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 and 8, 7.a-c, 7.e-k and 9.a
Picture of Mullet, Red, Striped red mullet

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

There is no assessment of Red mullet stocks in this area. Catches and discards, and therefore the level of exploitation on the stock is unknown. Avoid eating immature fish (less than 16 cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the summer spawning season (May-July).


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

Stock Area

West of Scotland, Bay of Biscay, southern Celtic Seas, Atlantic Iberian Waters (Western Area)

Stock information

There is insufficient information available to define reference points for red mullet or to evaluate the stock in these areas. The available information on stock identity suggests there is more than one stock in the ICES area. Recent stock identification studies by otolith and fish shape in European waters show that striped red mullet can be geographically divided into two units: Western Unit (Subareas and Divisions VI, VIIa,c, e,k, VIII, and IXa) and Northern Unit (Subarea IV (North Sea) and Divisions VIId (Eastern Channel) and IIIa (Skagerrak-Kattegat)).
For the first time, in June 2012 ICES provided advice for this species in these areas.

There is limited information to evaluate stock trends with no information on abundance and exploitation. The landings have shown an increase between the mid-1990s and 2007; they have declined since then and are presently above the historical average. 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. ICES cannot quantify the corresponding catches. Total catches and discards are unknown.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

No specific management objectives are known to ICES. There is no total allowable catch (TAC) for this species.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is potential for damage to the seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species.


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
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES. 2017. ICES Advice. (Accessed 13 November 2017)
ICES Advice 2015, Book 9;
ICES 2010 Report of the Working Group on Assessment of New MoU Species (WGNEW), 11-15 October 2010, ICES HQ, Denmark. ICES CM 2010/ACOM:21. 185 pp;
Red Mullet Seafish Research and Development Species Guide May 2011