Grey Mullet

Chelon labrosus and other species

Thick lipped Grey mullet

Image | Sarah McCartney, copyright Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Description

Mullet are plump silvery fish with large scales and flat wide mouths. There are three main species found in Cornish waters which can be hard to identify. They prefer coastal and estuarine habitats and can often be seen swimming lazily close to the surface in harbours and marinas.


Sustainability Overview

Grey mullet are slow growing and late to mature, little is known about stocks around the Cornish coast although they can be abundant in some areas, (particularly estuaries). Mullet are difficult to catch on rod and line and are becoming more important for recreational angling. Traditional beach seining targets mullet and is a low impact method but occasionally will result in large catches flooding markets, resulting in prices falling. 

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When is best to eat?

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Gill Netting

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish Ports

Gill nets are used to target mullet in coastal areas.

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Beach Seine Netting

Cornish waters

Beach seine netting is a traditional technique carried out in sandy bays all around Cornwall by teams of fishermen working from small boats.

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How we rate fish

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Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.

Sustainability Overview

Grey mullet are slow growing and late to mature, little is known about stocks around the Cornish coast although they can be abundant in some areas, (particularly estuaries). Mullet are difficult to catch on rod and line and are becoming more important for recreational angling. Traditional beach seining targets mullet and is a low impact method but occasionally will result in large catches flooding markets, resulting in prices falling. 

Thick lipped Grey mullet

Biology

In Cornwall we have 3 common species of mullet – Thick lipped grey mullet Chelon labrosus, thin-lipped grey mullet Liza ramada and golden grey mullet Liza auratus, all are grouped together as Grey mullet for the purpose of this guide.
Grey mullet belong to a large family, which comprises some 80 species of marine fish, known as Muglidae, and is a common inhabitant of marine coastal waters in Europe. The thick-lipped grey mullet is the commonest of three species which occur in northern European waters. Mullet are intellegent fish which are capable of swimming very fast. They feed on algae and invertebrates and are often seen in harbours on calm days, swimming along with their noses out of the water skimming oils from the surface. They have small mouths and soft lips and are difficult to catch as they rarely go for large prey items. Anglers fishing for mullet often use tiny hooks baited with bread or maggots. Mullet are wiley and river anglers report that you have to hide behind bushes or the mullet will see you and won't take your bait! They are slow-growing, long-lived and late-maturing fish. Maximum length 75cm, weight 4.5kg and a reported age of up to 25 years. Maturity occurs at about 9 years (42 cm) for males and 11 years (47cm) for females. Only a proportion of the stock is believed to breed in any year. Thicklipped mullet are thought to spawn on alternate years. Their biological vulnerability is relatively high 63% (Cheung et all 2005) making them vulnerable to over fishing. Mullet are known to aggregate to spawn in shoals between January and April. 
 

Stock Info

Grey mullet are thought to be relatively abundant in Cornish waters and are one of the few species of marine fish that are regularly seen by people due to their inshore and estuarine habitat. Landings of Grey mullet to Cornish ports has increased in last few years from below 5 tones in 2003 to 25 tonnes in 2012, but since then the catches have declined (MMO data). Stock status is unknown as there is no formal stock assessment and no evaluation of stocks by ICES in the north east Atlantic. Anecdotal evidence from long-standing members of the National Mullet Club (NMC) is that mullet stocks have declined in many areas and members often have to travel further to obtain reasonable levels of sport. NMC catch statistics suggest mullet stocks are in gradual long-term decline and do not benefit from adequate protection at present. It is a non-pressure or unprotected species, i.e. not subject to quota or other restrictions. 

Management

Grey mullet are a non-pressure or unprotected species, i.e. not subject to quota or other restrictions. There is no EU or national Minimum Landing Size (MLS). Where Inshore Fishery Conservation Associations (IFCAs) set local MLSs for grey mullet these are typically 30 cm but in Cornwall minimum landing size is 20cm. 
 

Capture Info

Mullet are caught by anglers on hook and line, by spearfishermen and commercially they are caught by beach seine nets and gill nets. The National Mullet Club report that off the Manacles (on the Lizard Peninsula) mullet have been caught by fishermen using a technique called ripping where fish are foul hooked deliberately by fishermen drawing feathers through large shoals of mullet that are aggregating to spawn. Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority report that as far as they are aware this is not a method that is being used at present. 

 

References

Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111 (source www.fishbase.org)

www.fishonline.org

MMO landings data

Sustainable alternative recipies

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