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.

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.

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.

 

  • 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 red-listing of cuttlefish in NSW and QLD is due to concerns around the reporting of threatened species interactions.
  • The accidental catch of threatened and endangered species like endemic sharks and rays is a major issue in Australian prawn fisheries. The Queensland government abandoned an independent observer program in 2012 so bycatch reporting is not reliable and science-based management is hampered as a result.
  • 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.

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 no bycatch or habitat impacts, fishing is banned in important breeding grounds, and scientific surveys have shown that populations are healthy and increasing.

More information

  • QLD: East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (36t in 2020, 45t in 2019)
  • 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.

Protected species interactions occur in both fisheries. Queensland trawl fishers are required to report any threatened and endangered species they catch but serious concerns have been raised in this fishery about unreliable reporting. Bycatch mitigation measures including turtle excluder devices are used in Queensland but may not address all the impacts of the fishery. Despite no major changes to management and a consistent level of fishing effort in recent years, 2019 saw a 63% reduction in bycatch reports of species like sawfish, sea turtles and sea snakes. This bycatch reporting is unverifiable because there has been no independent observer program since 2012.

The QLD fishery has a high level of discards and it is concerning they are not required to be reported. The most recently available data estimated 25,271t of discards in 2014, compared to 6702t of retained catch in the same year. Other secondary species include tiger prawns, saucer scallop, Moreton Bay bugs and Balmain bugs.

Interaction reports from the NSW fishery indicate that protected seahorses, pipefish, sharks and rays are commonly caught.

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.

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.