The Black Sea red mullet is a favorite delicacy of tourists spending their holidays in the resorts of the Black and Azov Seas, according to modern classification, it belongs to the red mullet family. In a literal translation from Italian, the name of the species of this fish is translated as “beard”. This name is argued by the peculiarities of the appearance of the fish – its characteristic feature, due to which the red mullet cannot be confused with any other fish, is the presence of two long whiskers. In Turkey, this fish is usually called a sultanka, because it was traditionally supplied to the court of the rulers as their favorite delicacy.
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In addition to two long whiskers, a specific color is a characteristic feature of this species. The belly of the red mullet is painted in light yellow tones, but the scales covering the sides and back have a pink tint. Another characteristic feature of the species is the acquisition of a bright red color on all sides right after the catch. Paleness occurs only after 4-5 hours, so this fish is smoked, as they say, “on the spot” in order to preserve the “presentation”. Red mullet that has a pale color and is put up for sale is considered unfit for consumption (because it was cooked stale).
Video: Red mullet
Fun fact: Some enthusiastic (non-spearfishing) divers spend a lot of time trying to attract fish. They can detect this fish only by traces of whiskers on the bottom – the original coloration provides it with excellent camouflage. At the same time, the fish does not differ in particular fearfulness, therefore, even if it is detected, it does not swim away from scuba divers. Many of them manage to attract the sultan by offering her a delicacy in the form of pieces of a worm. She would never object to such a delicacy!
But not only oceanologists are interested in red mullet – this fish is also respected for its gastronomic qualities, it has an amazing taste. This type of fish is loved for its excellent taste. However, red mullet is considered a very useful product. Its meat contains about 20 grams of protein – in terms of 100 grams of weight. But the content of useful fat in it is small (meaning polyunsaturated fatty acids). For 100 g of product — no more than 4 g of fat. Important information for those who want to lose weight: red mullet is distinguished by low calorie content, so it makes sense for those who want to lose weight to pay attention to the sea delicacy.
Red mullet is the best option as the first fish included in the diet of babies – it can be safely given at 9-10 months. There is information that the consumption of this fish has a positive effect on the skin of children. It is also recommended to consume red mullet for athletes and people suffering from heart pathology – it allows you to quickly restore strength after intense physical exertion. But this fish is strongly not recommended for allergy sufferers.
Appearance and features
The length of an adult red mullet ranges from 20 to 30 cm. Some, especially lucky fishermen were lucky enough to fish out specimens of red mullet, the length of which was as much as 45 cm! But these were rather episodic cases, recently such luck has been recorded less and less, although amateur anglers really appreciate this fish.
The body of the red mullet is oblong in shape and somewhat flattened, laterally compressed. The caudal fin is long, but the anal and dorsal, on the contrary, are very short. Red mullet individuals (both female and male) have a fairly large head with very high-set eyes. Seated with many small bristle teeth, the mouth is located in the lower part of the head, which has a steeply descending, almost vertical snout. Many fishermen identify a red mullet before they even land — by the presence of two long whiskers (these organs are the most important adaptive organ, because the fish uses them to stir up sand or silt).
Despite all its gastronomic values, red mullet is not of particular interest to fishermen due to its small size. Therefore, the fish remains (mostly) a valuable object of amateur fishing and a treat for tourists. Red mullet is not exported and practically does not go even to other regions, so only tourists who have arrived at the resorts of the Black and Azov Seas can feast on it. At the same time, it is impossible not to note the benefits of red mullet – it is explained by the beneficial substances contained in it in large quantities. Moreover, doctors strongly recommend this particular fish because of its high content of fat-soluble vitamins A, B and E.
In addition, red mullet meat contains pantothenic acid and minerals. It has been scientifically proven that the Black Sea red mullet is an important source of micro and macro elements.
Interesting fact: People suffering from osteoporosis are advised to eat pre-dried and ground red mullet bones (they contain the most calcium).
Where does the red mullet live?
The species inhabits the seas belonging to the basins of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. In Russia, it is widespread in the Black and Azov Seas. The Turks are actively fishing for red mullet in the Mediterranean Sea. Schools of fish prefer depths ranging from 15 to 30 meters. They most often choose muddy or sandy areas of the bottom – it is easiest for red mullets to get food there. In some cases (very rarely) fish can also be found on stones.
However, the question regarding the prevalence of this fish needs to be clarified. The thing is that the well-known red mullet is not one species, but a whole genus of fish of the goat family, popularly known as sultans. In turn, this genus includes 4 species that differ little in external (the so-called morphometric characteristics).
But the species range varies significantly:
- red mullet or common mullet (in Latin & # 8212; Mullus barbatus). It is she who serves as a favorite delicacy of tourists. Distributed (mainly) in the Azov, Black and Mediterranean Seas, as well as near the eastern coast of the Atlantic Ocean; Found (most often) in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic Seas, as well as in the North-East Atlantic;
- golden goatfish (Mullus auratus). Found exclusively in the Western Atlantic;
- Mullus argentinae (Argentine, South American red mullet). Fish can be caught off the coast of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina;
- amateur fishermen confirm that in the vast majority of cases they meet and fish for sultanka at a depth of about 15-30 meters, but there were cases in their memory when flocks of red mullet were detected using an echo sounder 300 meters from the water surface.
Most often, the fish goes to such a significant depth with the onset of cold weather. She prefers to spend most of her time at the bottom. This is explained by the need to search for food – its food is mainly in the bottom layer, so the red mullet very rarely rises from the bottom it has chosen. Here it is convenient for her to get food and hide from predators – this is facilitated by the shape of the body and color. Invisible on the sandy bottom, it becomes easy prey in the water column and on the surface.
Now you know where the red mullet fish is found. Let's see what she eats.
What does a red mullet eat?
Adult red mullet feed on small invertebrates – as mentioned above, all these organisms live at the bottom. Very rarely (almost never) red mullet consumes caviar or fry of other fish. Even if an adult red mullet discovers someone else's clutch (let it be the caviar of a predator whose adults love to feast on the mullet and its fry), the fish will still not touch it.
Why this is so is unknown, because the caviar and young individuals of the red mullet themselves often and densely become the prey of predatory marine inhabitants. But the red mullet still does not stop “playing nobility”, satisfying its appetite with lower forms of life. Regarding the species diversity of the menu – at the time of growing up, red mullet begin to feed on amphipods, mollusks, sea worms and crabs. Moreover, the red mullet also respects the usual red worm (the favorite bait of amateur fishermen), demonstrating a good bite.
The red mullet does not experience problems with the extraction of food – the antennae it has are ideal for shaking the soil and getting food. The main difficulty in the search for food is camouflage from predators and identification of fishing baits. And if the red mullet is even more or less with the first, then it clearly does not possess the cunning of a chub and other freshwater fish, systematically getting hooked.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
This fish spends the winter at a depth of about 60 & # 8212; 90 m. With the advent of spring, red mullet migrates in schools. The directions of migration (most often) are the following – along the coastal regions of the Caucasus and Crimea in the direction of Kerch. After the temperature of sea water reaches 14-16°, the fish begins to swim to the coast en masse – such an intense release is explained by the desire of the red mullet to return to its usual habitat conditions, which are only on the coast, as soon as possible.
Caviar the mosque at the bottom is logical, because that is where her favorite habitat is. For each female red mullet, on average, there are 1.5-2 million fry. Red mullet fry consume zooplankton, and to give themselves greater confidence, they swim only in small flocks, never alone. At the time of spawning, red mullet fish has a well-marked appearance, it becomes suitable for breeding in about 1-2 years.
The average duration of a red mullet does not exceed 12 years, although only a few survive to such a venerable age. This fish has too many enemies, and the population is ensured by fertility alone. In addition, the deterioration of the ecological situation is far from having the best effect on the range of the red mullet.
Social structure and reproduction
The black red mullet is one of the most prolific marine fish. The process of their reproduction can be characterized as follows. Individuals acquire puberty by the age of 2 and immediately begin to procreate. Spawning time lasts from the second or third decade of March to June. Usually, the mullet chooses sandy areas of the bottom, located at a depth of about 10–40 meters, for breeding and laying eggs.
A female can easily spawn more than 10,000 eggs during spawning. Males rush to process the entire deposited caviar with seminal fluid as early as possible. After this procedure, the caviar rises to the water surface. Larvae begin to emerge by 2-3 days after fertilization.
After 2-2.5 months, the body length of red mullet fry is on average 4-5 cm. The fry often swim closer to the shore in order to find food for themselves at the bottom. Their color matches the color of adults. Another six months will pass, and the small fish that have been born will already become practically indistinguishable from adults (according to morphometric characteristics). Only a few will survive until this moment – and very few will be able to endure the winter at all.
This fish has a lot of enemies and weak protection against numerous predators who consider red mullet meat a real delicacy. It just so happened that those two long antennae, with which the fish loosens the sand in search of food, are a sign that reveals the disguise – predatory fish are well aware that their “lunch” has such antennae.
Photo: What a red mullet looks like
The mass extermination of this fish by natural enemies (not even humans) is one of the main reasons for the gradual decline in its population. Problems (and the main ones) begin from the very “small years”. Caviar and small, newly born and poorly adapted to the harsh reality of the red mullet are an exquisite delicacy for marine/ocean inhabitants. What's up — behind this delicacy there is always “a whole queue” of those who wish. Even herbivorous fish are not averse to eating red mullet caviar.
But adult individuals of red mullet are of interest mainly to predatory fish of medium and small sizes. Taking into account the specifics of the red mullet's lifestyle (it always actively searches for food in the daytime, raking the sand with antennae that give it away), this fish is hunted exclusively by marine diurnal predators.
That is, its main enemies are sea rooster, katran, horse mackerel, ruff and flounder. Separately, you need to focus on the latter – being a bottom dweller, it is the flounder that exterminates the bulk of the red mullet caviar and its young. After all, it is easiest for her to detect the same bottom fish as herself – especially if the prey frankly “gives herself away” with her careless behavior.
Population and species status
The number of red mullet in the Black, Azov and Mediterranean Seas has been systematically declining recently – despite the fact that fishing for this fish is very, very weak (due to its low economic feasibility, due to the small size of the fish and the difficulty of fishing it with fishing methods).
The decrease in the red mullet population and range is explained by ichthyologists by the following factors:
- a sharp increase in the number of predators for which the red mullet (and especially its caviar and fry) is a favorite delicacy. Scientists see the reason for this factor in the violation of marine ecosystems;
- violation of the environment, provoked by industrial emissions, the maximum concentration of which falls precisely on the coastal zones – the favorite habitat of the red mullet;
- poaching of the red mullet. Despite the fact that the red mullet fishery is not particularly developed, many fishermen, wanting to please tourists with such a delicacy, resort to illegal fishing methods. You can also very often encounter a catch of red mullet during spawning.
In order to restore the population of this mustachioed delicacy, scientists have been proposing for many years to ban its fishing altogether. But so far these measures have not been taken – the species is not in the Red Book (in any of the states), so the authorities believe that it is too early to sound the alarm, and denying tourists the pleasure of eating such a fish is very unprofitable. For example, in Italy there is a whole chain of restaurants — Porto Maltese, which has made a name for itself just on red mullet dishes, is why many guests of the stunning resorts of Italy visit these establishments first of all.
Red mullet is a valuable breed of fish in gastronomic terms. In addition to the fact that it has an amazing taste, it contains a lot of useful substances, vitamins, micro and macro elements. Inhabiting mainly the coastal zone, the fish is an object of amateur fishing. It is the amateur fishermen who deliver red mullet to smokehouses and fish shops, where guests of coastal cities can enjoy this delicacy. In view of the fact that under natural conditions, many marine (oceanic) inhabitants are not averse to seeing red mullet in their menu, the fish population is gradually declining – its adaptive potential does not allow it to cope with such an increased interest.