Mugil curema 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Mugiliformes Mugilidae

Scientific Name: Mugil curema Valenciennes, 1836
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English White Mullet, Blueback Mullet, Curema Mullet, Josea, Mollit, Mulet, Mullet, Redeye Mullet, Silver Mullet, Small Mullet, White Mullet
French Mulet, Mulet blanc, Mulet Blanc, Mulet cureme, Mulet Curème, Mulet de mer, Mulet de Mer
Spanish Anchoa blanca, Anchoa Blanca, Anchoeta, Anchoveta, Capiton, Chango, Chango, Chapiton, Galupe, Galupe, isa Criolla, Jarea, Jarea, Lebrancha, Lebranche, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa blanca, Lisa Blanca, Lisa Criolla, Lisa curema, Lisa Plateada, Liseta, Liseta Plateada, Liza Curema, Mujol, Plateado
Mugil metzelaari Chabanaud, 1926
Mugil petrosus Valenciennes, 1836
Mugil charlottae Steindachner [F.] 1902
Mugil guentherii Gill [T. N.] 1863
Myxus harengus Günther, 1861
Myxus splendens Mohr [E.] 1927
Taxonomic Notes:

Heemstra and Heemstra (2004) describes the taxonomy of the Mugilidae family as confused and the genera as obscurely defined. 

Misidentification with Mugil gaimardianus, now an invalid species, has caused much confusion in the past.  

Currently, the most frequent misidentication is with Mugil rubrioculus (Harrison et al. 2007). Mugil curema and M. rubrioculus are very similar morphologically. They are clearly separated genetically both by karyotype and molecular analysis (Nirchio et al. 2005, Fraga et al. 2007, Gonzalez-Castro et al. 2009). 

Fraga et al. (2007) identified two species occurring along the Brazilian coast, Mugil curema type I (Mugil rubrioculus) and Mugil curema type II and showed that their distribution overlaps in most of their distribution. Therefore, species identification in landings and ecological studies may confuse the two species in Brazil.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2011-08-01
Assessor(s): Castro, M.G., Vieira, J.P., Albieri, R.J., Mendonca, E., Villwock de Miranda, L., Fadré, N.N., Brick Peres, M., Padovani-Ferreira, B., da Silva, F.M.S., Rodrigues, A.M.T. & Chao, L.
Reviewer(s): Cox, N.A.
Contributor(s): Jelks, H., Vega-Cendejas, M., Espinosa-Perez, H. & Tolan, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Carpenter, K.E., Strongin, K., Polidoro, B. & Harwell, H.
This widely distributed species is common throughout its range and is locally abundant in many parts of the western Atlantic where it occurs in estuarine habitats. It supports important fisheries in many parts of its range, but the majority occurs in the Gulf of Mexico. There is strong evidence for localized overexploitation off parts of Mexico and Brazil and habitat degradation may have localized impacts, however, this is not expected to impact its overall global population at this time. Therefore, it is listed as Least Concern with a recommendation to improve fisheries management.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Mugil curema is widely distributed in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the western Atlantic it is known from Massachusetts south along the U.S., Bermuda, the Bahamas, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and along South America to southern Brazil. In the eastern Atlantic it is known from the Cape Verde Islands and along West Africa from Senegal to Namibia at 20°S. In the eastern Pacific it is known from the Gulf of California to Chile (Nichirio et al. 2005, Bonner 2007). Species of Mugilidae are usually found between zero to 20 m depth, but have been reported to as deep as 300 m (IJ Harrison FAO ECA guide in prep).
Countries occurrence:
Angola; Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Benin; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Cayman Islands; Chile; Colombia; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea; French Guiana; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Liberia; Martinique; Mauritania; Mexico; Montserrat; Namibia; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Panama; Peru; Puerto Rico; Saint Barthélemy; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Suriname; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – western central; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – southeast
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):10
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Mugil curema is a commercially important species throughout its range (Marin et al. 2003). 

United States: The wholesale landing value for white mullet in the Gulf Coast States (US) from 1994-1998 was reported to be 38.2 million dollars. It also supports a substantial recreational fishery. In Florida, this species is part of the silver mullet fishery which includes white mullet (Mugil curema), redeye mullet (M. gaimardianus), and fantail mullet (M. gyrans). White mullet is the most common as a baitfish for sport fishery and for commercial use. Data from Florida from 1982 to 1995 showed a doubling of commercial landings on the Atlantic coast of Florida, but a decline in landings on the Gulf coast. Recreational landings varies during that time period, but were greater on the Atlantic than Gulf coast. The most recent stock assessment for the silver mullet complex (Mahmoudi 2002) suggest that the increased landings on the Atlantic coast could be cause for concern. However, at the time of the assessment, landing and fishing effort appeared to have stabilized on the Atlantic coast, and fishing mortality was not above Fmsy. The Gulf coast silver mullet fishery was considered healthy and that no sign of growth or recruitment overfishing was observed (Mahmoudi 2002). It is absent from the northwestern Gulf of Mexico during the winter (McEachran and Fechhelm 1998); they are most abundant in this area during the summer (Modde and Ross 1981, Ditty and Shaw 1996).

Mexico: A study from the white mullet fishery on the Mexican Pacific coast suggests that this species may be overexploited in the Colima region (Cabral-Solis et al. 2007). Off Mexico, this species conducts massive spawning migrations from February to March, 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). Since 2003, catch of M. curema has declined by 46% (SAGARPA 2012). Management benchmarks for M. curema are not defined for Veracruz, but it is recommended that catch not exceed 4,665 t per year. Off Tamaulipas, both M. cephalus and M. curema are considered fully exploited. Off Veracruz, M. cephalus 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 et al. 2009). The Gulf of Mexico is considered one of the more heavily populated areas for M. curema (Nirchio et al. 2005). It has been described as abundant in the coastal lagoons of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (Bonilla-Gómez et al. 2013).  This species is considered to be one of the top five exploited fishes from the Alvarado coastal lagoon in Mexico (FAO 1979).

Venezuela: It is described as an important artisanal fishery resource in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela (Montano 1994). 

Brazil: In Brazil this species is frequent, abundant and widely distributed along the coast. However, studies in Brazil may not correctly differentiate between M. curema and M. rubrioculus (Fraga et al. 2007). In northern Brazil, it was the second most caught species in the Paciência River estuary, Maranhao State (Castro 2001). It was also dominant in the estuary of the Curuçá River (Giarrizo and Krumme 2007), with registered biomass of up to 3172 g ha–1. In Marajó Bay, this species is abundant during the dry season (Barthem 1985). In northeastern Brazil, this species is the most abundant mugilid species, accounting for 96% of the catch of all mullets in the region. It is captured by gillnets in northern Pernambuco State all over the year, in coastal and estuarine areas. Individuals are recruited for fishery at 1.5 years old in the estuary and 3.4 years old on the coast. In estuaries, 81.6% of individuals caught are juveniles and the modal age class is one year (but individuals of 0.4 to 9.8 years are caught). On the coast, 86.7% are adults, from 1.6 to 14.2 years old, with a modal age class of age of three years. The high catch of juveniles in the estuary and the low fecundity rate might affect the maintenance of the species under fishing pressure (Silva 2007). In Southern Brazil, there is an intense artisanal fishery for this species in Cananeia, Iguape and Ilha Comprida estuarine systems. The species is one of the most common fishery resources, typically harvested by gillnet and fish traps. An analysis of production data, fishing effort and CPUE suggest that the resource is overfished in this area due to a progressive increase in fishing effort (Mendonca and Bonfante 2011). 

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

This pelagic species is dependent on estuaries along sandy coasts and also occurs in littoral pools, muddy bottoms, brackish lagoons, sometimes penetrates rivers and over coral reefs (Spach et al. 2003). Juveniles are usually abundant in bays and estuaries with submerged vegetation (Bozeman and Dean 1987, Castillo-Riveira et al. 2002, Bonner 2007). Its average lifespan is about 19 years (Bonner 2007). Its maximum size is 91 cm, but commonly to 35 cm (Seckendorff and Azevedo 2007). Males and females reach sexual maturity between 18-20.8 cm TL (Aguirre and Gallardo-Cabello 2004). Males reach maturity at about two years of age, and females at three years. It is hermaphroditic and eggs and sperm are released simultaneously. Spawning occurs offshore along the outer continental shelf (Marin et al. 2003). The reproductive season varies with location (Marin et al. 2003). In the Gulf of Mexico, the spawning season lasts from February to May (Aguirre and Gallardo-Cabello 2004). In North and South Carolina, spawning occurs mainly in fall and winter. In Brazil, peak spawning occurs from November to January (Silva 2007). Juveniles are omnivorous and feed mainly on plankton. Juvenile and adult Mugil curema feed mostly on sediment particles, detritus, diatoms and algae. Species of Mugilidae are typically hardy and capable of rapid growth (IJ Harrison FAO ECA guide in prep).


Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Species of Mugilidae comprise a relatively important fishery dominated by subsistence and small-scale fisheries. Mugil curema is an important species in many artisanal fisheries, particularly in the southern part of its range (Thomson 1978, Harrison 1995, Garibaldi 1996). In Florida, white mullet are not prized as food, but are valuable as bait in the billfish sportfishery (Collins 1985). It is used in aquaculture in the Caribbean, Colombia and Brazil. It is caught with trammel nets, trawls, and beach seines and marketed fresh, smoked, and salted as a foodfish. In the Gulf of Mexico, it is utilized by the fisheries industry as a baitfish and foodfish; 99% of the total catch of this species is registered in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. It is also the main source of income in the Tamiahua lagoon (Ibáñez Aguirre and Lloenart 1996).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no substantial threats to this species as a whole. Overfishing may present a threat to some subpopulations of this species. It is also threatened by river modifications where it ranges off Cuba (Claro et al. 2009). The species is dependent on estuaries for spawning and as juvenile habitat. Modification of coastal areas, loss of mangroves and degradation of estuaries is a significant localized threat to this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Ordenance nº08/03-N, from 20/March/2003 established a minimum catch size of 40 cm along the south and southern Brazilian coast. The mullet gillnet fishery is also regulated by a IBAMA law enacted March 15, 2011, which established the minimum mesh size of 70 mm. Off Mexico, this fishery is regulated by the NOM -016 -PESC -1994 (DOF 24/04/95). There are annual seasonal closures in coastal waters of northern Tamaulipas and Veracruz, from the Tuxpan River and Lake Tampamachoco to the Rio Panuco between 1 to 31 December and from 1 to 28 February. The minimum catch size is 26 cm and the minimum mesh size is 76 mm (three inches). 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 analyses and evaluations in each annual fishing season, mainly for the state of Veracruz which utilizes both M. cephalus and M. curema, It is also recommended a management plan be developed for the northwestern Gulf of Mexico (SAGARPA 2012).

Citation: Castro, M.G., Vieira, J.P., Albieri, R.J., Mendonca, E., Villwock de Miranda, L., Fadré, N.N., Brick Peres, M., Padovani-Ferreira, B., da Silva, F.M.S., Rodrigues, A.M.T. & Chao, L. 2015. Mugil curema. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T190168A1943129. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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