Mullet, Red, Striped red mullet

Mullus surmuletus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — West of Scotland, Bay of Biscay, southern Celtic Seas, Atlantic Iberian Waters (Western Area)
Stock detail — 6, 7a-c, 7e-k, 8, 9a
Picture of Mullet, Red, Striped red mullet

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Updated: November 2019.

This stock is data limited. The information available is insufficient to evaluate stock trends and exploitation. There is concern for the fishing mortality and concern for the biomass. Without information on abundance or exploitation in relation to reference points, the assessment is based on official landings. No specific management objectives are known and there is no total allowable catch (TAC) set for this stock. Since minimum size requirements have been removed, immature individuals (< 14cm) have been recorded in landings. It is unclear whether this stock should be one stock or three separate stocks. Demersal otter trawling is not a well-targeted fishing activity and is known to have the potential to take relatively high quantities of bycatch (> 40% of catch weight).

Biology

Red mullet is a member of the Mullidae family. Distributed throughout the world in tropical and warm temperate seas, it is one of two species found in the Mediterranean (the other being Mullus barbatus). It is also found as far north as Britain and Ireland in summer. They prefer deep water and warm temperatures. Young fish are distributed in coastal areas, in waters of low salinity, while adults have a more offshore distribution and are found at high salinity. It can attain a length of 45 cm and is reported to live up to 10 years. It has distinctive barbels - sensory organs - with which it detects food in the sea bed. This is the reason for its alternative name - goat fish. Spawns in May-July in the Channel area. Becomes sexually mature at 2 years at about 22 cm length. In the English Channel, the species matures at approximately 16 cm. The estimated age at sexual maturity is 1 year old in the Bay of Biscay at approximately 15.5 cm.

Stock information

Criterion score: 1 info

This stock is data limited. The information available is insufficient to evaluate stock trends and exploitation. There is concern for the fishing mortality and concern for the biomass. Without information on abundance or exploitation in relation to reference points, the assessment is based on official landings. However, a time series of biological sampling of catches is being developed, and it may be possible to produce an analytical assessment in the near future. Landings have shown an increase between 1975 and 2007 and a decline since then, with current landings being above the historic average. Red mullet has a medium resilience to fishing pressure.

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 2012. Currently there is no information on stock biomass or exploitation levels and therefore the precautionary buffer has been applied again. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, landings should be no more than 1600 tonnes in each of the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

No specific management objectives are known and there is no total allowable catch (TAC) set for this stock. Prior to 2002, France enforced a minimum landing size of 16cm. Since this minimum size requirement has been removed, immature individuals (< 14cm) have been recorded in landings. A geometrical morphometry study in 2004 and 2005 discovered that this stock can be geographically divided into three zones: The Bay of Biscay, a mixing zone composed of the Celtic Sea and Western English Channel, and a northern zone composed of the Eastern English Channel and the North Sea. At present there are no management measures in place, however this structuring should be taken into account if measures are considered.

Demersal fisheries in the area are mixed fisheries, with many stocks exploited together in various combinations in the different fisheries. In these cases, management advice must consider both the state of individual stocks and their simultaneous exploitation in demersal fisheries. Stocks in the poorest condition, particularly those which suffer from reduced reproductive capacity, become the overriding concern for the management of mixed fisheries, where these stocks are exploited either as a targeted species or as a bycatch.

In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels. This stock is not covered by the North Sea MAP.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

The striped red mullet is one species among a set of demersal species targeted by the French fleet, and is mainly caught by bottom trawlers with a mesh size of 70-99 mm. Discarding is known to take place but discards cannot be fully quantified and are estimated to be non-negligible for this stock. This area is fished by trawlers of various types and this species is a bycatch in all of these fisheries. Demersal otter trawling is not a well-targeted fishing activity, and this fishery catches a wide variety of mixed demersal finfish, such as sole, plaice, monkfish, John dory and skates and rays. Smaller, demersal sharks are occasionally taken as bycatch in otter trawl fisheries such as Starry smooth-hound and spurdog.

There are a number of MPAs in UK and EU waters, some of which are designated to protect benthic features. If those MPAs were found to be subjected to bottom trawling, MCS would consider it a default red rating unless there is evidence (e.g. environmental impact assessment) indicating the activity does not damage the integrity of the site.

Alternatives

Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia

References

Froese R. and Pauly D. (Editors), 2017. Mullus surmuletus, Red mullet. Available at: https://www.fishbase.se/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=1327&AT=red+mullet [Accessed on 08.11.2019].

ICES. 2017. Striped red mullet (Mullus surmuletus) in subareas 6 and 8, and in divisions 7.a-c,7.e-k, and 9.a (North Sea, Bay of Biscay, southern Celtic Seas, and Atlantic Iberian waters). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2017. ICES Advice 2017, mur.27.67a-ce-k89a. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.3032 [Accessed on 08.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. Working Group on Widely Distributed Stocks (WGWIDE). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:36. 948 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.5574 [Accessed on 08.11.2019].

Seafish, 2016. RASS Profile: Striped red mullet in the North sea and Eastern English Channel, Demersal otter trawl. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/striped-red-mullet-in-the-north-sea-and-eastern-english-channel-demersal-otter-trawl [Accessed on 08.11.2019.]

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 2017. Red mullet. Available at https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/m/mba_seafoodwatch_red%20mullet_report.pdf [Accessed on 08.11.2019].