Mugil cephalus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Mugiliformes Mugilidae

Scientific Name: Mugil cephalus Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Flathead Mullet, Black Mullet, Black True Mullet, Bright Mullet, Bully Mullet, Callifaver Mullet, Common Grey Mullet, Common Mullet, Flathead Greymullet, Flathead Grey Mullet, Grey Mullet, Haarder, Hardgut Mullet, Mangrove Mullet, Mullet, River Mullet, Sea Mullet, Springer
French Cabot, Carida, Caridou, Cremole, Meuil, Muge, Muge à Groose Tête, Muge Cabot, Muge Céphale, Mugo Fangous, Mujou, Mulet, Mulet à Grosse Tête, Mulet-cabot, Mulet Cabot, Mulet Jaune, Mulet Jeune, Poisson Queue Bleue, Testard, Testu
Spanish Albur, Bullûa, Cabeçut, Cabezudo, Cachamba, Capitán, Capiton, Cap Pla, Céfalo, Galupe, Iliça de Cap Gros, Iliça Sabada, Ilissa Lobarrera, Lebranche, Lisa, Lisa Cabezuda, Lisa Común, Lisa Pardete, Lisa Rayada, Lissa Amaria, Liza Cabezona, Lizarra, Lizza, Machu, Machuto, Mugil, Mugil Común, Mujol, Mule, Muxo, Pardete, Pordete
Mugil albula Linnaeus, 1766
Mugil ashanteensis Bleeker, 1863
Mugil cephalotus Valenciennes, 1836
Mugil dobula Günther, 1861
Mugil gelatinosus Klunzinger, 1872
Mugil grandis Castelnau, 1879
Mugil hypselosoma Ogilby, 1897
Mugil japonicus Temminck & Schlegel, 1845
Mugil lineatus Valenciennes, 1836
Mugil mexicanus Steindachner, 1876
Mugil muelleri Klunzinger, 1880
Mugil provensalis Risso, 1810
Mugil tang Bloch, 1794
Mugil vulpinus Nardo, 1847
Mugil berlandieri Girard [C. F.] 1858
Mugil borbonicus Valenciennes [A.] in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1836
Mugil catalarum Whitley [G. P.] 1951
Mugil ciliilabis Valenciennes [A.] in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1836
Mugil constantiae Valenciennes [A.] in Cuvier & Valenciennes 1836
Mugil galapagensis Ebeling [A. W.] 1961
Mugil marginalis De Vis [C. W.] 1885
Mugil peruanus Hildebrand [S. F.] 1946
Mugil plumieri Bloch [M. E.] 1794
Mugil rammelsbergii Tschudi [J. J. von] 1846
Mugil tongae Günther [A.] 1880
Mugil trichilus Vaillant [L. L.] & Sauvage [H. E.] 1875
Mugil crenilabis our Forsskål [P. S.] 1775
Myxus barnardi Gilchrist & Thompson, 1914
Myxus caecutiens Günther, 1876
Myxus superficialis Klunzinger, 1870
Myxus flavus Mohr [E.] 1927
Myxus lepidopterus Mohr [E.] 1927
Myxus niger Mohr [E.] 1927
Myxus pacificus Steindachner [F.] 1900
Myxus tincoides Mohr [E.] 1927
Sparus cetaceus Cabrera [A.], Pérez [L.] & Haenseler [F.] 1817
Taxonomic Notes: Heemstra and Heemstra (2004) describes the taxonomy of the Mugilidae family as confused and the genera as obscurely defined. The genetic differences between regional subpopulations of M. cephalus are not significant enough to designate separate species (Mundy 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-07-02
Assessor(s): Camara, K., Carpenter, K.E., Djiman, R., Nunoo, F., Sagna, A., Sidibé, A, Sylla, M., de Morais, L., Jelks, H., Tolan, J., Vega-Cendejas, M., Espinosa-Perez, H., Chao, L., Moretzsohn, F. & Sparks, J.S.
Reviewer(s): Strongin, K., Polidoro, B. & Sayer, C.
Contributor(s): Larson, H., Pippard, H., Kottelat, M. & Freyhof, J.
This is a widespread species with no known major threats. Therefore, it is listed as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Mugil cephalus is distributed circumglobally in shallow coastal waters of tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions from 51°N to 42°S. In the western Atlantic it is known from Nova Scotia, Canada south along the U.S. and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Specimens previously identified as M. cephalus in the Caribbean and Brazil are no longer considered valid (Menezes et al. 2015). It is not present in the Bahamas or most of the West Indies (Robins and Ray 1986, McEachran and Fechhelm 1998). In the eastern Atlantic it is known from France, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and along West Africa to South Africa including the offshore islands. The population from Morocco to Angola is genetically different to those in the Mediterranean, with potentially two subpopulations present in Morocco (Whitfield et al. 2012). In the Indo-West Pacific it is known from the Red Sea, along East Africa to South Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, La Reunion, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Madagascar, the Seychelles, New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan (Hokkaido south to the Ryukyu Islands), and from Hawaii Island to Midway (Fricke et al. 2011). It is considered rare in the Philippines, East Indies, West Indies, and eastern tropical Atlantic (Mundy 2005). In the eastern Pacific it is known from California (USA) to Chile including the Galapagos. Its depth range is zero to 20 m. 

Countries occurrence:
Albania; Algeria; American Samoa; Angola; Australia (Lord Howe Is., New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia); Belize; Benin; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Cambodia; Cameroon; Canada; Chile; China; Comoros; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Cook Islands; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Djibouti; Ecuador (Ecuador (mainland), Galápagos); Egypt; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Fiji; France; French Guiana; French Polynesia; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece; Guam; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Honduras; Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kenya; Kiribati; Kuwait; Lebanon; Liberia; Libya; Macao; Madagascar; Malaysia; Marshall Islands; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mayotte; Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Norfolk Island; Northern Mariana Islands; Oman; Pakistan; Palau; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Portugal; Qatar; Réunion; Romania; Russian Federation; Samoa; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Suriname; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Togo; Tonga; Tunisia; Turkey; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United States; Vanuatu; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Viet Nam; Wallis and Futuna; Western Sahara; Yemen
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):20
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is abundant in most areas, especially so in subtropical to warm temperate regions (less so in the tropics). It is the most abundant of the mullet species throughout most of its range, especially in freshwater and estuarine areas (Hill 2013). This species is caught in artisanal fisheries, and reported in mixed-catch for Mugilidae throughout the region, and has moderate value. From the 1950s, mullets nei (all Mugilidae) reported landings have steadily increased to 28,000 tonnes in 2011 in the Eastern Central Atlantic (FAO FishSTAT). Mugil cephalus subpopulations are probably experiencing decline in the southwestern Indian Ocean due to fishery exploitation and dam construction in streams (Fricke 2009). This species is considered rare in the Philippines, East Indies, West Indies and eastern tropical Atlantic (Mundy 2005). Off Mexico, this species conducts massive spawning migrations from November to December, moving in shoals from lagoons to the sea. They are targeted by fishers via gill net during these migrations because of the high value of the gonad (roe). It reaches age at first maturity at three years and an average size of 30 cm, and is exploited at this age in Laguna Madre. Over the past 12 years, catch in Laguna Madre has remained on average 3,500 tonnes. In Tamiahua Lagoon, catch has declined by 70% since the 1960s and 70s. The maximum sustainable yield for in Laguna Madre in the year 2000 was estimated at 3,017 tonnes. Over the years, catch has had a cyclic manner with ebbs and flows between 3,000 and approximately 5,000 tonnes, with declines in catch corresponding to the years when MSY was exceeded. Off Tamaulipas, both and are considered fully exploited. Off Veracruz, has experienced a 70% decline in catch since the year 2000 (SAGARPA 2012). Catch of mullets off Cuba have declined markedly due to overfishing of spawning aggregations and migrations (Claro 2009). There is no evidence of overfishing in the 2010 Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute report and there is 35% SPR target. This species was among the top ten most abundant species collected from the lower mouth of the Peace River in Florida. Specimens were collected using 21.3 m seines in from April 1997 to May 1999 and July 2007 to April 2010 (Stevens 2013). Mullet were among the ten dominant species collected from tidal streams throughout the coast of Texas (Tolan and Nelson 2013). It is also one of the most abundant species collected with bag seines in every bay system in Texas (J. Tolan pers. comm. 2014, Texas Parks and Wildlife database). Its estimated area of occupancy (AOO) in the Gulf of Mexico is 155,503 km (calculated by clipping the distribution polygon to the zero to 20 m bathymetric layer extracted from ETOPO) with 11,566 km of that represented by the areas of overexploitation(combined Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Cuba). Therefore, it is inferred that the proportion of its population in the Gulf of Mexico that has experienced significant declines is likely to be less than half of the overall population. 
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

This is a euryhaline, pelagic nearshore species, it sometimes forages in lagoons, estuaries and lower courses of rivers and can tolerate freshwater. It inhabits inshore marine waters, estuaries, lagoons and rivers where it can tolerate wide ranges of temperature and salinity. Adults are found in waters that range in temperature and salinity from 8 to 24°C, and 0 ppt to 75 ppt respectively. Juveniles are able to tolerate salinities from 0 ppt to 35 ppt (Bester 2004). It is capable of surviving temperatures ranging from 12-25°C (Harrison and Senou 1999). It is a benthopelagic, catadromous species that is usually found at a depth of zero to 10 m, but can be found as deep as 120 m (Moreira 1992, Harrison 1995, Riede 2004). It often enters estuaries and rivers and forms schools over sand or mud bottoms (Eschmeyer et al. 1983, Thompson 1986, Allen 1991, Yamada et al. 1995, Allen et al. 2002). Adults filter out organic detritus, microscopic algae, and small particulate materials by gulping sediment. It is mainly diurnal, feeding on zooplankton as larvae and detritus, micro-algae and benthic organisms as juvenile and adult fish (Blaber 1976, Tung 1981, Cardona 2000). Juveniles feed on zooplankton, larger individuals filter algae, detritus, sediment and small invertebrates. This species is also known for its leaping capabilities. It is an important prey item for sharks, dolphin, seals and birds (Heemstra and Heemstra 2004). 

Eggs are released in batches from May to September near estuaries where juveniles remain for up to three years (Bianchi et al. 1999). It is known to breed in its third year of life: adults school in estuaries then move out to sea to spawn in coastal surface water, before returning to estuaries and freshwater (Harrison and Senou 1999). Offspring are spawned offshore by schooling adults and fry eventually migrate inshore while feeding on zooplankton. Tag returns along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast indicate that M. cephalus do not make extensive migrations in this region, but instead remain in a relatively small area and return to their original bay system after spawning (Hill 2004). Species of Mugilidae are typically hardy and capable of rapid growth. Fricke et al. (2009) describes M. cephalus as a keystone species.

Spawning occurs in large groups and in deep waters far offshore (McEachran and Fechhelm 1998, Saleh 2013). It spawns in offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico at depths of 40–1,650 m beyond the continental shelf 50–100 km off the coast (Ibáñez et al. 2012). It has an oviparous life cycle and practices a polyandrous mating system. Fecundity ranges from 270,000-1.6 million eggs per individual per season; absolute fecundity is between 2.9-16 million eggs. In Florida, M. cephalus spawns offshore from October through mid-January, with spawning completed by late February. Larvae become abundant in the waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico between November and December in water temperatures between 23-25°C. 

The lifespan of M. cephalus is estimated to be seven years for males and eight years for females, with an average of five years (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 2005). Individuals become sexually mature at around 32-50 cm in length and around two years in age (Saleh 2013). An African study indicates that this species reaches maturity at 39 cm for males and 42 cm for females, and likely begins reproduction in December (Ndour et al. 2013). Maximum standard length for this species is 120 cm male/unsexed (Thompson 1990), maximum reported weight for this species is 12 kg (Fadeev 2005), and maximum reported age for this species is 16 years (Thompson 1963).
Systems:Freshwater; Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Mugil cephalus is an important commercial species that is caught with trammel nets, cast nets, hook and line, trawls, stake nets, lift nets, fish corrals and beach seines and marketed fresh, frozen and salted as a foodfish (Schneider 1990). The roe is sold fresh or smoked. Juveniles are often used for bait. Species of Mugilidae comprise a relatively important fishery dominated by subsistence and small-scale fisheries. According to FAO FishStat Plus, the total fishery production for mullets in the eastern central Atlantic was 30,257 tons in 2010. Some species are utilised in aquaculture. Nigeria reported an aquaculture production of mullets from 200-1,512 tons between the years 1990-1995, however, no records exist past those years (Heemstra and Heemstra 2004). According to Bianchi et al. (1999), M. cephalus is occasionally caught with beach seines. In Mauritania, this species is used for oil and dried and exported to other countries (Camara pers. comm. 2013). This species is commonly cultivated as an aquaculture species for food (Harrison and Senou 1999). This species is also important to the aquaculture industry in Tabasco and Vera Cruz (Vega-Cendejas pers. comm. 2014). Robins and Ray (1986) report this species as the most important commercial mullet in the eastern United States. Mexico is one of the top ten productive countries of mullet in the world, with a mean annual production of approximately 12,000 tonnes/year, and a very valuable source of roe (Ibáñez et al. 2012). 

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats currently known at the global level. Although it is a sought-after food fish, it is sold cultured as well as wild-caught. It forms half the commercial mullet catch in eastern Australia and Tonga (Harrison and Senou 1999). Mugil cephalus is utilised commercially in subsistence fisheries in the Eastern Central Atlantic. Some mullets are utilised in aquaculture production along the eastern African coast, but it is unknown whether M. cephalus is specifically involved or not (Harrison in press). This species is caught in artisanal fisheries, and reported in mixed-catch for Mugilidae throughout the Eastern Central Atlantic, and has moderate value. In the Gulf of Mexico, this species is of high commercial importance to the roe industry, food fish, and is also taken as bait. It is overexploited in Mexico and Cuba, which represents at least half of its range in the Gulf. Subpopulations in U.S. waters (the remaining portion of its Gulf range) are stable with no overfishing expected to occur in the future. This species is also important to the aquaculture industry in Tabasco and Vera Cruz (M. Vega-Cendejas pers. comm. 2014). Robins and Ray (1986) report this species as the most important commercial mullet in the eastern United States. There is no evidence of overfishing in the 2010 Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute report and there is 35% SPR target. Mexico is one of the top ten productive countries of mullet in the world, with a mean annual production of approximately 12,000 tonnes/year, and a very valuable source of roe (Ibáñez et al. 2012). Subpopulations of M. cephalus are sensitive to human activities and are probably experiencing decline in the southwestern Indian Ocean due to fishery exploitation and dam construction in streams (Fricke et al. 2009). Besides overexploitation, this species is also threatened by river modifications where it ranges off Cuba (Claro et al. 2009). 

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In the Gulf of Mexico, the Mexican fishery is regulated by the NOM -016 -PESC -1994 (DOF 24/04/95). There are seasonal closures to coastal waters off northern Tamaulipas and Veracruz, from the Tuxpan River and Lake Tampamachoco to the Rio Panuco from 1 to 31 December and from 1 to 28 February each year. The minimum catch size is 31 cm and the minimum mesh size is 101 mm (4 inches) for M. cephalus. It is recommended to not increase the current fishing effort in terms of fishing permits involving M. cephalus and M. curema. For M. cephalus in the Laguna Madre it is recommended that the level of exploitation should not exceed 3,000 tonnes per year, another seasonal closure should be considered for the months of September and October, recovery strategies should be designed for analyzes and evaluations in each annual fishing season, mainly for the state of Veracruz which utilizes both M. cephalus and M. curema, and a management plan should be developed for the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico (SAGARPA 2012).

Management measures in Texas include a ban on possessing mullet over 12 inches during the months of October through January to allow the spawning stock to migrate offshore and reproduce (Texas Parks and Wildlife).


Citation: Camara, K., Carpenter, K.E., Djiman, R., Nunoo, F., Sagna, A., Sidibé, A, Sylla, M., de Morais, L., Jelks, H., Tolan, J., Vega-Cendejas, M., Espinosa-Perez, H., Chao, L., Moretzsohn, F. & Sparks, J.S. 2017. Mugil cephalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T135567A20682868. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided