Mugil liza 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Mugiliformes Mugilidae

Scientific Name: Mugil liza Valenciennes, 1836
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Lebranche Mullet, Blueback Mullet, Fantail Mullet
French Garmot, Mulet Large, Mulet Lébranche
Spanish Lebranche, Lebrancho, Lisa Macho, Soco
Lugil liza Valenciennes, 1836
Mugil brasiliensis Spix & Agassiz, 1831
Mugil lebranchus Poey, 1860
Taxonomic Notes:

Gonzalez Castro et al. (2008) found morphological and genetic differences between Mugil cephalus from the Mediterranean coast and M. liza/M. platanus from the Southwestern Atlantic coast. According to Fraga et al. (2007), M. liza and M. platanus should be treated as a single species or even subpopulations of M. cephalus. Heras et al. (2009) found that M. platanus and M. liza represent a continuum of a single species that is closely related to but distinct from M. cephalus, which itself appears to comprise a grouping of multiple and closely related species.

According to Menezes et al. (2010), only one species of lebranche mullet exists in the Caribbean Sea region and off the Atlantic coast of South America, with Mugil liza as the appropriate name. Considering the above, M. liza and M. platanus are considered the same species and the adopted name is M. liza. Mugil cephalus does not occur in the Southwestern Atlantic (Menezes et al. 2010).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2011-08-01
Assessor(s): Castro, M.G., Vieira, J.P., Brick Peres, M., Albieri, R.J., Mendonça, J.T., Villwock de Miranda, L., Fadré, N.N., Padovani-Ferreira, B., da Silva, F.M.S., Rodrigues, A.M.T. & Chao, L.
Reviewer(s): Cox, N.A.
Contributor(s): Jelks, H., Espinosa-Perez, H., Tolan, J., Vega-Cendejas, M., Menezes, M. & Lemos, V.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Harwell, H.
This species is widely distributed, common and locally abundant where it occurs in shallow coastal and estuarine systems. It appears to be most abundant in the southern part of its range off Brazil and Argentina. It is catadromous, highly fecund and spawns in large aggregations. It matures at 5.5 years old and has a maximum observed longevity of approximately 10 years with a relatively slow growth rate in a highly exploited population. Its longevity is likely much higher in an unexploited population. It supports an important Brazilian fishery resource where industrial fisheries have been expanding over the past decade. During its spawning season, it is directly targeted for its valued roe by artisanal and commercial fisheries in southern Brazil and Argentina (mostly Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina) and represents some component of the mullet fisheries in Mexico and Cuba (mostly targets M. cephalus). It is heavily fished during its spawning migration and aggregation, which has led to growth overfishing at least in some parts of its range. Following the expansion of the Brazilian industrial fishery, drastic catch declines of up to 90% have been directly observed in Patos Lagoon (an important nursery and feeding ground) and juvenile abundance has dropped considerably within the past five years. There have also been significant declines observed in the Cuban mullet fishery and some indication of decline in Mexico as well, however, species-specific data are not available. Genetically and biologically distinct subpopulations are suspected to occur along the species range and these subpopulations are subjected to different levels of pressure with no information on long-term population trends. Overexploitation is considered to be a severe threat to this species at least in southern Brazil where the stock is feared to be on the edge of collapse. It is also threatened by estuarine habitat degradation. Some fishery regulations have been implemented, however, there is a need for a cohesive management plan at least in the southern portion of its population. Without improvements in fisheries management and catch limits set, especially for the industrial fishery, this species is likely to continue to decline and may be eligible for a threatened category. It is regionally assessed as Data Deficient in the Gulf of Mexico due to the lack of species-specific fisheries data. Its population between Rio de Janeiro to Golfo Nuevo, where the significant Brazil-Argentinian fisheries are located, comprises approximately 12% of its total range and needs to be reassessed in the near future. It is therefore globally listed as Data Deficient mainly due to the lack of consistent data on population trends and species-specific fisheries data in some portions of its distribution.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is distributed in the western Atlantic from southeastern Florida, Bermuda, the Bahamas, in the Gulf of Mexico from northwestern Cuba and the Florida Keys north to Tampa (Florida) and along the Mexican Gulf coast from Laguna Madre to Campeche, throughout the Caribbean Sea (except the Cayman Islands), and along the South American coast to Golfo Nuevo, Argentina (Menezes 2003, H. Espinosa-Perez, M. Vegas-Cendejas, and R. Robertson pers. comm. 2014). Records north of Tampa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico are considered waifs (H. Jelks pers. comm. 2014).

Countries occurrence:
Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Curaçao; Dominica; Dominican Republic; French Guiana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Barthélemy; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Uruguay; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – southwest
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):125
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Brazil and Argentina: Population information is mainly available for the southern portion of the species' distribution (southern Brazil and Argentina) which represent the species highest area of abundance. Ripe fish have been targeted during their spawning migration for over a century by artisanal fisheries in southern Brazil, and industrial purse seine fisheries began in the early 2000s. In addition, 95% of the commercial catch is collected from south Brazil between São Paulo and Argentina with 95% of that catch (Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina combined) being landed in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina (Lemos et al. 2014). Employed gears and methods have evolved but artisanal fisheries has remained mainly coastal, and the resource has a great social and economic importance for coastal populations, as well as a guarantee of food security for riverine and coastal communities. This species is targeted in gillnet artisanal fisheries in Porto das Pedras, northern Alagoas State (Torres et al. 2007). It is caught by artisanal fishery in Itaipu, Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro State (Monteiro-Neto et al. 2008) and beach seine fisheries in Sao Vicente Island, Sao Paulo State (Fagundes et al. 2007). It is fished by artisanal fleets on the south coast of Parana State (Chaves and Robert 2001). It is a very important resource in Patos Lagoon (Reis and D’Incao 2000, Okamoto et al. 2006, Vieira et al. 2008) and Peixes Lagoon, Rio Grande do Sul State (where it represented 76.4% of  total catches, according to Loebmann and Vieira (2005). It is also and economically and culturally important species on Santa Catarina coast (Medeiros 2002). It is an important species for both artisanal and industrial fisheries along the coast of Sao Paulo. The artisanal fishery in Sao Paulo State is not considered a threat, as the landings from this fishery are much smaller than the industrial fleet. Industrial fishery in Brazil operates from Rio Grande do Sul to Rio de Janeiro. This fleet has always caught M. liza as an alternative target, but in 2000 the species became a main a target for industrial fisheries, when the industrial purse-seine fleet directed efforts to this species, after the collapse of the sardine, and implementation of regulation measures for the sardine fishery. Production of this species is highly variable among the years, being greatly dependent on environmental conditions (Seckendorff and Azevedo 2007). It is of high economical and cultural importance in Sanboronbom Bay, Argentina and in the south/southeastern coast of Brazil. Adults are exploited by both artisanal fleets (Argentina) and industrial fleets (Brazil) during its fall spawning migration and subsequent aggregation, which may be a main reason for the decrease in its abundance. It was classified as overexploited by the Brazil Ministry of Fishing and Aquaculture in 2004 and some workers fear a fisheries collapse could occur (Lemos et al. 2014). Landings from the artisanal fleet operating in Patos Lagoon (Brazil) from 1945 to 2010 show a steady decline from 3,588 tonnes in the early 70s to 266 tonnes in 2004, a reduction of 92 %. These landings are not standardized by effort, however, effort is thought to have increased over the time period examined. Due to strong yearly fluctuations, the trend was re-calculated plotting catch per year between 1970 and 2004 and the decline was estimated from the obtained linear trend (rsq 0.52). Using this method, a 90% decline was estimated. Although weaknesses in fisheries statistics due to changes in methods and monitoring agencies may have introduced bias and errors, it is believed that this trend does indicate a strong population decline in Patos Lagoon (Vieira et al. 2008). Additionally, current catch mostly consists of individuals near age at first maturity and the overall average individual size has significantly decreased, which is an indication of growth overfishing (M. Brick Peres pers. comm. 2011). Recruitment in Patos Lagoon, an important nursery site, remained constant between 1979-2011 (J. P. Vieira unpub. data), which may indicate that spawning stocks are still available. However, the LTER program which has been sampling Patos since 1978, has detected significant declines in juvenile abundance over the past five years (J. Vieira pers. comm. 2015). The recent expansion of fishing grounds with the discovery of new stocks sustain this hypothesis. Along the coast of Sao Paulo State, landings for Mugil liza have fluctuated between 330 t in 1990 and 411 t in 2010, to peaks of 613 t in 2004 and 783 t in 2008 (Instituto de Pesca - SAA/SP unpublished data). In southern Sao Paulo, the fishery for this species is mainly artisanal with fishers using weirs and gill nets in estuarine areas and gillnets and trawls in the coastal zone (Mendonça and Katsuragawa 2001, Clauzet et al. 2005, Miranda and Carneiro 2007). The fishery employs approximately 600 artisanal fishermen in this region. Landings averaged 200 t/year from 2003 onward, with peak catch occurring in the winter months (Miranda and Carneiro 2007, Seckendorf and Azevedo 2007, Mendonça 2007, Mendonça et al. 2011). The peak catches were observed in March and September in the coastal fishery and in June and July for the estuarine fishery. An increase in CPUE from the artisanal estuarine gill net fishery occurred until 2004 (Mendonça 2007), followed by a reduction of 41% between 2004 to 2010 (Instituto de Pesca - SAA/SP, unpublished data). The decrease in CPUE has not been accompanied by a reduction in the average length of individuals caught by this artisanal fishery (Miranda and Carneiro 2007). Landings of the industrial fishery around the port of Santos also show fluctuations, with peaks of 410 t and 483 t in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The annual landings from the industrial fleet represent at least 88% of the total landings of the area. According to Fagundes et al. (2007), the species is frequently captured by beach trawls around Sao Vicente Island in the months of July, August, December and April. In the northern part of Sao Paulo State, the species is targeted mainly by an artisanal fishery, although landings are sometimes reported from industrial vessels when they occur in the municipality of Ubatuba. The landings averaged 40 t between 2008 and 2010, and employ around 350 fishers in the area.

Gulf of Mexico: In the Gulf of Mexico, Mugil liza is often caught with Mugil cephalus in Mexico; species-specific information is lacking and the population trend is unknown (H. Espinosa Perez and M. Vega-Cendejas pers. comm. 2014). Catch of mullets off Cuba have declined markedly due to overfishing of spawning aggregations and migrations (Claro et al. 2009).

Population connectivity: Morphological variations have been observed associated to latitudinal variations (Cousseau et al. 2005, Menezes et al. 2010). Siccha-Ramirez et al. (2014) reported that there is one single population of this species across the southern Caribbean to South America. However, Mai et al. (2014) reports evidence for separation between subpopulations from Niteroi (Brazil), Ubatuba and Laguna e Rio Grande (Brazil), and Argentina. Occurrence of a distinct spawning aggregation in the south of Santa Catarina State, Brazil (Vieira and Scalabrin 2001) and mature individuals in Sepetiba Bay, Rio de Janeiro State (Albieri and Araujo 2010) followed by recruitment in the same area (Silva and Araujo 2000) suggest that there are two or more spawning areas along the species distribution. If subpopulations distinguishable both genetically and biologically occur along the southwestern Atlantic coast, it is important that management and conservation measures take this into consideration. 

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

This species inhabits coastal marine waters and brackish estuaries, surf-zones and hypersaline lagoons. It may enter freshwater, but does not ascend far upriver (Ramos and Vieira 2001, Lima and Vieira, 2009). It is frequent in Lagoa de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro, and its abundance does not seem to be related to salinity, but the species showed a tendency for concentrating in waters of lower temperatures (Andreata et al. 1997). Juveniles occur throughout the year in Patos Lagoon, Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil (Vieira 1991, Vieira et al. 2008). It feeds on cyanobacteria, algae, protozoa, metazoa and debris (Oliveira and Soares 1996). It undergoes trophic migrations along the coast during which time it may form large schools (Thomson 1978, Keith et al. 2000). Its maximum length is 100 cm TL, but is common to 40 cm TL (Harrison FAO document). 

Reproduction:  This is a semi-catadromous species that migrates from estuaries to aggregate and spawn offshore (Albieri and Araujo 2010). For the southern subpopulation, the main spawning area occurs north of Rio Grande do Sul State and north of Santa Catarina, especially Patos Lagoon (32°S) and is influenced by seasonal variability in oceanographic conditions (Mai et al. 2014, Lemos et al. 2014). Esper et al (2001) found a long reproductive period in Paranaguá Bay from May to October, with spawning taking place from September to November. Andrade-Talmelli et al. (1996) found a similar reproductive period, from June to October, in Cananéia, SP. Between the southern Brazilian states (24–26°S) and Argentina (38°S), it spawns from April-July. It is a single spawner with oocyte development occurring synchronously and males maturing earlier than females (Lemos et al. 2014). In Cananéia, SP, spawning is synchronic and takes place from end of winter to early spring (Romagosa et al. 2000). It migrates north from the estuary in autumn to spawn (below 19-21ºC) in marine areas (Vieira et al. 2008, Gonzalez-Castro et al. 2009, 2011). Fecundity is between 818,992 to 2,869,767 oocytes for fish between 42.6-66 cm (Lemos et al. 2014). In Paranagua Bay, 50% of females reach sexual maturity at 41.2 cm TL and 100% at 49.6 cm (Esper et al. 2000). In Guaratuba Bay, the length at 100% maturity is between 45-51 cm (Marterer 1990 apud Pina and Chaves 2005). In Sepetiba bay, Rio de Janeiro, 100% females maturity occurs at 57 cm TL and males at 55 cm TL, fecundity rate is 3,080,000 oocytes and reproduction takes place from May to August (Albieri 2009). 

Frota et al. (2007) found the following parameters for weight- length relationships for this species in central Brazilian coast: adults from 13.9 to 37.1 cm SL and from 42.7 to 816.5 g of total weight- a=  0.0398  and b=2.767; adults from 17.5 to 42.2 cm TL and from 42.7 to 657.8 g of TW- a=  0.0078 and b= 3.032. Gonzales-Castro et al. (2009) found the following growth parameters for this species in Chiquita Lagoon, Argentina: Linf= 563.82 mm ; K =0.30 years-1; t0= -0.057 years (age groups 1-8) and natural mortality of 0.30. Its longevity is estimated to be 11 years and has a relatively low growth rate (Gonzales-Castro et al. 2009, Garbin et al. 2014). Females grow slower, larger, and older than males and it recruits to the fishery at six years old (Garbin et al. 2014).

Systems:Freshwater; Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is a commercially important resource, taken in both artisanal and industrial fisheries with purse seines and gill nets. Ripe gonads are harvested and exported as ‘Bottarga’ to international markets where they are considered a delicacy (Cervigon 1992, Lemos et al. 2014). It is of interest for aquaculture (Okamoto et al. 2006).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is threatened by overexploitation where it occurs off southern Brazil. The area between Rio de Janeiro to Golfo Nuevo, where the significant Brazil-Argentinian fisheries are located, comprises approximately 12% of its total range. Since the year 2000, directed effort has increased due to expanding industrial purse seines fleets, especially in 2008 when the species was raised to the fifth position among the most captured species in Brazil. The development of a new market for fish roe has made this species a main target over the past decade. In addition, the sardine purse seiners have been displaced due to the decline in sardine populations and switched to targeting mullet (Garbin et al. 2014). This threat will likely continue unless management measures are implemented. It is targeted during its spawning period, which considerably impacts populations along Brazil (Miranda and Carneiro 2007). In addition to fishing threats, the construction of a dam built in 1977 in the channel that connected Patos and Mirim Lagoon systems is degrading the salinity level and preventing juveniles from reaching Mirim Lagoon (Burns et al. 2006). Threats by habitat loss or pollution also occur as many coastal and estuarine areas are degraded and polluted along its range, particularly in the proximity of large cities. The Mundau Lagoon, in Maceio city, capital of Alagoas State is one of such examples (Fabre pers. comm. 2011). It is known to be threatened by river modifications where it ranges off Cuba (Claro et al. 2009). Successful recruitment is seriously impacted during El Nino years due to excessive freshwater runoff into estuaries (Vieira et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Ordenance nº08/03-N, from 20/March/2003 established a minimum catch size of 40 cm in southern Brazil. Normative Instruction nº 171 from IBAMA (09/May/2008) regulated mullet fisheries by establishing a closed period for fishing between 01 Jan to 14 May in all estuarine-lagoon systems along the south and southern Brazilian coast. It also limited the fishing effort of paired-trawlers to 60 vessels, established a closed period for fishing between 01 May to 30 July along the Santa Catarina coast to less than one nautical mile from the beaches licensed for beach-seine fishery using canoe and less than 300 m from rocky coasts. Normative Instruction nº3 from MMA/SEAP, de 09/02/2004, established a closed period for fishing between 01 July to 31 September in Lagoa dos Patos (RS). The Brazilian Inter-ministerial Instruction (MPA/MMA No. 7 of 2011) banned the landing of M. liza roe without their respective carcasses (Lemos et al. 2011). There is an urgent need for a formal management plan, monitoring of landings, and standardization of catch statistics by effort. Establishing a closed season from May to August and requiring a minimum catch size of 35 cm TL would enhance population conservation (Albieri and Araujo 2010). There are no species-specific conservation measures in place within the Gulf of Mexico. 

Citation: Castro, M.G., Vieira, J.P., Brick Peres, M., Albieri, R.J., Mendonça, J.T., Villwock de Miranda, L., Fadré, N.N., Padovani-Ferreira, B., da Silva, F.M.S., Rodrigues, A.M.T. & Chao, L. 2015. Mugil liza. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T190409A1951047. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
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