Nature Life: Mackerel Fish And Nature
By Obiabin Onukwugha
Mackerel, (Scomber scombrus), is any of a number of swift-moving, streamlined food and sport fishes found in temperate and tropical seas around the world, allied to tunas in the family Scombridae (order Perciformes).
They are carnivorous fishes and feed on plankton, crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs, and small fish. They congregate in schools and swim actively in the upper 25–30 fathoms of the water in the warmer months and then descend to as deep as 100 fathoms during the winter. They spawn during the spring and early summer along coastlines.
Researchers say mackerel spends the warmer months close to shore and near the ocean surface, appearing along the coast in spring and departing with the arrival of colder weather in the fall and winter months. During the fall and winter, it migrates out into deeper and more southern water, seeking warmer temperatures.
The maximum published weight of mackerel fish is 3.4 kg (7.5 lb).
Reproduction in mackerel is oviparous and occurs near the shore in the spring and summer, during which a female can produce as many as 450,000 eggs. Juveniles mackerels reach sexual maturity at around 2 years of age. Mackerel can live up to 17 years if not caught.
Mackerels are considered some of the most nutritious fishes. They are an excellent source of protein, vitamins B2, B3, B6, and B12, and vitamin D. Their flesh is also full of minerals like copper, selenium, and iodine. Some species also contain good amounts of iron and vitamin B1.
Reports say nearly 1 million tonnes of Atlantic mackerel are caught each year globally, the bulk of which is sold fresh, frozen, smoked, or canned.
However, despite its highly commercial status, the Atlantic mackerel is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and global catch has remained sustainable.
The Role of Mackerel in Maritime Superstitions and Beliefs
Mackerel has long been intertwined with maritime superstitions and beliefs. From ancient seafaring cultures to modern-day fishermen, the mackerel has held a significant place in the lore and legends of the sea.
Its presence has been associated with a myriad of superstitions, omens, and predictions, shaping the beliefs and practices of sailors and fishermen for centuries.
The allure of the mackerel lies not only in its abundance and importance as a food source but also in the mysterious and often unpredictable nature of the sea itself.
Throughout history, sailors and fishermen have attributed special significance to the appearance and behavior of mackerel, believing that it holds the power to foretell the weather, influence the success of fishing expeditions, and even serve as a symbol of good or ill fortune at sea.
Mackerel has been a symbol of abundance, fertility, and prosperity in many ancient cultures. The mackerel’s presence in the waters is often linked to the bountiful harvests and the sustenance it provided to communities, leading to its symbolic association with abundance and nourishment.
However, not all historical superstitions surrounding mackerel were positive. In some maritime communities, mackerel is associated with bad luck and is believed to bring misfortune to those who encountered it.
Some fishermen avoid mentioning the fish by name while at sea, fearing that speaking its name would invite calamity.
Additionally, there were superstitions that linked the appearance of mackerel with impending storms or dangerous sea conditions, leading sailors to view the fish with apprehension.