Wildlife of the Solway Firth – The Red Mullet

The Red Mullet (Mullus surmeletus) is, for the Solway Firth, an unusual fish that can grow up to 40cm long and weigh 1.5 kg, as it is found mainly in The Mediterranean and warmer Southern UK waters. It has nevertheless been recorded around most of the British Isles. It is a member of the Goatfish family, so called because of it’s two long sensory chin barbels and is no relation to the better known Grey Mullet.

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As adults they frequent sandy muddy seabed down to depths of about 90 metres, digging vigorously with their barbels as they unearth small crustaceans, worms and shellfish. Newly hatched larval fish live in and are dispersed by the surface currents and if conditions are warm enough shoals can establish for a while at least further North.

So it happens near the Lake District Coast Aquarium at Maryport every few years that anglers netting for sandeel fishing bait snag a few fingerling Red Mullet for us and so we are able to display this fascinating and very active fish…it requires feeding every few hours. It’s rarity means it has no commercial value here, but in The Mediterranean it has long been much sought after.

The Romans prized it above all other fish, even cultivating it in seawater pools, with the best specimens fetching in some cases their own weight in Silver! It is not on the IUCN Red List, but there is not sufficient population data yet to fully qualify this.

So why not pay a visit to The Lake District Coast Aquarium and view this fascinating fish, plus so many more! They’re open 7 days a week 10:00 to 17:00 with children under 3 getting in free!

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