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Red mullet

When is best to eat?

Red mullet


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. Landings data show a fluctuating quantity of red mullet landed to Cornish ports, however across the wider Celtic seas and bay of Biscay landings are declining and this has led ICES to advise a reduction in landings of 20% for the last 3 years which has been exceeded, the lack of data and concerns for fishing effort mean that red mullet is now red rated, and are on our fish to avoid list. 

In 2021 a total of 41 tonnes of red mullet were landed to Cornish ports with a value of £374k (MMO data).

Updated April 2024

Sustainability ratings for this species

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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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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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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How we rate fish

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.


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 barbells, in muddy and sandy sea beds. 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  fishing resilience is 'medium' - Cheung et al 2005.

Stock Info

Red mullet stocks are not well studied in our waters but overall landings in areas 7 and 8 (Biscay) have been gradually declining over the past 20 years, ICES are advising that landings are reduced by 20%, which has been exceeed for the past 2 years.

Route 2 scoring has been applied to this rating owing to the lack of reference points for fishing pressure and biomass. Striped red mullet has a medium resilience to fishing pressure.

This population (or stock) is data limited. The information available is insufficient to evaluate stock trends and exploitation. The only available data is landings data, which is not a good indicator of fishing mortality or biomass because it does not account for changes in fishing effort or catchability. In the absence of information there is concern for the population (or stock) biomass.
Between 1975 and 2007 landings significantly increased, since then a general decline in catches has been observed. Recent landings (1,973 tonnes in 2019, 1,445 tonnes in 2021 and 1,691 tonnes in 2022) have been above advised catch limits (1,600 tonnes in 2019, and 1,280 tonnes in 2021 and 2022) and the 5-year average (2018-2022). Moreover, for stocks without information on abundance or exploitation, ICES considers that a precautionary reduction of catches should be implemented unless there is supporting information clearly indicating that the current level of exploitation is acceptable for the stock. The precautionary buffer was last applied in 2020 and has been applied again in 2023. Consequently, there is concern for fishing pressure. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, landings should be no more than 1,024 tonnes in each of the years 2024, 2025, and 2026



There is no restriction on red mullet catch. They are a non-quota species. 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).

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 also well documented issues with by catch of seabirds and cetaceans with gill net fishing in Cornish waters. 
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. Beam and demersal trawling is unselevtive and has impacts on seabeds.
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. 


ICES advice Striped Red Mullet 2023

ICES advice on Striped Red Mullet in areas 6, 8 and 7 a-c, 7 e-k and 9a 2020

Seafish RASS Red mullet in Gillnets North East Atlantic

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

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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