cuttlefish floating above a bed of seagrass.

Giant Australian Cuttlefish numbers arise near Whyalla after fishing ban is reimposed

Whyalla tourism operators have been buoyed by recent figures showing a surge in Giant Australian Cuttlefish numbers.

Recently published figures reveal a 28 per cent increase in the numbers of cuttlefish migrating to waters around the Eyre Peninsula town for their breeding season.

The findings come just a few months after the South Australian government reimposed an upper Spencer Gulf fishing ban for cuttlefish north of Arno Bay and Wallaroo.

Whyalla Dive Shop owner Tony Bramley said his business relied on tourism generated by cuttlefish and was glad to see numbers increasing.

“I don’t think there’s anything else people who are concerned about the aggregation could ask for,” he said.

“It’s absolutely fantastic news because it shows the efficacy of that spatial closure, which was taken away two years ago because, according to the government at the time, it had done its job.”

The ban was originally put in place by the former state government after cuttlefish numbers fell from 200,000 to just 13,000 in a few years. It was repeated two years ago.

The latest aggregation has attracted more than 137,000 individuals.

Whyalla Diving Services owner Tony Bramley says his business relies on the cuttlefish.(ABC News: Declan Gooch)

A ‘reassuring’ result

Cutty’s Boat Tours began operating glass bottom boat tours for the first time this year, enabling more tourists to see the cuttlefish.

Owner Matt Waller said it was reassuring to see the numbers increasing.

“It just says to us that yes, this is a good thing. Yes, this is an industry that’s going to exist in the future,” he said.

“It gives us a bit more confidence for sure.”


Permanent ban being considered

SA Regional Development Minister Clare Scriven said the latest ban would last until May 2023 but the government was looking at ways to make it permanent.

“Not only is the Giant Australian Cuttlefish spawning aggregation unique to South Australia, it creates opportunities for small businesses in regional areas to benefit from the extraordinary show of nature on our doorstep,” she said.

Two giant pink and white cuttlefish swim underwater.
Cuttlefish gather in the waters around Whyalla to breed and hide their eggs under rocks.(Supplied: Jayne Jenkins)

Mr Bramley said that while he was happy with the current level of protection, he felt the cuttlefish had not yet recovered from fishing over the past few decades.

“Old timers like myself have been saying that since commercial fishing in the 90s, the numbers are nothing like what they were,” he said.