Stock Status – Viable – Based on the 2006 N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries stock assessment, overfishing is not occurring. The threshold fishing mortality rate (F25% = 1.25) has not been exceeded since 1998. Landings occur mostly in the later 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. Future harvest levels are expected to be affected by rule changes enacted in 2010 aimed at reducing interactions with sea turtles in the large mesh gill net fishery. Approximately 18% of striped mullet landings are from large mesh (4”–6.5”) set gill nets and will be affected by the new rules. While landings increased in 2010, the true effects of these changes have yet to be determined. Accurate recreational harvest estimates of striped mullet used for bait are difficult to obtain.
Average Commercial Landings and Value 2001– 2010 – 1,860,380 lbs./$882,488
2010 Commercial Landings and Value – 2,082,636 lbs./$1,002,386
Average Recreational Landings – The Marine Recreational Information Program is designed to sample anglers who use rod and reel as the mode of capture. Since the majority of striped mullet are caught with cast nets for bait, recreational harvest data are imprecise. Mullets are usually released by anglers before observation by creel clerks and therefore, cannot be identified to the species level.
Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission adopted the state FMP on April 27, 2006. There is no inter– jurisdictional management over the Atlantic coast striped mullet population. Review of the current FMP began in October 2010 and an updated stock assessment is due later this year.
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 available juvenile abundance indices.
Current Regulations – There are 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
Current Maximum Age – 13 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 important 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 to top 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 Jason Rock at Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338- 7804 or (252) 948-3864.
|N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632 |