The State Government has extended its protection measures for the Giant Cuttlefish while extra research into the population decline of the species at Point Lowly continues.
Australian Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama)
Minister for Fisheries Gail Gago said effective from March 28, taking Cuttlefish from the northern Spencer Gulf from will be prohibited.
'This temporary fishing closure builds on existing closures that the State Government put in place around Point Lowly in 1998.
'The changes I am announcing today will be in place for an initial period of 12 months and subject to annual review.
'The closure only applies to the targeting and take of Cuttlefish, which means that outside of the existing False Bay closure, fishers can continue to fish for squid and octopus.
'Any Cuttlefish inadvertently caught must be immediately and carefully returned to the water.
'It was hoped that recent research and monitoring undertaken by SARDI would provide us with a reason for a possible 90 per cent decline in Giant Cuttlefish numbers at Point Lowly but this research was inconclusive.
'The Giant Cuttlefish is an elusive species and little is known about its movement and migration patterns. As such, we are unable to conclude what is causing the changes to the population.
'Cuttlefish could be aggregating in another area, or the population peaks we are comparing today's counts to could have been an extraordinary event.
'The State Government is also committing $150,000 to look at continuing this monitoring and to investigate the potential use of artificial reefs to support the species.
'I can also announce today that researchers have been successful in securing additional research funding to continue this important work.
'This new research project, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), will help to determine the movement patterns and population structure of the Giant Cuttlefish in the Upper Spencer Gulf, as well as evaluate any environmental and human impacts that could be causing the species decline.
'This information will be critical to informing future management measures by helping to reduce the risk of factors contributing to the change in abundance and distribution of the species,' Ms Gago said.
The project, which has commenced this month, will be led by the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), in partnership with the SA Museum, PIRSA and DEWNR.
Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Ian Hunter said a working group on Cuttlefish that had been established last year was continuing to address the issues associated with the population decline.
'This group is committed to drive a whole of Government approach to engaging community groups and other key stakeholders in Cuttlefish management and monitoring issues,' Mr Hunter said.
'The working group is to be expanded to formally include the Whyalla City Council and the Conservation Council of South Australia. Both are key partners in the process going forward,' he said.
The Chief Executive of the Conservation Council Tim Kelly has commended the State Government for this additional protection in the lead up to the annual breeding aggregation which should begin in around just eight weeks.
'With the population of Giant Australian Cuttlefish in the Upper Spencer Gulf at dangerously low numbers it is essential that every cuttlefish be given the best chance for successful breeding in 2013,' Mr Kelly said.
'It is also essential for all stakeholders to collaborate with a sense of urgency and work with the community on ways to ensure the future of this unique South Australian population of Cuttlefish,' he said.
Members of the public are asked to help monitor the area and report sightings of Giant Cuttlefish in areas where they previously may not have been seen to help monitor their movement and aggregation via the Redmap website.
Find out more about the northern Spencer Gulf Cuttlefish fishing closure here.
A copy of SARDI's research findings can be found here.