Striped red mullet

Mullus surmuletus

Striped red mullet

Image | by Sarah McCartney, Copywrite Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Description

Red mullet is a regular summer visitor to south west coasts of the UK and is caught near to shore by netters. Red mullet has a unique texture somewhere between white and oily fish. Its high fat content adds a richness to it's flavour. It's liver is considered a delicacy. It has all the healthy eating attributes of white fish: high in protein and vitamin rich and also has the health benefits of being a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Red mullet are very delicate and must be put straight onto ice as their quality deteriorates quickly. For best freshness source direct from a fisherman or specialist fish seller. 


Sustainability Overview

Red mullet make up a small, but high value part of the Cornish fishing industry's landings. Red mullet stocks are not well studied in our area however across the EU ICES are concerned that they are being over fished and advised a reduction in catches of 20% for the Western area. The stocks are not protected by quotas but in Cornwall are protected by a minimum landing size of 15cm. Red mullet are caught using specialised red mullet nets in coastal waters and are also caught in Cornish trawl fisheries.

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Beam Trawling

Cornish boats landing to Cornish ports

Beam trawls are nets with a steel beam that holds the net open. The belly of the net is made of chains and the upper surface of the net is mesh. Beam trawlers pull two nets along the seabed simultaneously.

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Gill Netting

Cornish boats landing to Cornish ports

Gill nets are lightweight nets made of nylon (monofilament) fishing line that are anchored to the seabed and are used to catch fish by entangling the gills.

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Demersal Trawl

Cornish boats landing to Cornish ports

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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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

Red mullet make up a small, but high value part of the Cornish fishing industry's landings. Red mullet stocks are not well studied in our area however across the EU ICES are concerned that they are being over fished and advised a reduction in catches of 20% for the Western area. The stocks are not protected by quotas but in Cornwall are protected by a minimum landing size of 15cm. Red mullet are caught using specialised red mullet nets in coastal waters and are also caught in Cornish trawl fisheries.

Striped red mullet

Biology

Red mullet are warm water fish that are related to the tropical goat fish. They feed on worms and crustaceans which they find by rooting around with a highly sensory pair of whisker like barbels, in muddy and sandy seabeds. Red mullet mature at 2 years old and at a length of 16cm. Maximum length is 45 cm.  Juveniles are found inshore and in estuaries whilst adults are found in deeper water. In the English channel they spawn between May and July. Biological vulnerability score 39/100 Cheung et al 2005.

Stock Info

Red mullet stocks are not well studied in our waters but there is no local evidence to suggest that stocks are declining. Red mullet are a warm water species that moves into our waters in the summer months.   Due to a lack of evidence and taking a precautionary approach ICES advises that catches should decrease by 20% in relation to the average catch of the last three years, corresponding to catches of no more than 2000 t in 2015. CEFAS list Red mullet as a species that is currently underutilized and having potential for increased fishing effort in its report (Catchpole 2011) Identifying under-utilized species.

Management

There is no restriction on red mullet catch. They are a non-quota species but red mullet catches to Cornwall are very small, at 20- 50 tonnes per year, compared to total EU landings of 2000 tonnes. Minimum landing size for red mullet in Cornish waters is 15cm. There is no EU minimum landing size. Red mullet netting is controlled by EU regulations which state that the catch must be 70% of the target species (red mullet). Mesh size between 70 and 90mm is prohibited in Cornish waters (Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, CIFCA). A red mullet netting code of practice has been developed to ensure that red mullet netting in Cornish waters is carried out responsibly, and CIFCA report that the level of red mullet netting has decreased in recent years, and the majority of fishermen using red mullet nets are abiding by the code of practice (CIFCA 2011). CIFCA provide support for fishermen in terms of checking gear and providing advice on legislation and they feel that this sector of netting is currently being managed appropriately (S. Cadman pers com).
Demersal trawling in inshore waters is carried out by licenced vessels operating under very strict criteria on vessel size  and power and the majority of demersal trawlers in Cornwall are using larger than mandatory mesh size over 100mm to reduce unwanted bycatch of juvenile fish. 
 

Capture Info

Red mullet are caught in Cornish waters by targeted red mullet nets. Static nets set on the seabed with a mesh size of 65-70ml and a short soak time, set in summer months specifically to target red mullet which are a high value species.  It is a highly skilled method of fishing and care must be taken not to accidentally catch unwanted fish as it is illegal to catch more than 30% of non-target species and in our waters young pollack can be difficult to avoid. There are few other by catch issues or environmental issues with this fishery.  
Red mullet are also caught in demersal trawls and beam trawls, often in deeper water in the Western English channel during colder times of year. Forster and Smith, 2011. French trawlers using small mesh size (70-90mm) target red mullet in the winter months in the central pit of the Western channel.
Red mullet are very delicate and must be put straight onto ice as their quality deteriorates quickly. For best freshness source direct from a fisherman or specialist fish seller. 
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References

Forster.R, and  Smith.S, 2001 Selectivity of Gill nets used in the Cornish Red Mullet Fishery, Fisheries Science Partnership, Cefas Lowestoft

Red mullet netting code of practices CIFCA 2011

Seafish responsible sourcing guides Red mullet 2014

ICES WGNEW report 2014

Project Inshore Pre assessment database

MMO landings data

Catchpole.T, 2011, Identifying underutilized species CEFAS Lowestoft.

Ref  -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

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