Scad, Horse Mackerel

Trachurus trachurus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All applicable methods
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail — I-IX
Picture of Scad, Horse Mackerel

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

The stock status of scad or horse mackerel is unknown. There is a Total Allowable Catch for the species, but this is not consistent with scientific advice. Despite calls to develop a management plan for the species there are no specific management objectives for it. Stock assessment and management objectives for the species are required before the fishery can be proven to be sustainable.


Horse mackerel or scad belongs to a group of fish known as Carangidae. Adults are pelagic and form large schools in coastal areas with sandy substrate, usually in depths of 100-200 m, but reported to 500 m. Often shoals with juvenile herring. The Atlantic horse mackerel can be found in the north-eastern Atlantic from Iceland to Senegal, including the Cape Verde islands, and also in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Can attain a maximum length of 70 cm, but more commonly 22cm, with a maximum published weight of 2 kg. Matures at a length of around 24 cm (range 21 to 30 cm). Spawning takes place in summer in the North Sea, and earlier to the south of Biscay. Scad horse mackerel are batch spawners. Females lay 140,000 eggs, which hatch into 5 mm long larvae. Eggs are pelagic. They feed on fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

Stock information

Stock Area

All Areas

Stock information

There are two main populations: a Western and a North Sea stock. The Western stock spawns in a belt from Biscay to Ireland in early spring, migrates north and eastwards to southern Norway and northern North Sea. The North Sea stock spawns in the southern North Sea in summer, migrates to central North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat. The development of the fishery exploiting western horse mackerel has been supported by an extraordinary strong year class produced in 1982. The stock status of scad or horse mackerel is unknown. However, current fishing pressure, although elevated, does not appear to have altered the age structure of the stock.


Capture Information

Scad was mainly landed as bycatch in small mesh industrial fisheries, but is now starting to be taken in directed fisheries for human consumption. Caught commercially with trawls, longlines, purse seines (using light) and traps. Trawling with heavy gears is thought to have a major impact on the sea bottom, altering and degrading marine habitats and possibly causing loss of species diversity.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Anchovy, anchovies
Arctic char
Herring or sild
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin