Surmullet Surmullets are benthic fishes that can be found in all coastal seas around the world. Their scientific name is "Mullus barbatus", and it lives mostly in coral reefs, tidal pools, and rocky shores.
The surmullet has a cylindrical body with a slightly compressed rear end. The mouth is small, located at the tip of a protractile snout that resembles a pig's nose. It has three spines in front of the dorsal fin, and one spine behind it. The scales are few, small, smooth, or rough. There are nine spines in front of the anal fin, and five behind it.
The coloration varies widely depending on habitat type. Young fish are yellowish with reddish fins; adults are brownish to greenish-grey with dark vertical bands. In the red surmullet, these bands are pinkish to red to maroon. The average length is from 12 to 30 inches (3.7 - 7.6 centimeters), but they occasionally grow up to 36 inches (9.1 centimeters) in length and weigh up to 9 lbs (4 kg).
Surmullets are opportunistic feeders, finding most of their food on the seabed. Unlike other fishes, they don't use suction to feed; instead, they "mine" the seafloor with raking movements of their specialized teeth. They eat crustaceans like shrimp, crabs, lobsters, prawns, and amphipods. They also eat bivalves like mussels and oysters, sea urchins, octopuses, jellyfish, worms in the sand to avoid swallowing it with the water they use to extract their prey. Surmullets are caught commercially in traps or by hand by trawling. The main fishing areas are Australia, California, Peru, and Spain.
In the Philippines, surmullets are found in coastal waters as far as 20 miles from land, but they can also be found even if they swim further away from the coast. Fishing is done at night with a light beam to catch the fish. It is an important food source in the Philippines, where it's usually cooked with soy sauce and vinegar.
Surmullets are also abundant in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. They are caught mostly by hand or in fishermen's nets, then sold fresh or salted at fish markets in Italy, Spain, France, and Turkey.