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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - 21 Striped Mullet SSR 2016

Marine Fisheries

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Striped Mullet

Striped Mullet — 2016

Stock StatusViable – Based on the 2014 N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries stock assessment, overfishing is not occurring. A poor stock-recruitment relationship resulted in unreliable biomass-based reference points and prevented determining if the stock is currently overfished. Landings occur mostly in the latter half of the year, allowing females to mature before entering the fishery. The age structure of the stock indicates the majority of reproduction comes from the younger age classes. Most commercial exploitation targets roe carrying females.

Historically, the commercial fishery has had sustained landings similar in scope to current levels. Accurate recreational harvest estimates of striped mullet, primarily used for bait, are difficult to obtain and imprecise. Updated minimum and maximum commercial landings thresholds of 1.13 million and 2.76 million pounds, established in Amendment 1, are used to monitor trends in the striped mullet fishery. Landings falling outside of these thresholds trigger a closer examination of the data to examine causes of extreme landings increases or decreases. Striped mullet landings fell within established thresholds in 2015.  

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2006-2015 –1,695,375 lbs./$947,312

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,247,044 lbs./$811,458

Average Recreational Landings – Not available

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) –The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the state FMP on April 27, 2006. There is no interjurisdictional management over the Atlantic coast striped mullet population. Amendment 1 was completed in November 2015 and rules went into effect in April 2016. Issues addressed in Amendment 1 include; resolution of Newport River gill net attendance, addressing user group conflicts, and updating the management framework for the N.C. striped mullet stock.   

Data and Research Needs – Collect life history information regarding maturity, age, growth, identification of spawning locations, and larval and juvenile movements. Continued improvements in estimating recreational bait harvests. Length and age compositions and catch–per–unit–effort of commercial, recreational, and recreational–commercial gear fisheries, as well as from all relevant fishery–independent surveys; create and validate a juvenile abundance index.

2015 Regulations –There were no size restrictions, but as of July 1, 2006 there is a 200 mullet (white and striped aggregate) daily possession limit per person in the recreational fishery and the mutilated finfish rule was modified to exempt mullet when used as bait.

Harvest Season –There are no restrictions, except for area and season closures for the commercial stop–net beach seine fishery along Bogue Banks.

Size and Age at Maturity – Males: 11.2 inches FL/2 years; Females: 13.4 inches FL/2 years

Maximum Age –14 years

Juvenile Abundance Index Not available

Habits and Habitats – Striped mullet are found in a wide range of depths and habitats primarily in freshwater to estuarine environments, until a spawning migration into ocean waters occurs during the fall. Aside from its considerable economic importance, striped mullet also serve as an ecological link between some of the smallest aquatic organisms and the highest level predators in the marine food chain. Mullet feed on microorganisms such as bacteria, unicellular diatoms, and unicellular algae found on aquatic plants, in mud, silt, and sand, and in decaying plant material. In turn, striped mullet are prey for predators such as birds, fish, sharks, and porpoises. Striped mullet are highly fecund (upwards of 4 million eggs for a large female) and spawn in large aggregations near inlets to offshore areas. Spawning individuals have been reported from September to March; however, peak spawning activity occurs from October to early December.

For more information, contact Daniel Zapf at Daniel.Zapf@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7804 or 252-948-3875.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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