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Subject: Re: [Fishfolk] Culturing mullet
From: Bob McDonald <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 6 Dec 2008 09:59:45 +1100

text/plain (120 lines)

Hi Folks and Bill,
                             seamullet is a major east coast fishery in 
Australia.  Today it is fished for its roe and flesh withe roe exported to 
Japan.   The migration starts close to where I live in southeast Australia 
and goes on all the way to north Queensland, fished seasonally for the 
length of their migration.  It is likely one of Australia's oldest fisheries 
with centuries of indigenous fishing of this species (Mugil cephalus). Today 
the commercial fishery is based on the roe with cheap flesh on the market 
from March  in northern NSW - making life difficult for the mullet only (no 
roe) river fishermen traditionally.

It is one of the most adaptive of all fish species with locust like 
qualities for expanding territory.  During the migration mix sex schools 
come into river mouths, often sheltering from heavy weather, and mixing with 
the river stocks.  People living on the estuarine sections of the Richmond 
River on the east coast talk of millions of these fish coming down stream 
for days sounding like an endless heard of cattle with Mulloway (Argirosomus 
japonicus) - a large predatory fish also in school 'snapping' at the mullet 
with a snap that can be heard on calm nights for miles.

During floods fingerlings of this species find their way into distant dams 
and water holes where they reach maturity but reabsorb their eggs or sperm 
annually until the next flood lets them back out into the river system - 
their locust like behaviour occupying new territories and expanding whenever 
the conditions are right. Fishermen living in stilted houses spoke of them 
eating the vegetables in the flooded gardens!

Fisheries impact on this species in inconsequential - but they are manage 
badly in that way with various bureaucrats and academics complaining about 
overfishing for the last decade - often without a clue about the fish's 
biology and increasingly refusing to acknowledge the impact of habitat loss.

This species spawns in the in the estuarine plumes that flow down the coast 
with tight schools of fingerlings coming back in with the rising tide once 
they have hatched.  The adults are vegetarians and insectivores.  Their 
abundance in estuarine lakes in legendary with some early fisheries simply 
based on hitting them with stones in shallow water and wading in and 
collecting the ones stunned.

These fish are most impact by floodgates restricting their movements and the 
thousands of floodgates on east coast estuaries have reduced their potential 
to generate huge numbers. Acid flows from denying tide to acid sulphate 
soils in increasing problem too.  Toxic algae condemnation has seen them 
temporarily lost from large Victorian estuaries.

Governments here that pour many millions of dollars into aquaculture 
annually only target high value species of 'game species' for restocking.  I 
have tried to get aquaculture operators to consider sea mullet but it will 
only work here economically if they allow healthy estuarine waters to 
circulate through their ponds with the tide and trap the mullet. They laugh 
at me - they want the big bucks - not as fish that is of the lowest price. 
Mullet in dams grow way to slowly and dams support too few fish.

There may be a chance of getting farmers with floodgated estuaries to 
consider having floodgates partly open to allow flow and them to create 
ponds to trap (with meshes or vertical slats) from which they can harvest 
fish. It is just a fight with various bureaucrats every inch of the way 
because 'only fishing affects stocks'

Marketing these products is a problem as the government no longer promotes 
eating and cooking fish. Fishermen trying to get a migrating roe mullet 
seine shot re-opened put on a free public fish bake a few years ago which 
brought hundreds of people out over the day and introduced younger ones to 
mullet - but there is a trick to preparing them and the black gut bag is 
very bitter and has to be avoided in preparations.  Fishermen waiting for 
the migrating mullet to arrive at Shaw's Bay - inside the moth of the 
Richmond River - cut slices of mullet flesh from a whole scaled fish and 
cook them. They eventually did a deal with rec fishermen and the Minister go 
smeared in a corruption scandal - so they got their shot back.

To operate the fishery they have 'watchers' on a few rocky points of Shaw's 
bay with expensive sunglasses.  The fish only come in sometimes and they are 
really hard to round up into the seine and they can only spot the fish if it 
is reasonably bright.  They use a double scull row boat (more reliable than 
out boards) and sometimes work with the local dolphins to get the seine 
around a school, ideally a couple of tonne at a time. The season only lasts 
for a few weeks in this inherently long lasting fishery that physically 
cannot be 'overfished'. While waiting for the schools of fish the fishermen 
sit and mend nets - some times for days between shots - but the roe is worth 
a top dollar.

Mulloway are a major recreational fishery yet the relationship between the 
abundance seamullet (and other mullet species) and Mulloway is not 
recognised and the Western Australian Government which,  on the advice of 
yet more narrow minded academics, is closing down commercial fisheries that 
interact with Mulloway and restricting Mulloway catches - while installing 
desalination plants and not identifying the environmental factors that 
impact these coastal fisheries.

If we could get a fisheries economists and marine biologists to recognise 
the relationship between streamflow, water quality, the area of accessible 
estuarine habitat and sea mullet we could develop quite a massive fishery. 
As Menakhem rightly says these fish are rich in vitamins and Omega 3 etc.

Cheers Bob McDonald

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "William Silvert" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "Scientific forum on fish and fisheries" <[log in to unmask]>; 
"List FISHFOLK" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 12:15 AM
Subject: [Fishfolk] Culturing mullet

> Does anyone have any information on the cultivation of mullet, including 
> the marketing and other economic aspects? Although it is a low-priced fish 
> with little current demand, it seems like a reasonable prospect, since 
> they are easy to grow, feed very low on the food chain, and have a nice 
> firm flesh that probably could be promoted as the price of more 
> traditional species skyrockets.
> Bill Silvert

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