Cuttlefish


Latin names: Sepia rosella, Sepia spp., S. plangon, S. opipara, S. hedleyi, S. apama


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Wild Caught

Region:
WA

Note: South Australian caught cuttlefish can be considered a ‘better choice’ as while there is not sufficient catch to warrant full assessment; catches are small, they are primarily caught using jig methods that have negligible bycatch and habitat impacts, fishing is banned in important breeding grounds, and scientific surveys have shown that populations are healthy and increasing.

Key Facts

  • Cuttlefish are generally a fast-growing, short-lived group of species that are quick to reproduce, although reproduction varies according to environmental conditions.
  • Cuttlefish are caught in trawl fisheries that mainly target tiger and other species of prawns in Shark Bay in WA.
  • Cuttlefish are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Trawling is conducted over sandy and muddy seafloor, and has relatively low impact on the marine environment.
  • Bycatch reduction measures are mandatory, and observers ensure reliable reporting of by catch, an important measure absent in some other cuttlefish fisheries.
  • The fishery interacts with threatened species, including critically endangered species of sawfish, turtles, sea snakes and pipefish. Although efforts have been made to reduce the impact of fishing on these species, catches remain significant but are not thought to be driving further declines in populations.
  • Parts of the Shark Bay Marine Park area are closed to trawl fishing, protecting a significant proportion of marine habitat and providing some additional protection for endangered wildlife.

More information

  • WA: Shark Bay Prawn Managed Fishery (59t in 2015/16)

Cuttlefish are a fast-growing, short-lived (ca. 1-2 years) group of species that reproduce quickly and produce a high number of offspring. Undertaking formal stock assessments (scientific assessments of the numbers of a species) for cuttlefish is generally difficult for fishery managers, as reproduction is highly variable depending on environmental conditions. No stock assessments have been done for cuttlefish in WA, but there are no immediate concerns over the health of cuttlefish populations.

Cuttlefish are caught in trawl fisheries that mainly target tiger prawns and other prawn species. Cuttlefish are caught using otter trawls that operate mainly over mud and sand. Otter trawls operate just above the seafloor when targeting tiger prawns, which has the potential to cause significant habitat disturbance. Habitat types are relatively well understood in fishing areas, tend not to support sensitive marine communities and are fairly resilient to disturbance. Studies to assess the impact of trawl fishing on the ecosystem of Shark Bay indicate that trawling causes only minor and short-lived impacts to marine habitats.

Bycatch reduction devices (BRD) and Turtle Exclusion Devices (TEDs) reduce the amount of threatened and other species that are caught and killed in fishing gear. BRDs and TEDs are mandatory and have been successful in reducing turtle deaths. However, threatened species bycatch remains an ongoing issue. This fishery reports interactions with sawfish, turtles and sea snakes, although fishery reports suggest that significant impacts on threatened species are unlikely. Fishery plans include the introduction of an independent observer program, although it is unclear whether this has been implemented or progressed.

Much of the Shark Bay Marine Park area is closed to trawl fishing, protecting a significant proportion of marine habitat and providing protection for endangered wildlife.

Discarding of unwanted species is considered to be low in comparison to other trawl fisheries by the WA Government; however, reducing the amount of discarded fish and other marine animals should be a management target. Observer coverage has recently been introduced to the fishery, which is welcome and will help ensure reliable information about impacts on discarded fish and other bycatch.