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Mullet, Striped (Mugil cephalus)
Also known as: Black back mullet, Black mullet, Bright mullet, Bully mullet, Common mullet, Flathead mullet, Gray mullet, Jumping jack, Jumping mullet, Liza, Mangrove mullet, Molly, Mullé (French phonetic spelling), Mullet, Popeye mullet, River mullet, Roundhead, Sea mullet, Springer, Whirligig mullet
Source: Wild-caught in Gulf state fresh and salt water areas mostly from West Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana

Striped mullet are found in coastal tropical and warm temperate waters all around the world. In the western Atlantic Ocean, they range from Nova Scotia south to Brazil, including the Gulf. Mature mullet spawn in saltwater, but currents and tides carry the larvae back to inshore waters and estuaries, where they spend the remainder of their first year. After their first year, mullet live in a variety of habitats, including the ocean, salt marshes, estuaries, and freshwater rivers and creeks.

They’re found at all levels in the water column, from the surface to the bottom, over sandy or muddy bottoms and dense vegetation.


Striped mullet can grow to nearly four feet long and 17 pounds, but mullet this large aren’t common. Striped mullet are able to reproduce at about three years of age. During the fall and winter, large schools of mature mullet migrate from inshore waters out to 40 to 50 nautical miles to spawn. (Many fisheries target mullet schools at this time for their roe.) They’re highly productive—a female can release 500,000 to two million eggs depending on her size. Striped mullet can live to between four and 16 years.

Striped mullet are an important link in the food chain, foraging for decaying plant material and microorganisms found on aquatic plants in mud, silt, and sand and serving as prey for top predators such as birds, fish, sharks, and marine mammals. As its common names jumping mullet and jumping jack suggest, striped mullet often leap out of the water. Scientists don’t know the exact reason for this behavior but believe it could be to avoid predators.


Striped mullet are bluish green to grayish brown on the back and silver on the sides and belly. They have a large dark blotch at the base of their pectoral fin and dark longitudinal lines running the length of their torpedo-shaped body. They have a small, triangular mouth and a blunt nose. Striped mullet are similar in appearance to white and fantail mullet.


Striped mullet have supported important fisheries in the Gulf, particularly Florida, since the early 1900s. In the Gulf, commercial fishermen target striped mullet for their roe and flesh and for bait to use in other fisheries. The roe fishery is the most economically important component—the yellow or red roe (eggs) command a high price in the market, especially in Asia. The flesh fishery is perhaps the staple component as fishermen harvest mullet year-round for food. Mullet are also harvested for use as bait in other fisheries, including those for spiny lobster, stone crab, blue crab, crawfish, and various finfish.

The Gulf has supplied the majority of striped mullet in the United States since at least the 1960s. In 2013, Gulf fishermen brought in nearly 13.3 million pounds of mullet, about 82% of the total U.S. mullet harvest. Dockside revenue in 2013 totaled nearly $13 million.

Striped mullet are not only valuable to the Gulf’s economy and coastal communities but are also an important link in the aquatic food chain. They feed at the very bottom, foraging for decaying plant material and microorganisms found on aquatic plants, and serve as prey for top predators such as birds, fish, sharks, and marine mammals.

Fortunately, mullet is a fast-growing, short-lived, and highly productive fish and is naturally resilient to fishing pressure. However, due to their economic and ecological importance, fisheries management agencies across the Gulf States have implemented a number of measures to control harvests and ensure the sustainability of this valuable resource.

Methods Seasons Landings
Commercial Recreational

The Gulf has consistently produced the majority of striped mullet harvested in the United States since at least the 1950s. The majority of commercial harvests in the Gulf are landed in Florida. In 2013, Gulf commercial fishermen harvested nearly 13.3 million pounds of striped mullet with dockside revenue of almost $13 million, about 82% of the total U.S. harvest. About 81% was landed on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Source: NOAA Fisheries Annual Commercial Landings Statistics


Landings Summary Data :  
1992
 To 
2016



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1992$14,248,29225,280,352
1993$16,913,28630,031,275
1994$18,647,16827,002,791
1995$15,786,79820,833,211
1996$11,632,81115,216,789
1997$12,256,00317,250,110
1998$8,191,63015,581,672
1999$13,972,33019,850,593
2000$11,465,12216,459,944
2001$10,046,43715,907,559


Overview Current Abundance Additional Reasearch
Overview

Individual Gulf states assess the status of the striped mullet resource in the Gulf using data from biological sampling and survey programs. They monitor commercial mullet harvests through trip ticket programs—docks purchasing mullet directly from commercial fishermen submit information pertaining to the catch, including who caught it, where and when it was caught, how much was caught, etc. Commercial fishermen who sell their catch directly to the public are also required to submit trip tickets. The states collect data on recreational harvests through the federal Marine Recreational Information Program survey or state-run data collection programs (in Louisiana and Texas).


Current Abundance

There is no comprehensive Gulf-wide stock assessment for striped mullet. However, according to available state assessments, the population is healthy and the fisheries for this resource are operating at appropriate levels.


Additional Research

N/A


Who's Responsible Management Program
Who's Responsible

The individual Gulf states are responsible for managing the striped mullet fisheries in their state waters; the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission helps coordinate management of interjurisdictional fisheries resources like striped mullet, gathering scientific data and organizing management strategies across the Gulf states to better manage these resources throughout their range.

Striped mullet are most abundant and are primarily harvested in state waters so federal agencies do not directly manage striped mullet fisheries in the Gulf.


Management Program

State management measures are outlined in the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission’s 1995 Regional Management Plan for the Striped Mullet Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico. The regional plan provides an understanding of the biological, social, and economic characteristics of mullet fisheries as well as efforts regarding science and management of mullet in the Gulf. Specific management measures vary among the states but are generally consistent and include size and possession limits, gear restrictions, and licensing requirements.