THEY were once so plentiful they were practically jumping out of the sea and could be caught by everyone from seasoned anglers to the youngest novice…
But now, mackerel – once as synonymous with the summer as St Ouen sunsets and lobster-pink skin – have declined so much that the UK Marine Conservation Society has placed them on its amber watchlist, deeming them to be ‘no longer a sustainable choice’.
They had been on the organisation’s green list since at least 2011.
Good Fish Guide manager Charlotte Coombes said that populations of mackerel had previously been large enough to withstand commercial fishing, but had been in ‘steady decline’ in recent years.
‘An amber rating means that improvements are needed – in this case, better management to end overfishing of the stock,’ she added.
‘Removing too much of this key species could have wider environmental impacts. In a warming climate, our ocean is already facing significant challenges. These kinds of changes to delicate food webs are an unwanted additional pressure.’
Over-fishing is believed to be the main cause of the decline but other reasons include the fact that fewer young mackerel seem to be surviving to adulthood. This could be because of warming sea temperatures, less available food and disease.
Mick Ward, who runs the Mr Fish tackle shop at First Tower, said last year had been ‘terrible’ for mackerel and that the species seemed to be in decline.
‘It’s still a bit early to know what this season is going to be like,’ he added, although he admitted that stocks did not appear to be as abundant as they had been in recent years.
‘They used to be jumping out at the beaches in Grouville. There’s not as many to catch as there were a few years ago,’ he acknowledged.
He added that it was difficult to know what could be causing the drop in stocks and cited overfishing and migration, triggered by global warming, as possible factors.
‘Sea temperatures or something might have changed,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to tell.’