Chilean Jack Mackerel
What is Chirimaaji (Chilean Jack Mackerel)?
Since the 1970s, the Chilean jack mackerel (chirimaaji) developed into one of the most important commercial fish species in the world. It is closely related to the Japanese horse mackerel (maaji), so this species is also considered by the Japanese as “real or genuine mackerel” and therefore has the name “Chilean genuine mackerel“ (chiri-ma-aji) in Japanese.
Chirimaaji as Ingredient for Sushi or Sashimi
The meat is very tender, cloudy white to light pink and fatty, regardless of its freshness [Miyamoto, 2021]. Especially fresh specimens have a more subtle taste. Besides being prepared as sushi or sashimi, it is a more popular dish when grilled or otherwise cooked. Mackerel in generall (aji) is very popular in Japan and considered as particularly healthy because of its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. Chirimaaji sushi is usually served with freshly grated ginger and Japanese bunching onion.
This fish is more common as a sushi ingredient in inexpensive sushi restaurants. Within Japan or in upscale sushi restaurants, preference is given to the Japanese horse mackerel or the Atlantic horse mackerel (nishimaaji).
In the 1990s, Chilean jack mackerel (chirimaaji) played an important role in surimi production, but due to declining catches and changing economic conditions, it has become less important [Park, 2013].
Characteristics & Ecology of Chirimaaji (Chilean Jack Mackerel)
Chilean jack mackerel (chirimaaji) are schooling fish that can be found on coasts as well as in the open ocean. They usually swim in depths between 10 and 70 m, occasionally they can reach depths of up to 300 m. Their distribution extends from the South Pacific over the southwest Atlantic to the eastern Central and South Pacific. They feed mainly on fish larvae and small crustaceans. This species can live up to 16 years. As for themselves, they serve as a source of food for tuna and swordfish. For industrial aquaculture they are often processed into fish meal and used as feed.
As a migratory species, they migrate north in the summer months and return south when the sea temperature begins to fall. The northern stock spawns in summer, while the southern stock has its main spawning season in November to January. They are caught using trawls, longlines, purse seines, pots and netting.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Statistics, the total catch of Chilean jack mackerel (chirimaaji) in 2017 was 544 803 tonnes worldwide, making it the most heavily fished representative of its species. The Japanese horse mackerel (maaji), on the other hand, accounts for a total catch of 211 459 tonnes.
Distribution Area of Chirimaaji
Source: Kaschner, K., Kesner-Reyes, K., Garilao, C., Segschneider, J., Rius-Barile, J. Rees, T., & Froese, R. (2019, October). AquaMaps: Predicted range maps for aquatic species. Retrieved from https://www.aquamaps.org. Scarponi, P., G. Coro, and P. Pagano. A collection of Aquamaps native layers in NetCDF format. Data in brief 17 (2018): 292-296.
Warnings Regarding Chirimaaji Sushi or Sashimi
- SCOMBROTOXIN: The naturally have high levels of enzymes causes the meat to let it rot quickly. It is therefore essential to maintain an appropriate cold chain until prompt processing. Histamine is not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures, so even properly cooked fish can still result in poisoning. [FDA, 2020]
- PARASITES: The meat, especially that of wild-caught specimens, may be infested with parasites that cause infectious diseases. Infection can be avoided if the raw meat has been adequately frozen. Pickling and soaking in salt or vinegar solution is not sufficient to eliminate the parasites. If the product has been farmed, only raw unprocessed seafood from production facilities whose products are approved for raw consumption should be consumed. [FDA, 2020]
Species of Chirimaaji
The following species are regarded as authentic. Either historically, according to the area of distribution or according to the common practice in today's gastronomy:
Common Names, Scientific Name
Chilean jack mackerel, Inca scad, Oceanic Peruvian jack mackerel
References & Further Reading
- [FAO 2019]: Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics, Statistiques des pêches et de l’aquaculture, Estadísticas de pesca y acuicultura 2017. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. 2019.
- [Froese & Daniel, 2019]: Rainer Froese, Pauly Daniel. FishBase. The Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel, FishBase.org. 2019. https://www.fishbase.org. Retrieved online on December 24, 2020.
- [Miyamoto, 2021]: Kenichi Miyamoto. チリマアジ Murphy's mackerel. fishguide.co.nz. http://www.fishguide.co.nz/fishguide/saltwater/saltwater_webpage/untitled/Aji_ka/ChiliMaaji.htm. Retrieved online on December 27, 2021.
- [Park, 2013]: Jae W. Park. Surimi and Surimi Seafood. CRC Press, Boca Raton. 2013.