Grey Mullet

Species name: Mugil cephalus

Common names: Grey Mullet, Jumping Mullet, Striped Mullet, Sea Mullet.

Maori Name: Kanae


Etymology: Mugil = Grey Mullet. Cephalus = Head.

Description: Colour Olive Green to Silver, whitening on the abdomen. It has thin lips and short pectoral fins that when folded forward do not reach the eye. They have a well developed adipose eyelid.

The species commonly attains a size of 50cm and 2kg<, however there are unconfirmed reports that they have been caught at 120cm and 12kg those these reports should be met with a degree of scepticism

Distribution: Grey Mullet have a cosmopolitan distribution being found in shallow coastal waters of all tropical, subtropical and temperate zones of all seas. They are considered a ‘marine wanderer’ migrating in and out of freshwater areas as and when water levels and migratory barriers allow.



A Brief History within New Zealand: Grey Mullet are a native species within New Zealand.


Ecology: Adults are typically found in shallow coastal waters, estuaries and rivers, not typically at a depth of more than 10m. They are often found in a shoal over sand or mud bottoms.


They are considered a Catadromous species in the wild, breeding in the Ocean, however the freshwater phase is not obligatory.

In the wild Grey Mullet are a diurnal species feeding on benthic organisms such as diatoms, benthic algae, filamentous algae, detritus and some Gastropods and Mollusks. They have been recorded feeding on a very wide range of food types having been recorded ingesting close to 100 food types.

Why Use Grey Mullet? In the New Zealand context they are a fantastic species to add to any waterway as they fill a valuable role within an ecosystem. They should be considered a generalistic herbivore/ a generalistic omnivore as they consume a wide range of different food types. They are an invaluable species for control of benthic diatoms (sludge type algae on the bottom of a waterway), filamentous alga’s which can also become a nuisance along with a number of other soft aquatic weed species. In certain circumstances they may also aid in controlling aquatic Gastropod (Snail) populations.


Life Cycle and Reproduction: Adults are only known to spawn in Saltwater with recorded spawning times and specific locales varying globally. Wild spawning records indicate that small aggregates of individuals gather for a spawning event where males press against the ripe females facing into tidal currents, typically over deeper oceanic waters, though a myriad of authors have offered varying opinions on how where and when.

Source:  Currently our mullet are sourced from the wild, quarantined and then fattened prior to sale. Unfortunately this process means that currently we are only able to supply limited numbers of Mullet throughout New Zealand and that supply is constrained seasonally. The long term plan is to culture Grey Mullet in a hatchery format in the same vein as our Silver Carp and Grass Carp production. We are working towards this which will then allow us to sell large quantities of Grey Mullet for waterway control, restoration and potentially for backyard Aquaponics.

Our facility has been inspected by both MPI and DOC officials in 2014 and subsequently cleared of all identified noxious species relating to Grass Carp and Silver Carp; such as the noxious Copepod species Skistodiaptomus pallidus, and the Unwanted (Noxious) organism Gambusia affinis. Both of which have been transported by unscrupulous traders where other species introductions have been undertaken.

We are industry leaders in environmental standards and practises, having developed robust methodologies to ensure foreign organism transfers are minimised by maintaining our biosecure facility and adopting our own in house best practise standards that exceed those required under the current legal framework.