It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for those invested in the survival of Northern Spencer Gulf’s Giant Australian cuttlefish population. After lobbying by the conservation sector and pressure from many concerned scientists and citizens, the State has finally yielded and extended the protected area to cover the population’s entire range. This protection is effective now, under the State’s Fisheries Management Act.
Until March 27th 2014, cuttlefish will be no-take animals in the waters of Spencer Gulf from Wallaroo Jetty to the north… all the way to Port Augusta. A hefty fine of $5000 for the first offence reflects the seriousness of the situation.
While no-one is pointing at recreational fishing as a major contributor to the animal’s population collapse, this closure will prevent targeted commercial fishing of Sepia apama, and the opportunistic, occasional take of any cuttlefish by recreational anglers. The new closure expands the 92 square kilometre permanent closure between Point Lowly and Whyalla to approximately 1,800 square kilometres- the entirety of Northern Spencer Gulf.
Scientists from SARDI, the South Australian Research and Development Institute, have also released a report which reviews the cuttlefish counting methods and shows the team’s preliminary considerations of the various threats Sepia apama will face in the breeding season ahead. We are currently considering this report closely, and will make our notes available soon.
Encouragingly, $150,000 of additional research funding has also been committed to studying the animals’ decline. Whether this will include studying the animals’ vulnerability to various toxins and acoustic trauma is yet to be seen. Part of this funding will pay for a Giant Australian Cuttlefish research assistant who will work with Professor Bronwyn Gillanders at Adelaide University’s Environment Institute. If you have a Science Degree with Honours (or a similar international qualification) we urge to you to apply for this position before the closing date of April 22nd.
Finally, let us all share our heartfelt thanks to all our friends, followers and supporters for helping us achieve this important milestone. Much needs to be done to improve the chances of survival for the world’s only known mass aggregation of cephalopods. We are confident that our film, which will premiere this cuttlefish season, will raise the profile of these animals considerably and aid the maturation of human attitudes towards the sea and the life it supports.