School Mackerel (2018)

Scomberomorus queenslandicus

  • Lenore Litherland (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Paul Lewis (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Grant Johnson (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)
  • Julian Hughes (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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School Mackerel occurs in continental shelf waters across the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. One biological stock is sustainable, two are undefined and one is negligible.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Western Australia Northern Australia MMF Negligible Catch, Effort, Current and historical fishing pressure
Mackerel Managed Fishery (WA)
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Stock Structure

School Mackerel occur in continental shelf waters, often associated with coastal embayments, across the northern and eastern coasts of Australia [Collette and Russo 1984]. Concurrent spawning of fish in geographically dispersed locations may indicate reproductive isolation. In addition, hydrological conditions within embayments may reduce mixing of pelagic eggs and larvae along the coastline. These characteristics result in a complex stock structure for school mackerel [Begg et al. 1997, Begg et al. 1998a,b, Begg and Sellin 1998]. Off the east Australian coast, genetic dissimilarity, restricted movement patterns, concurrent spawning at multiple locations, regional difference in growth and otolith composition indicate the presence of at least two stocks between 16°S and 28°S [Begg et al. 1997, Begg et al. 1998a,b, Begg and Sellin 1998]. East coast stocks are considered to occupy the following latitudinal ranges: North Eastern Australia (19°30’S and 14°00’S); Central Eastern Australia (20°30’S to 19°30’S); and South Eastern Australia (28°00’S to 20°30’S);

Here, the assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Northern Australia, North Eastern Australia, Central Eastern Australia and South Eastern Australia.

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Stock Status

Northern Australia

Stock status for the Northern Australia biological stock is reported as Negligible due to historically low catches across all jurisdictions, and because the stock has generally not been subject to targeted fishing. School Mackerel is broadly distributed across northern Australia with components occurring in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland [Begg et al. 1998a]. However, School Mackerel is not a major component of commercial or recreational landings. The Western Australian Mackerel Managed Fishery predominantly targets Spanish Mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson) with gear, and in locations, not conducive to catching School Mackerel. The Western Australian commercial and charter boat catches in 2008–17 averaged less than 0.3 tonnes (t) and 0.5 t per annum respectively. School mackerel is not a major component of Western Australia recreational landings, with an estimated retained catch of 4 t (± 1 t se) in 2015–16 [Ryan et al. 2017]. In the Northern Territory the recreational catch is < 1 t [West et al. 2012] and the commercial catch has averaged 50 kg per year over the last 10 years, with a maximum harvest of 239 kg in 2017. In Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria waters there is limited recreational catch and commercial catches have been < 0.3 t for the last three years [QDAF 2018, Webley et al. 2015]. This low level of fishing is unlikely to be having a negative impact on the stock.

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School Mackerel biology [Begg 1996, Begg 1998, Begg and Hopper 1997, Begg and Sellin 1998, Begg et al. 1998a, Collette and Russo 1984, Munro 1943, QDAF 2018]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
School Mackerel 10 years, 1 180 mm TL, 11.2 kg Females 1–2 years, 60–510 mm TL Males 1–2 years, 410–460 mm TL
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of School Mackerel
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Queensland – recreational (catch) Estimated from Webley et al. 2015 (22 000 fish retained by QLD residents) and an average weight of 2 kg.

Queensland - Indigenous (Management Methods) In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994, Indigenous fishers are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and bag limits and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations can be obtained through permits

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.

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  1. Begg, G 1996, Species coexistence, stock structure and fisheries management of School (Scomberomorus queenslandicus) and Spotted mackerel (S. munroi) in Queensland east coast waters. Doctoral Thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
  2. Begg, GA 1998, Reproductive biology of school mackerel (Scomberomorus queenslandicus) and spotted mackerel (S. munroi) in Queensland east-coast waters', Marine and Freshwater Research, 49(3): 261–270.
  3. Begg, GA and Hopper, GA 1997, Feeding patterns of school mackerel (Scomberomorus queenslandicus) and spotted mackerel (S. munroi) in Queensland east-coast waters', Marine and Freshwater Research, 48(7): 565–571.
  4. Begg, GA and Sellin, MJ 1998, Age and growth of school mackerel (Scomberomorus queenslandicus) and spotted mackerel (S. munroi) in Queensland east-coast waters with implications for stock structure, Marine and Freshwater Research, 49(2): 109–120.
  5. Begg, GA, Cameron, DS and Sawynok, W 1997, Movements and stock structure of school mackerel (Scomberomorus queenslandicus) and spotted mackerel (S. munroi) in Australian east-coast waters, Marine and Freshwater Research, 48(4): 295–301.
  6. Begg, GA, Cappo, M, Cameron, DS, Boyle, S, and Sellin, MJ 1998, Stock discrimination of school mackerel, Scomberomorus queenslandicus, and spotted mackerel, Scomberomorus munroi, in coastal waters of eastern Australia by analysis of minor and trace elements in whole otoliths, Fishery Bulletin, 96(4): 653–666.
  7. Begg, GA, Keenan, CP and Sellin, MJ 1998, Genetic variation and stock structure of school mackerel and spotted mackerel in northern Australian waters, Journal of Fish Biology, 53(3): 543–559.
  8. Collette, BB and Russo, JL 1984, Morphology, systematics, and biology of the Spanish mackerels (Scomberomorus, Scombridae), Fishery Bulletin, 82: 545–689.
  9. Munro, ISR 1943, Revision of Australian species of Scomberomorus, Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, vol. 12, pp. 65–95.
  10. Punt, AE, Butterworth, DS and Penney, AJ 1995, Stock assessment and risk analysis for the South Atlantic population of albacore Thunnus alalunga using an age structured production model’ South African Journal of Marine Science, 16(1): 287–310.
  11. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2018, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop Proceedings 2018. Species Summaries. 19–20 June 2018, Brisbane.
  12. Ryan, KL, Hall, NG, Lai, EK, Smallwood, CB, Taylor, SM and 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. 
  13. Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira, D, Lawson, A and Quin, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013-2014. Fisheries Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  14. West, LD, Lyle, JM, Matthews, SR, Stark, KE and Steffe, AS 2012, Survey of Recreational Fishing in the Northern Territory, 2009–.10. Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries. Darwin
  15. West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle, JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013–14, Fisheries final report series 149, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.

Downloadable reports

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