Spanish Mackerel (2018)

Scomberomorus commerson

  • Joanne Langstreth (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Ashley Williams (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • John Stewart (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Nic Marton (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Paul Lewis (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Thor Saunders (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

Toggle content


Spanish Mackerel is widely distributed across several fisheries in Commonwealth, WA, NT, Qld and NSW waters. All five stocks are sustainable.

Toggle content

Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Mackerel Managed Fishery MMF Sustainable Catch, catch rate, SimpleSA
Mackerel Managed Fishery (WA)
Toggle content

Stock Structure

Genetic evidence indicates that there are three biological stocks of Spanish Mackerel across northern Australia [Moore et al. 2003]; however, evidence from otolith microchemistry, parasite analysis and limited adult movement (at scales greater than 100 km) indicates that there are likely to be a number of smaller biological stocks with limited interaction [Buckworth et al. 2007, Lester et al. 2001, Moore et al. 2003]. Each jurisdiction is likely to have multiple biological stocks within its boundaries; however, the difficulty in obtaining relevant biological, and catch and effort, information to assess each stock individually has meant that not all assessments are undertaken at the biological stock level. Those that are, are based on the populations that receive the highest harvest rates; their status can be assumed to be representative of the highest level of exploitation that occurs on any population within each management unit or jurisdiction.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Torres Strait Spanish Mackerel Fishery (Commonwealth) and East Coast (Queensland and New South Wales); management unit level—Mackerel Managed Fishery (Western Australia), Gulf of Carpentaria (Queensland); and jurisdictional level—Northern Territory.

Toggle content

Stock Status

Mackerel Managed Fishery

The most recent full assessment of Spanish Mackerel in Western Australia was during 19992002 [Mackie et al. 2003] using catch and effort, biological information, age structure and yield-per-recruit modelling indicated the stock was sustainable, when catches were higher than current levels. Recent Catch-MSY analysis (SimpleSA package) indicated the Western Australia stock is likely to be just above the target biomass and is stable at current catch levels. Catch and fishing effort throughout the Mackerel Managed Fishery (Western Australia) have been relatively stable since 2006, following the introduction of quotas and reductions in vessels due to management changes, with total catches within the target range (246–430 t) [Gaughan and Santoro 2018]. The high catch rates for the two main northern fishery areas (Kimberley and Pilbara, covering Onslow to the Northern Territory border), both above historical levels, indicate a relatively high abundance of Spanish Mackerel in these management areas. Catch rates in the southern (GascoyneWest Coast) area have declined in recent years, after the influence of the 2011–12 "heatwave" apparently increased abundance for a period [Pearce et al. 2011], but remain above historical levels. Thus, based on the available information the weight of evidence assessment [DPIRD In prep] determined it is possible that there is an acceptable moderate depletion of the stock. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired.

The total commercial catch of Spanish Mackerel in Western Australia for 2017 was 283 t, and has been stable, within target range, since management changes in 2006. Although the estimated boat based recreational fishing harvest weights of Spanish Mackerel have declined from 62–86 t to 35-54 t (95 per cent confidence interval), from the 2011–12 to 2015–16 boat based surveys, respectively [Ryan et al. 2017], the charter catch has been stable between 1420 t since 2008. The lower recent recreational catch estimate can be attributed in part to declining recreational effort levels in the northern bioregions and likely lower abundance and catch associated with lower water temperatures in the West Coast Bioregion, as seen in the commercial catch rate. As the minimum size limit for Spanish Mackerel in Western Australia of 900 mm TL is similar to the size at maturity for this species [Mackie et al. 2003] which provides resilience to fishing pressure and means the spawning stock is essentially the same as the exploited stock. Thus, the weight of evidence assessment concluded the current management settings are maintaining risk to the stock at acceptable, medium levels. 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 Mackerel Managed Fishery (Western Australia) management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

Toggle content


Spanish Mackerel biology [McPherson 1992, McPherson 1993, QDAFF 2013]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Spanish Mackerel 26 years, 2400 mm FL ~2 years, 800 mm FL 
Toggle content


Distribution of reported commercial catch of Spanish Mackerel
Toggle content


Fishing methods
Western Australia
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Western Australia
Size limit
Spatial closures
Spatial zoning
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Laws of general application apply
Bag limits
Possession limit
Size limit
Spatial closures
Western Australia
Commercial 283.00t in MMF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 44 t (+/- 5 t se, 2015–16)
Mackerel Managed Fishery (WA)

Commonwealth and Queensland – The reporting period for the Commonwealth (Torres Strait Spanish Mackerel Fishery) and Queensland (East coast [Queensland]) is the 2016–17 financial year.

Commonwealth – Commercial (active vessels) Total number of TIB licences; this is not an indicator of licence activity.

Commonwealth – Recreational The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing, including charter fishing, in Commonwealth waters. Recreational and charter fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations.

Commonwealth – Indigenous (a) 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. In the Torres Strait, both commercial and non-commercial Indigenous fishing is managed by the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) through the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (Commonwealth); the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Queensland); and the Torres Strait Regional Authority. The PZJA also manages non-Indigenous commercial fishing in the Torres Strait; and (b) Subject to the defence that applies under Section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by Indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.

Western Australia – Recreational (catch) Western Australian boat-based recreational catch from 1 May 2015–30 April 2016. Shore-based recreational catches are largely unknown.

Western Australia – Recreational (Management Methods) Western Australian boat-based recreational licence required.

Western Australia – Charter (catch) is an estimate based on numbers of fish caught multiplied by their average weight.

Northern Territory — Charter (management methods) In the Northern Territory, charter operators are regulated through the same management methods as the recreational sector but are subject to additional limits on license and passenger numbers.

Northern Territory – Indigenous (management methods) The Fisheries Act 1988 (NT), specifies that “…without derogating from any other law in force in the Territory, nothing in a provision of this Act or an instrument of a judicial or administrative character made under it limits the right of Aboriginals who have traditionally used the resources of an area of land or water in a traditional manner from continuing to use those resources in that area in that manner”.

Queensland – Recreational (catch) Survey of Queensland residents only from August 2013–October 2014 [Webley et al. 2015].

Queensland – Indigenous Under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are entitled to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.

New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Estimated from West et al. 2015 (5 283 fish retained by NSW residents) and average weight [NSWDPI Unpublished data].

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; (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.

Toggle content

Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Spanish Mackerel - note confidential catch not shown
Toggle content


  1. Begg, GA, Chen, CM, O’Neill, MF and Rose, DB 2006, Stock assessment of the Torres Strait Spanish Mackerel Fishery, technical report 66, CRC Reef Research Centre, Townsville.
  2. Buckworth, R, Newman, S, Ovenden, J, Lester, R and McPherson, G 2007, The stock structure of northern and western Australian Spanish Mackerel, Fishery report 88, final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project 1998/159, Fisheries Group, Northern Territory Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, Darwin.
  3. Gaughan, DJ and Santoro, K (eds) 2018, Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 2016/17: The State of the Fisheries. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia.
  4. Grubert, M, Saunders, T, Martin, J, Lee, H and Walters, C 2013, Stock assessments of selected Northern Territory fishes, Fishery report 110, Northern Territory Government, Darwin.
  5. Lester, RJG, Thompson, C, Moss, H and Barker, SC 2001, Movement and stock structure of narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel as indicated by parasites, Journal of Fish Biology, 59: 833–842.
  6. Mackie, M, Gaughan, DJ and Buckworth, RC 2003, Stock assessment of narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) in Western Australia, final report, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 1999/151, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  7. Marton, N, Williams, A and Mazur, K 2017, Torres Strait Finfish Fishery, in H Patterson, R Noreiga, L Georgeson, J Larcombe and R Curtotti (eds), Fishery status reports 2017, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra, 305–315.
  8. McPherson, GR 1992, Age and growth of the narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson Lacepede, 1800) in north-eastern Queensland waters, Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 43: 1269–1282.
  9. McPherson, GR 1993, Reproductive biology of the narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson Lacepede, 1800) in Queensland waters, Asian Fisheries Science, 6: 169–182.
  10. Moore, BR, Buckworth, RC, Moss, H and Lester, RJG 2003, Stock discrimination and movements of narrow-barred Spanish Mackerel across northern Australia as indicated by parasites, Journal of Fish Biology, 63: 765–779.
  11. Northern Territory Government (NTG) 2018, Status of Key Northern Territory Fish Stocks Report 2016, Northern Territory Government, Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Fishery Report No. 119.
  12. O’Neill, MF and Tobin, A (unpublished), Torres Strait Spanish mackerel stock assessment II, 2015. Torres Strait AFMA Project Number: RR2014/0823, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland Government.
  13. O’Neill, MF, Langstreth, JC, and Buckley, SM 2018. Stock assessment of Australian east coast Spanish mackerel: predictions of stock status and reference points. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane. 107 pp.
  14. Ovenden, JR and Street, R 2007, Genetic population structure of Spanish Mackerel, in R Buckworth, S Newman, JR Ovenden, RJ Lester and G McPherson (eds), The stock structure of Northern and Western Australian Spanish Mackerel, Fishery report 88, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project 98/159, Northern Territory Government, Darwin.
  15. Pearce, A, Lenanton, R, Jackson, G, Moore, J, Feng, M and Gaughan, D 2011, The ‘marine heat wave’ off Western Australia during the summer of 2010/11, Fisheries research report 222, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  16. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2018, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop Proceedings 2018. Species Summaries. 19–20 June 2018, Brisbane.
  17. Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 2013, Stock status of Queensland’s fisheries resources 2012, Queensland DAFF, Brisbane.
  18. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM, Wise, BS 2017, State-wide survey of boat based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2015/16, Fisheries Research Report 287, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia.
  19. Sainsbury, K 2008, Best practice reference points for Australian Fisheries. Australian Fisheries Management Authority Report R2001/0999, 169pp.
  20. Stewart, J, Hegarty, A, Young, C, Fowler, AM and Craig, J 2015, Status of Fisheries Resources in NSW 2013–14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman: 391pp.
  21. Tobin A, Currey L and Simpfendorfer, C 2013, Informing the vulnerability of species to spawning aggregation fishing using commercial catch data, Fisheries Research, 143: 47–56.
  22. Tobin, A, Heupel, M, Simpfendorfer, C, Buckley, S, Thurstan, R and Pandolfi, J 2014, Utilising innovative technology to better understand Spanish Mackerel spawning aggregations and the protection offered by Marine Protected Areas, Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville.
  23. Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A, Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  24. West, LD, 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.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.