Pseudocollapse and rebuilding of North Sea mackerel (Scomber scombrus)

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The largest observed change in mackerel (Scomber scombrus) abundance in the North Atlantic happened when the so-called “North Sea mackerel” collapsed due to overfishing. Despite protection, it has remained in a depleted state. Central to this interpretation was that the “North Sea mackerel” was considered to be a distinct spawning component. However, a recent study has shown that this is not likely. In the light of this study, a review of the history of mackerel spawning in the North Sea found that the traditional explanation of the collapse did not account for a range of unfavourable environmental changes: high fishing pressure was followed by decreasing temperatures that reduced the spawning migration into the North Sea. This was further supplemented by unfavourable changes in food and windinduced turbulence. On the population level, this was, therefore, not a local stock collapse, but a southwest shift in spawning distribution combined with a reduction in that portion of the population cline with an affinity for spawning in the northeastern part of the spawning
area, including the North Sea. No indication of irreversible genetic or behavioural losses caused by the events was found. The previously unexplained lack of rebuilding of spawning in the North Sea consequently seems related to two environmental factors that have remained unfavourable: (i) zooplankton concentration, and (ii) wind-induced turbulence. Furthermore, the large commercial autumn–winter fishery in the North Sea continues to land unknown quantities of mackerel that have an affinity for spawning in the northeastern part
of the spawning area, including the North Sea
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)299-307
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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