It’s March 2013, and in two months time, the last survivors of the Northern Spencer Gulf Giant Australian Cuttlefish population will begin converging on the inshore rocky reefs at Point Lowly, near the South Australian town of Whyalla to breed.
Unpublished population counts from 2012 are grim, and despite the evidence screaming ‘population collapse’, Northern Spencer Gulf’s Giant Australian Cuttlefish are not protected as a population under any State or Federal Law. Without ‘no take’ protection under the State’s Fisheries Management Act for example, commercial fishing targeting this population will continue, cuttlefish bycatch by prawn trawlers may go uncalculated and recreational fishers will be permitted to take these animals for use as bait. While fishing effort may only be one of many contributions to the population’s decline, all legal protections available must be utilized while all potential causes of the animals’ decline are urgently investigated.
In the late 1990’s the population was an estimated 250,000 animals. Counts from 2012 range from an optimistic figure of 16,000 animals, to the bleaker possibility of 3,000. No longer can a tourist or scientist simply wade in off the rocks at Black Point and become enveloped in hundreds of these amazing and exotic creatures at the climax of their life-cycle.
There’s no time for excuses. The State Government listed the Giant Australian Cuttlefish as a priority species in their 2009 State Strategic Plan under the conservation goal of ‘No Species Loss’. It is also possible that this genetically-distinct population of Sepia apama is also its own subspecies or species, but research on this front has halted.
These animals have adapted over millenia to life in the most extreme saline and temperature-variable waters in South Australia. In winter the waters are temperate, in summer they are sub-tropical. Inputs from industry in controlled emissions and spills have introduced chemicals, heavy metals and hydrocarbons into these waters. Commercial fishing pressure massively increased in the late 1990’s, without the necessary establishment of baseline population data. The impact of massively increased commercial shipping in the region since 2007 is not being measured. Immediate action must be taken to measure and reduce human impacts.
Meanwhile, the cuttlefish are vanishing fast.
Without appropriate protection in place, including a recovery plan to allow for and assist the survival of this population, this could be the world’s only known mass cuttlefish aggregation’s last stand. The cuttlefish need your help. Will you help give a voice to the voiceless?
If you share our desperate concerns, we ask you to take three important steps:
- Sign our petition and leave a brief comment.
- Send a brief, personal email to Premier Jay Weatherill & relevant State Ministers
- Dedicate a tweet to @SaveCuttlefish, email your friends and share our Facebook content
With heartfelt thanks,
Director, Cuttlefish Country