Cuttlefish


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


  • Say No

Wild Caught

Region:
QLD, NSW

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 mainly fishing for eastern king prawns.
  • The accidental catch of threatened and endangered species like endemic sharks and rays is a major issue in Australian prawn fisheries. In NSW and QLD, there is low confidence in the accuracy of fisher reports of low levels of interactions considering the high fishing effort and a significant threat to vulnerable species cannot be discounted.
  • The fishery observer program in QLD was cancelled in 2012, meaning there is no independent record of the impact of the fishery on threatened species. Observation of the fishery is considered essential to the management of a sustainable fishery. It is highly likely the impact of the fishery on endangered wildlife is higher than currently recorded.
  • Fishery observation has been lacking in NSW. An observer program has been completed but the results are not available for the current assessment.
  • Cuttlefish are caught using otter trawls that operate across the seafloor. Areas of seafloor are protected in area closures and marine parks to an extent in both NSW and QLD, but the NSW Government was considering unwinding marine park protections at time of writing
  • QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that could improve this ranking in the future, provided that the reforms deliver the strong and effective management necessary to support sustainable fisheries.

More information

  • QLD: East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (36t in 2020)
  • NSW: Ocean Trawl Fishery (86t in 2019/20}

Cuttlefish are a fast growing, short-lived (around 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) of cuttlefish species is generally difficult for fishery managers, as reproduction is highly variable depending on environmental conditions. No stock assessments have been done for cuttlefish in either QLD or NSW, but there are no immediate concerns over the health of cuttlefish populations.

Cuttlefish are caught in trawl fisheries in QLD and NSW-managed fisheries that are mainly targeting eastern king prawns. A reform of fisheries in QLD is currently underway in order to modernise the management framework, demonstrate sustainability, improve the profitability of the industry and meet community expectations. AMCS will review the sustainability of these fisheries following the reform process.

Protected species interactions occur in both fisheries. Interaction reports from the NSW fishery indicate that protected seahorses, pipefish, sharks and rays are commonly caught. In QLD, protected seahorses, sea snakes and pipefish are caught, although there have been efforts to reduce the impact of fishing on these species.

Independent fishery observer programs are an important method of verifying protected species interactions, as well as other fishery impacts, such as the type and volume of discarded catch. Unfortunately the QLD Government closed the observer program for all QLD-managed fisheries in 2012. In the intervening  years, there has been no independent on-vessel monitoring of the impact of the fishery, which is unacceptable for fisheries operating in the ecologically sensitive regions of the Great Barrier Reef. Concerns have been raised regarding under-reporting of endangered species caught in the fishery in logbooks. Since there is no record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of this fishery cannot be measured or managed.

While there is no on-going observer program in NSW, a research observer program has been completed but the results are currently not publicly available.

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than those targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarding of unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in these fisheries, which means that there is no information on the impact of this fishery on marine animals that have no commercial value.

Trawling has the potential to cause significant damage to marine habitats. In QLD, trawling occurs over sandy and muddy substrates within the Great Barrier Reef, Moreton Bay and Great Sandy Marine Parks, where habitats are relatively well understood, as well as to the south of the marine park. Much of the marine park areas are closed to trawl fishing, protecting a significant proportion of marine habitat. Since the beginning of 2019, most boats fishing in the QLD fishery have location monitoring devices, which means authorities can ensure fishing is only taking place in areas open to fishing.

Marine parks in NSW provide the most effective science based protection from the significant ecological risks posed by trawling, but alarmingly, at the time of writing, the NSW Government was considering opening highly protected marine parks to fishing.

The QLD fishery will be required to resume an independent observer program by 2024, likely to be based on e-monitoring. While it is welcome, the program should be implemented sooner. This and other reforms currently underway in the Queensland fishery have strong potential to improve the GoodFish ranking of this seafood option if implemented quickly and effectively.