The gurnard is a typical representative of its genus, having an elongated body with a long dorsal fin but no ventral fins. The head is large and triangular, wide at the eyes, and narrows toward the mouth. The dorsal fin is made up of one spine and six soft rays while the anal fin has two spines and five soft rays.
The head of the gurnard is wide with large eyes, a long conical snout, a medium-sized terminal mouth with villiform teeth in bands on both jaws, no barbel at the chin but with strong maxillary barbs in two rows. The pectoral fin has 11–13 strong radial rays and the pelvic fin has 2 dorsal spines and 5–6 soft rays. The caudal fin is small with a well-developed lower lobe. The lateral line, which extends almost to the tail, has 31–37 scales in its upper section, while the lower section contains 0-7 scales followed by 40–74 scutes. The large eyes of this fish indicate that sight is important but it also has two tubular nostrils on its snout. These lead to the mouth and are sometimes called "barrel smellers". They contain neuromasts that enable prey detection by smell and suggest that, like many other such fishes, this species too feeds largely by smell rather than by sight. The dorsal coloration is reddish-brown, while the flanks are paler, and pale bluish spots or large blotches are found on their upper surfaces. Juveniles have six bars which become faded in adults.
This species grows to a maximum length of 200 cm but specimens larger than 100 cm are rare today. A length of over 46 cm is very rare, and no individuals larger than 100 cm have been caught since 1970. It is believed that the species lives for more than 60 years.
Thegurnard's diet consists mainly of fishes such as sculpins (Myoxocephalus spp., Cottidae), wrasses (Labridae), soles (Soleidae), and flatfish (Pleuronectidae). Cephalopods are also taken frequently. The gurnard is caught commercially in bottom trawl, trammel net, fish traps, and also on hook-and-line gear. It reproduces by laying eggs that are pelagic and hatch into a larva called "leptocephali".
Leptocephalus larvae are transparent, highly elongated, ribbon-like fish with small heads. This is the only stage during which the red gurnard feeds on zooplankton or phytoplankton. After this developmental phase, it metamorphoses into the adult form and settles to the bottom.
The gurnard is widespread throughout the whole Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Sea, including around Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. There are individual records from China (Taiwan), Japan (Honshu), and Queensland (Australia). This species occurs in depths between 1 m and 200 m, most frequently between 10 m and 50 m deep. It is demersal in temperate waters but pelagic or semi-pelagic in tropical regions where it forms large schools close to the surface.
Global gurnard production
The majority of gurnard production comes from the Pacific Ocean, with New Zealand, Japan, and Australia being the top three producers. In recent years, gurnard catches have been on the decline in all three countries due to overfishing and declining stock levels. As a result, gurnard prices have risen sharply, especially in Japan where the fish is highly prized. In order to address the issue, all three countries have implemented strict quotas and regulations on gurnard fishing.
Despite the decline in production, gurnards still remain a popular seafood choice due to their mild flavor and firm texture. The fish can be prepared in a variety of ways, including grilled, baked, or fried. Gurnards are also often used in soups and stews.
If you are looking for a sustainable seafood option, gurnards are a good choice as they are not currently overfished. When buying gurnards, make sure to look for fish that has been sustainably caught and are from a reputable source.