skip to content
Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Mackerel management

Spanish mackerel is targeted by commercial and recreational fishers in Western Australia. We manage both sectors together to ensure long-term sustainability of the species.

The mackerel fishery operates from just east of Augusta to the Northern Territory border.

We manage recreational fishing through bag, size and possession limits. In addition, fishers using a powered boat require a Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence (RFBL).

In the commercial sector, mackerel catches are managed separately for three areas: Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne/West Coast. Most ‘effort’ (the amount of fishing) and catches are recorded north of Geraldton.

We manage commercial fishing through an individual transferable quota (ITQ) system, which sets a total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for each area. Gear restrictions also apply.

In 2012, the fishery was transferred to full management from interim management after extensive consultation with permit holders and the WA Fishing Industry Council. The move strengthened access rights for commercial fishers and streamlined management arrangements for the fishery.

Monitoring, assessment and research

In the commercial fishing sector, a vessel monitoring system is used to monitor the amount of fishing activity. Skippers of licensed boats must also submit log books and catch and disposal records. Catch and effort and quota usage in the fishery are monitored through these records. In 2011, the total Spanish mackerel catch was well within the TACC.

Commercial Spanish mackerel catch 2011
Region Target catch (TACC) Actual catch​
​Gascoyne/West Coast ​56-79 tonnes ​47 tonnes
​Kimberley ​110-205 tonnes ​183 tonnes
​Pilbara 80–126 tonnes​ 55 tonnes​
​Statewide ​246–410 tonnes ​284 tonnes


For Spanish mackerel, catch rates across the major areas of the fishery are used as a general indicator of breeding stock levels, which have been classified as adequate. The level of fishing effort on the species is considered acceptable.
Spanish mackerel is used as an ‘indicator species’ in the West Coast Bioregion (from approximately Augusta to Kalbarri) and also in the Gascoyne Coast and North Coast bioregions.
As an indicator species, the status of its breeding stock is used to indicate the stock status of all offshore pelagic (surface-dwelling) fish in each of those regions.
WA Spanish mackerel fishery status 2011
​Location Breeding stock level ​
 Amount of fishing (effort)
​Statewide  Adequate​
There is no recent catch and effort data for the recreational sector. In 2011, anecdotal reports from recreational fishers indicated a higher than usual abundance of Spanish mackerel in the lower West Coast Bioregion
This was thought to be associated with a record marine heatwave during this period. New catch and effort estimates will be available in 2013, following a Statewide survey of recreational boat fishers.
Reported annual catches of Spanish mackerel by recreational charter boats are relatively small.


Last modified: 21/06/2013 11:56 AM

© All contents copyright Government of Western Australia. All rights reserved. ABN: 18 951 343 745


© This work is copyright. You may display, print or reproduce this material only in an unaltered format for your personal or non-commercial use, or for use within your organisation. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved.


The information and advice provided by the Department of Fisheries website is made in good faith and is from sources believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of release onto the website. Changes in circumstances after a document is placed on the website may affect the accuracy of the information. Full disclaimer details are available at