Almost 3,000 people have signed a petition to reinstate the full cuttlefish exclusion zone in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf amid fears current restrictions are putting the species at risk.

Commercial dive operator Tony Bramley says local fishers are taking “thousands” of cuttlefish every day near Point Lowly, near Whyalla, where they gather to breed.

“Quite strangely, at the very very tip of the Point Lowly peninsula, the ban has been removed and commercial fishing is happening out there on a large scale,” he said.

Mr Bramley said tourists were noticing what was going on.

“They’re going into the water and as they come out of the water, all they have to do is look to their right and they see people hauling cuttlefish into their boats,” he said.

The cephalopod exclusion zone, which includes squid, cuttlefish and octopus.(Supplied: Primary Industries and Regions SA)

Aggregation getting ‘hammered’

The state’s former Labor government introduced the ban in 2013, when the population at Point Lowly plummeted to 13,000 — down from more than 200,000 a few years prior.

The current cuttlefish exclusion zone protects the species in waters between Whyalla and Point Lowly, where they are known to breed.

A smiling man at the front counter of his shop.
Mr Bramley is concerned about the number of commercial fishers catching cuttlefish at Point Lowly.(Landline: Tony Hill)

SA Labor wants to reintroduce the closure in the northern Spencer Gulf, north of Arno Bay and Wallaroo, which had been in place since 2013.

Primary Industries spokesman Eddie Hughes said the reduced exclusion zone was putting the renowned cuttlefish aggregation at risk.

“We’ve already got a small section of the commercial industry, off Point Lowly, hammering the cuttlefish aggregation,” he said.

A cuttlefish, predominantly orange and brown, seen face-on.
Cuttlefish are an increasingly popular option on some restaurant menus.(Supplied: SARDI)

Opposing views

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said the current exclusion zone was based on scientific research, even though there was no limit on the number of giant Australian cuttlefish commercial fishers could catch.

“As I understand it, the quota has been dictated to by the allowance that a commercial can take,” he said.

“But when they bring those commercial catches in they are recorded, and we have a very clear understanding of what cephalopods are taken.

“We have the scientists out there annually assessing the stock numbers, and out there assessing the condition of the giant Australian cuttlefish.”

A man with a bald head wearing a dark green jumper stands next to his boat.
Commercial fisherman Craig Fletcher doesn’t want the full ban to be reinstated.(ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)

Commercial fisherman Craig Fletcher, who has been catching cuttlefish since the early 1990s, says he is not happy with suggestions of reinstating a full exclusion zone.

“We’ve been catching these cuttlefish over an area of 400 to 500 metres and the permanent closure would be more like six to seven kilometres of area,” he said.

“Cuttlefish die after they spawn each year — they finish spawning at the end of July and by August or September they die.



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