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Main Uses of the Grey mullet as Indicator of Littoral environmental changes

Final Report Summary - MUGIL (Main Uses of the Grey mullet as Indicator of Littoral environmental changes)

The estuaries, deltas and lagoons in coastal areas are ecosystems of increased importance and significant biodiversity. However, climatic changes and anthropogenic activities influenced their stability over time, so that their preservation and restoration became of major importance. The determination of adequate environmental indicators, selected among living species, was necessary in order to achieve integrated management; however, very few species were present in more than one oceanic regions.

The MUGIL project proposed the use of mugil cephalus, or else 'grey mullet', as a potential indicator, because of its presence in almost all tropical and temperate coastal zones and of its importance for fisheries, especially in developing countries.

The aim of MUGIL was to establish an observation network to coordinate global action for using grey mullet as an indicator of the state of estuarine areas. The target was mainly achieved by researching the population genetics, life history trait variations and physiological responses of the species to varying salinity or pollution levels. In addition, the project aimed to integrate all related information in a web-based database, to coordinate relevant research actions and to develop proposals for future research in this direction. MUGIL covered four global areas and brought together participants from Europe and elsewhere.

The project was based on a series of two seminars and six workshops (WSs) covering specific topics. All WSs were of common organisational structure and three days duration. Collaboration with Fishbase, which was the principal web platform on fish information, was also established, resulting in useful exchange of information and hosting of the MUGIL database link in the Fishbase web page. In addition, a project website was developed and regularly updated, facilitating communication and knowledge dissemination.

The first seminar launched communication between participants and defined the thematic areas examined by the project. In addition, justification for the selection of grey mullet as an environmental indicator was provided. The WSs were related to the following topics:
1. database construction and format and information to be included;
2. understanding of the species' life history traits, standardisation of the relevant research methods and proposals for further work;
3. examination of the approaches applied to follow migration patterns and distinction between ontogenetic and environmentally caused migration;
4. synthesis of current and past results of the species' genetic studies and definition of a single appropriate method to process and analyse samples;
5. evaluation of the constructed database based on its application assessment, refinement and addition of new information;
6. review of approaches regarding the use of biomarkers in the grey mullet case and standardisation of a protocol for sampling the different tissues used in biomarker investigations.

Finally, the second seminar reviewed the general conclusions from all WSs and presented a synthesis of current research in each thematic field. It also assisted in the development of an action plan and in the creation of specific future research proposals. Moreover, the project was reviewed by the seminar participants and its strong and weak points were highlighted.

MUGIL was highly successful; however its outcomes were not directly exploitable by the industry or the market. The acquired knowledge was disseminated through the internet and publications and was evaluated as being of major importance for future research work in the field.