Grey Mullet

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

grey mullet so called in Britain to distinguish them from red mullet, are just plain mullet for Americans and Australians. They are beautifully streamlined fish, which exist in a number of genera and species in tropical and warm temperate waters around the world. One species, Mugil cephalus, has a circumglobal distribution.

Of the numerous other species, some commonly caught and eaten are:

  • Chelon labrosus, the thick-lipped grey mullet, the most common European species, found from the Black Sea through the Mediterranean and up the Atlantic coast as far as Scotland.

  • Liza saliens, the leaping grey mullet, of the Mediterranean and the E. Atlantic coast from the Bay of Biscay southwards. Liable, because of its leaping habit, to be caught in surface nets.

  • L. auratus, the golden grey mullet, which has a similar range and is also a leaper. It has a gold blotch on each gill cover.

  • M. curema, the white mullet, of the W. Atlantic coast from New England to Brazil; also on the E. Pacific coast.

  • L. argentea, the tiger or jumping mullet, of southern Australian waters.

  • L. subviridis, the greenback grey mullet, is one of the most common in Asian waters.

  • Valamugil seheli, the blue-spot grey mullet, another Indo-Pacific fish, has blue spots where the pectoral fins join the sides.

  • V. buchanani, the bluetail mullet (bloustert-harder in S. Africa), a large one (1 m/40"), whose tail is a brilliant blue. ‘Once an explosion that caused many hundreds to leap out of the water at Ponte Torres … produced a huge shimmering sheet of blue’ (Smith and Heemstra, 1986).