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Amy Kumler
Plump, meaty, mild-tasting Atlantic mackerel give us a flavorful way to eat lower on the ocean food chain and ease pressure on apex predators like tuna and swordfish. Choosing these small, schooling fish also lets us avoid high levels of mercury and other toxins found in larger fish. Some call them bait. We call them delicious.

Atlantic Mackerel

Atlantic mackerel are caught by hook and line to minimize bycatch and maximize quality, while supporting a community of traditional small-boat fishermen in Santoña, Spain.

Every spring, the fish migrate through the Bay of Biscay in a silvery rush. Family boats set out at dawn to cast their lines into massive schools of mackerel, and fish until they’ve caught the day’s supply. From dockside auctions, the mackerel are shipped on ice along the coast to our packers, Perez Lafuente, a fifth-generation company that specializes in responsibly harvested seafood.

The Red Thread

To catch Atlantic mackerel, Santoña’s fishermen use anzuelos, individual lines with up to 30 hooks wrapped with red wool, which resemble the tiny crustaceans mackerels love—meaning live bait isn’t necessary and is left to feed other fish. Because the schools of mackerel are so large, and because each fish must bite the line to be caught, the anzuelo ensures that there isn’t a lot of bycatch, unlike with trawlers or purse seine nets. Nothing is caught by mistake, whereas nets scoop up everything. Catching by hook and line translates to better quality, too, since the fish are released gently into bins rather than being crushed at the bottom of a net.