#20 The Grey Mullet (Chelon Labrosus) Wildlife of the Solway

Wildlife of the Solway Firth  – The Grey Mullet by Mark Vollers

Chelon labrosus

Lake District Coast Aquarium

The Grey Mullet has to be listed as one of the most resourceful and difficult to catch of any fish in the Solway Firth, and as proof of it’s adaptability it can also be found on most Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

It is tolerant of low salinity and poor water quality, so can often be found in river estuaries, harbours and in marinas where it will find a meal where other fish would starve or die.

Particularly in the Summer months in Maryport they can be seen cruising in with the tide, venturing right into the shallows leaving signature ‘v’ shaped ripples on the surface as they do so. Mullet are omnivorous, that is to say they can survive equally well on vegetable matter such as seaweed, or by scavenging on animal detritus.

They have wide a mouth with ‘lips’ that are adapted for nibbling and scraping rock surfaces, so they are never going to grab and swallow fisherman’s bait…they have to be caught on really small hooks or by using nets, but they are powerful swimmers and will often leap clean over the latter .

Sometimes they can be observed apparently gulping for air on the surface, but in reality they are skimming the top layers of water for scummy organic residues that still offer a meal.

No wonder then that they can reach a size of nearly 75cm and live for 25 years or more. In the Lake District Coast Aquarium we always have Grey Mullet of all sizes on display, some of which have been with us since opening in 1997.


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