Thursday, June 11, 2020

'Could be the best we've seen in 20 years': Giant Australian Cuttlefish numbers boom off South Australia




Positive signs have emerged at this year's spawning of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish in South Australia, after local divers reported bumper numbers.

The renowned natural event occurs between May and August every year, as cuttlefish from right across Spencer Gulf converge on an 8-kilometre-long strip of rocky reef at Point Lowly.

While cuttlefish are endemic along coastlines across the world, it remains the only place in the world where cuttlefish gather in large numbers to breed.

Carl Charter has dived at Point Lowly for 17 years, and said early indications showed the species may have rebounded back to its best numbers since the late 90s.

"The population crashed in 2013 and it's steadily been coming back, probably a 20 per cent increase in numbers per year for the last five years," Mr Charter said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it was up around the 200,000 mark this year, which is probably what it was before it crashed in the past.

"Compared to last year, in the shallows especially, we've got probably double the density of cuttlefish."

He said the numbers were excellent for a species that appeared to be teetering on the edge just seven years ago.

The larger numbers have delivered an unexpected bonus; there are bigger cuttlefish on the spawning ground, and more of them.

Whyalla Dive Shop owner Tony Bramley has dived in the area since the 80s, and said the fish are starting to return to a size not commonly seen since the late 1990s.

"We're seeing [more] bigger cuttlefish this year than we have for 20 years, it's absolutely fantastic out there," Mr Bramley said.

"The average size is around about a kilogram, back before the commercial fishing in 1997/1998, we used to have average sizes way larger than that, sometimes up to three, four, or even five kilos.

"We've already seen a quite a few larger animals out there this season."

The official figures will be released later this year, after counts by the South Australian Research and Development Institute.

SOURCE[ 1 ]
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