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Help save the Giant Australian Cuttlefish Whyalla breeding ground (Lowly Point)

DWhatley

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Cuttlefish surveys increased

With the help of local divers, Whyalla’s Giant Australian Cuttlefish population is now being regularly monitored throughout the spawning period.
Each year from late May to early July when the cuttlefish congregate to breed, divers will visit more than 10 sites around the Lowly Peninsula to lay transects and collect data.
The citizen science project, in partnership with South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), is allowing for a more comprehensive data collection on the movements, numbers and size of cuttlefish.
Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula coast and marine officer Kate Brocklehurst said the surveys would aid in the protection of shrinking cuttlefish numbers.
Last weekend the group surveyed the False Bay site in wet and windy conditions with data collected on 38 small to medium cuttlefish.
Local diver and cuttlefish enthusiast Tony Bramley said the group was hoping to expand its numbers to get a wider net of data and collect as much information as possible.
"We really appreciate the help of the volunteers we had today and hope to entice other divers to help so we can do more to help this great cause," Mr Bramley said.
Aspiring marine biologist Georgina Wilson said the protection of this unique and iconic Whyalla marine life was important and something she was more than happy to be part of.
“This is a great learning experience for me as well as an opportunity to help this great species that we are so lucky to have,” Ms Wilson said.
For more information on joining the cuttlefish survey team call Kate on 0488 000 481 or contact the Whyalla Dive Shop.
 

DWhatley

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Seals threaten cuttlefish, warn divers
By ELI GOULD July 7, 2014, 11:01 a.m.
Whyalla divers have expressed their concerns about fur seals in the area feasting on the region’s cuttlefish.
Whyalla Dive Shop owner Tony Bramley said last weekend he saw more than 10 fur seals in the area and many “damaged” cuttlefish nearby.
Mr Bramley said this was the first time in a number of years he had spotted the fur seals.
He said it was concerning to see fur seals eating cuttlefish, given the huge numbers returning back to the area.
Mr Bramley said the seals should not be here.
“There are tens of thousands of cuttlefish here at the moment and it’s about half of what it should really be,” he said.
“People from all over the world including America, Canada, England and European countries travel here to dive with the cuttlefish.
“They are drawn specifically for the cuttlefish.”
Mr Bramley said there was a “gutter” at the front of OneSteel where good numbers of cuttlefish congregated.
He said the marine life there was “exceptionally vast” and needed to be protected.
“I haven’t seen this many fur seals around in at least three years and clearly they have taken a liking to the cuttlefish,” Mr Bramley said.
“I think it comes down to there being a lack of sharks or predators of the fur seals.
“While there is still a small percentage around, it seems the balance of the eco system has changed.
“It seems we have mucked up the system.”
Mr Bramley said while the numbers of cuttlefish returning this year were “significantly” better it was still down to years gone past.
He said the fur seals had “eaten themselves out of home and house”, meaning they were always moving around looking for a new food source.
Mr Bramley said cuttlefish were an integral part of the region’s ecosystem and steps needed to be taken to ensure their future.
 

DWhatley

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Giant Cuttlefish: Undetermined decline
BY Natsumi Penberthy September 23, 2014

AT FIRST GLANCE, the Lowly peninsula near Whyalla in South Australia appears unspectacular. Its most obvious feature is a rusted, 2.4km-long jetty at Port Bonython that vanishes into the horizon. From the rocky shore, few could imagine that, just 100m away, a pulsating, iridescent mass of 180,000-plus giant cuttlefish once thronged beneath the waves. Discovered in the late 1990s, this aggregation of the world’s largest cuttlefish was a magnificent wildlife spectacle and attracted international filmmakers in their droves.
But for reasons that aren’t clear, despite much research, numbers congregating here have dive-bombed, collapsing by a massive 93 per cent to just 13,500 in 2013. Whether the crash was caused by industry, over-predation by marine mammals or simply natural population fluctuations are all questions to be answered. Some experts even speculate the aggregation itself represented an unusual spike that has now passed, but the population here has been studied by scientists for less than 20 years, so nobody is yet sure. ...
 

DWhatley

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Cuttlefish study condemned by marine life group
Whyalla News Oct. 7, 2014

Marine Life Society of South Australia group has condemned a recent study into the potential impact of shipping noise on cuttlefish aggregation, claiming the study was “scientifically flawed”.
The group also argued the study did not prove shipping had not adversely affected the cuttlefish population.
Marine Life Society of South Australia secretary Dan Monceaux said the society was concerned the report may be used to justify the approval of the Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility near Point Lowly this month.
Mr Monceaux sought scientific opinions from underwater acoustic experts interstate to confirm his own analysis.
He said the advice he received suggested field studies would be the only way to investigate harm or potential harm.
“The study’s methodology is flawed as it failed to create any conditions representative of present or future Upper Spencer Gulf shipping scenarios,” Mr Monceaux said.
“The scientists recorded much smaller vessels in Port Adelaide instead of Cape class vessels, which can be up to almost 300 metres long, with propellers 6-7 metres in diameter.
“Cape vessels are always present in Upper Spencer Gulf so why would the scientists record smaller vessels?”
Mr Monceaux said it was essential for giant Australian cuttlefish to be preserved for science, education, recreation and tourism.
 

DWhatley

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Closure of giant cuttlefish fishery extended
FIS - Friday, February 13, 2015, 22:20 (GMT + 9)


The temporary closure to all fishing for cuttlefish in northern Spencer Gulf has been extended until 15 February 2016 as part of the South Australia Government’s management of the iconic species.

The closure includes all waters north of a line commencing near Arno Bay on Eyre Peninsula, to Wallaroo on Yorke Peninsula. It is in addition to the permanent cephalopod (squid, cuttlefish and octopus) fishing closure in the waters of False Bay.

Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Leon Bignell said the closure, initially implemented in March 2013, was a precautionary measure while research into the behaviour of the giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) in the northern Spencer Gulf region continues.

“This closure applies to the targeting and take of cuttlefish, so any cuttlefish inadvertently caught must be immediately and carefully returned to the water,” Bignell said.

“However if you are fishing outside the False Bay area but within the northern Spencer Gulf closure area you will still be able to continue to fish for squid and octopus.”

The minister said various research projects overseen by the Government’s Cuttlefish Working Group are helping to provide some insights into giant Australian cuttlefish.

“The population dynamics of cuttlefish in northern Spencer Gulf are complex. Last year’s survey verified the first population increase of cuttlefish recorded in six years, 57,317, up from the 2013 figures of 13,492.

“However until we can confirm from this year’s survey that this upward trend is ongoing, management measures such as the northern Spencer Gulf closure need to remain in place.”

Bignell said commitment by all levels of government would help to find out more about this symbolic species.

“There are a number of projects underway as part of AUD 805,000 (USD 624,000) in research funding granted by the State Government and the Commonwealth. This work will assist in determining the future management actions required to ensure their sustainability and health.”
 

DWhatley

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Washed up cuttlefish bones a 'positive' sign for ongoing population recovery in South Australian
2015 April 9

Giant Australian cuttlefish off the waters of South Australia are showing positive signs of an ongoing population recovery, locals say.

Tony Bramley from Whyalla Diving Services said plenty of cuttlefish bones were washing up and that was a good sign ahead of the breeding season that began in about a month.

"I'm getting good feedback from locals and fishermen that are telling me that they are seeing cuttlefish bones in the tidal streams," he said.

"I'm noticing them myself washing up on the beaches and people are coming in with reports of the occasional accidental catch."

Mr Bramley was surprised last year when higher than expected numbers turned up for the start of the breeding season.

He had not been expecting many cuttlefish because the population had been in severe decline and there had been little signs of them gathering offshore.

This year, however, it was looking very positive, he said, although it was too early to predict numbers.

"They'll be out in the deeper waters at this stage off Whyalla," Mr Bramley said.

"We don't expect them to come in to the shallows where they're visible as an aggregation until the water cools down a bit more.

"But to get reports of the number and frequency that we've been getting in the last couple of weeks is very, very encouraging."
 

DWhatley

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Cuttlefish monitoring underway as Whyalla area citizen scientists help SARDI
Locals near Whyalla are taking part in a citizen science program monitoring cuttlefish in the area.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) recently held a training session, which was attended by 12 people.

SARDI's Dr Mike Steer said locals had been enthusiastic about the program, which formalised work they had already been doing.

He said the data the citizen scientists collected was collated with SARDI's own information.

"What we've just done is provided them with a standard methodology of how to go out and assess the population which just relates to running out a series of underwater transects and counting and measuring cuttlefish that fall within that transect," he said.

"They're iconic species that occurs in their local patch, so it's really great to see the community taking some sort of ownership and commitment in ensuring the sustainability of this fascinating creature."
 

DWhatley

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Encouraging signs for giant Australian cuttlefish recovery
Posted on June 22, 2015

It is with great delight that we wish to report some observations from the 2015 giant Australian cuttlefish aggregation in Upper Spencer Gulf, South Australia. As many friends of the cuttlefish will already know, the population gathers from the surrounding waters of Northern Spencer Gulf (north of Wallaroo and Arno Bay) each winter. They arrive en masse along the Point Lowly peninsula where they seek out mates and lay their eggs on the rocky inshore reefs of Whyalla, Black Point, Stony Point and Point Lowly.

The monitored decline in population (1998-2013) has been a matter of great concern to local residents, the dive community, conservationists and fishermen. Back in the late 1990’s, there were an estimated 250,000 animals arriving annually at the aggregation areas. By 2013, that number had dropped to 13,500. In 2014 there was cautious optimism, as the downward trend turned a corner. The population increased to around 57,000 animals. We last listed some of the factors which may have contributed to the decline on Cuttlefish Day, 10 October 2013- during the annual celebration of all things cephalopod: Cephalopod Awareness Days.

This year’s early observations were promising, with local divers noticing that the average size of observed animals had increased- a possible indicator of improving animal health. A recent trip made by the Flinders University Underwater Club returned some amazing photographs, including those featured in this post by Chris Carthew. The group shots reveal the animals’ clear and visible abundance. Local divers estimate that numbers may have doubled again from 2014 figures, but official numbers collected by SARDI and corporate-contracted scientists are yet to confirm this.

If you haven’t already seen the cuttlefish yourself, now would be an excellent time to plan a trip. The animals start arriving in May each year, and remain easily visible through August. In a good season, the animals may also be present in September, though by this time, the majority of animals will have laid their eggs and passed away. Both male and female cuttlefish die after mating and laying their eggs, meaning that every year the majority of animals present represent an entirely new generation.

There are a few common misconceptions about the accessibility of the cuttlefish aggregation. Firstly, you don’t need to be able to dive in order to see them up close and appreciate them. Nor do you need a boat, nor do you need your own wetsuit. Local business Whyalla Diving Services and its proprietor Tony Bramley have everything you will need- expert knowledge, wetsuits, snorkels, fins, weights, torches for night explorations and scuba tanks if you’re qualified and want to dive.

The animals aggregate in shallow water (mostly 3-6 metres), along rocky inshore fringing reef, accessible from the shore. The two most popular spots, Black Point and Stony Point both have car-parking and easy descents to the water’s edge. Black Point has a staircase down a cliff to the rocky shore, and Stony Point has a gentler entry down an artificial walkway.

We maintain that the giant Australian cuttlefish is a marine wonder of the natural world, and it is with great relief and joy that we share this good news with you. Vigilance in defense of this habitat is ever necessary however, as plans to industrialise the region are ever present. Last week, we drew attention to Sundrop Farms’ plan to dump desalination brine into Upper Spencer Gulf upstream of the cuttlefish aggregation areas. A plan for a mineral export port at Port Bonython, which would run through the existing Stony Point reef is also pending approval. A decision is expected by June 30 this year.

The only thing that will protect the cuttlefish and their breeding area is community support- something we have been fostering through this website since it was launched in August 2011. If you want to show the cuttlefish some love, please consider signing our petition, or making a donation to our ongoing work to draw attention to this natural wonder and see that it receives the protection, management and careful study that we believe it deserves. The independent, feature-length documentary film, Cuttlefish Country is currently in post-production and your donations will support its release, promotion and international distribution.
 

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