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.
- There are concerns for giant Australian cuttlefish in the Upper Spencer Gulf after fishing bans were lifted by State Government
- Tourism operator, Tony Bramley, says “thousands” of cuttlefish are being harvested just outside the current exclusion zone
- Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone says the current exclusion zone is based on scientific research
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.
Aggregation getting ‘hammered’
The current cuttlefish exclusion zone protects the species in waters between Whyalla and Point Lowly, where they are known to breed.
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.
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.”
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.