Cuttlefish


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


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Wild Caught

Region:
WA

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.

 

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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 red-listing of cuttlefish in NSW and QLD is due to concerns around the health of eastern king prawns in both states, and issues around reporting of threatened species interactions.
  • Protected species interactions occur in both fisheries; species impacted include seahorses, pipefish and sea snakes, although the available research indicates the catch is not resulting in population declines.
  • 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 just above the seafloor. Areas of seafloor are protected in area closures and marine parks to an extent in both NSW and QLD.
  • NSW and QLD fisheries are currently undergoing broad reforms that should 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 (43t in 2017)
  • NSW: Ocean Trawl Fishery (74t in 2015/16)

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 both jurisdictions 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.

The red-listing of cuttlefish in NSW and QLD is due to concerns around the health of eastern king prawns in both states, and issues around reporting of threatened species interactions.

The NSW Government has defined eastern king prawns as ‘growth overfished’, as the NSW fishing fleet has been catching smaller sized prawns, which has been understood since at least 2010. Management actions have not been implemented to reduce the pressure of fishing. The catch has also increased significantly in QLD, adding additional strain to the species. There is a high risk that these factors will be detrimental to the stock status of the prawn species.

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. The available research indicates that bycatch of protected species is not resulting in threatened species population declines.

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 six 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. This will be addressed by research observers in the NSW fishery.

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.

While a NSW Government report found some shallow areas are at risk of damage from trawl activity, spatial closures and marine parks are in place that provide some degree of protection for saltmarsh, mangrove and seagrass habitats.

While the stock status of the fishery target species (eastern king prawns) and overall management to control the impacts of fishing on the environment are currently of concern in both NSW and QLD, there is a strong potential for this rating to improve in the future. The species has the potential to rebound if managed well, and it is hoped the broad reforms currently underway will deliver the strong and effective management needed to support well managed and sustainable fisheries.