Population structure and dynamics of the Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) in the North Atlantic inferred from otolith chemical and shape signatures

A. Moura, A. A. Muniz, E. Mullis, J. M. Wilson, R. P. Vieira, A. A. Almeida, E. Pinto, G. J.A. Brummer, P. V. Gaever, J. M.S. Gonçalves, A. T. Correia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Atlantic mackerel, Scomber scombrus, is an economically important and widely distributed fish species in the North Atlantic, currently considered to comprise two stocks: the North-West Atlantic (NWA) and the North-East Atlantic (NEA). Each stock is composed of different spawning components which involve temporal and spatial movements driven by the environment. Thus, resolving the species population structure and dynamics presents a challenge to scientists. In this study, the stock structure of S. scombrus was evaluated using otolith shape and chemical signatures. One hundred and eighty individuals of the same cohort (age 3), caught between January and February of 2018 from six key locations in the North Atlantic, were used. Individuals were collected from the two spawning components in the NWA stock, the Canadian Northern component (NWA-N) and the US Southern component (NWA-S); and from the three spawning components in the NEA stock, the North Sea (NEA-NS), the Western (NEA-W) and the Southern components (NEA-S), plus, an overlapping area of these last two components, the Bay of Biscay (NEA-BB). Combined otolith signatures fully discriminated the NEA and NWA stocks (100% of reclassification success, indicates distinct population-units) and discriminated the components within each stock with high reclassification percentages (100% and 68% for the overall reclassification of the NWA and NEA components, respectively). These data suggest that NWA stock should be regard as two distinct population-units for fisheries management purposes, confirms the complex metapopulational structure of the NEA stock, and calls for the need of continuous evaluation of these complex stocks in order to achieve a sustainable exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105621
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFisheries Research
Early online date22 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


The authors would like to thank Paulo Castro (IPMA), Pablo Presa (Universidade de Vigo), and Roland Hagan (Rutgers University) for fish acquisition, and to Cláudia Moreira (CIIMAR) for all assistance thorough the work. This research was supported by the NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000035 (MARINFO) and by national funds through FCT - Foundation for Science and Technology within the scope of UIDB/04423/2020 and UIDP/04423/2020 .

FundersFunder number
Paulo Castro
Roland Hagan
Rutgers, The State University of New JerseyNORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000035
Fundação para a Ciência e a TecnologiaUIDB/04423/2020, UIDP/04423/2020
Universidade de Vigo


    • Fisheries
    • Natural tags
    • Sagittae
    • Scombridae
    • Stock delineation


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