of egg-based stock assessment methods for blue mackerel Scomber australasicus in southern Australia. Final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project No 2002/061. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  9. Ward, TM, Grammer, GL, Ivey, AR, Carroll, JR, Keane, JP, Stewart, J and Litherland, L 2015, Egg distribution, reproductive parameters and spawning biomass of Blue Mackerel, Australian Sardine and Tailor off the East Coast during late winter and early spring, FRDC Project No. 2014/033, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide.
  10. Ward, TM, Rogers, PJ, McLeay, LJ and McGarvey, R 2009, Evaluating the use of the daily egg production method for stock assessment of blue mackerel, Scomber australasicus, Marine and Freshwater Research, 62:112–128.

Downloadable reports

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