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 — VI, VIIa - c, e - k, VIII, and IXa
Picture of Mullet, Red, Striped red mullet

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Red mullet stocks are not formally assessed so there is insufficient information available to define biological reference points or evaluate them. The exploitation level on this stock is unknown. ICES advises a reduction in catches of 20% for the Western area. 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

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 biological 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 to c, e to k, VIII, and IXa) and Northern Unit (Subarea IV (North Sea) and Divisions VIId (Eastern Channel) and IIIa (Skagerrak and Kattegat)). The landings have shown an increase since the mid-1990s but are now declining and close to historical average. Recruitment indices fluctuate without trend although there is some indication of several large year classes in the early 2000s. ICES advises that catches should decrease by 20% in relation to the average catch of the last three years (2008 to 2010), corresponding to catches of no more than 2000 t in 2013. This advice, issued by ICES in 2012, is valid for 2013 to 2017.


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

Capture Information

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
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)


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