cuttlefish

How can we preserve Sussex cuttlefish?

A University of Brighton study has highlighted ways to manage the preservation of cuttlefish off the Sussex coast.

The research investigated the reproduction success of cuttlefish eggs that are removed from traps by fishermen and thrown back into the sea.

Researchers found that cuttlefish eggs actively detached from the traps and thrown into the sea have more chance to develop on sandy substrate and calm waters than on gravel or pebbles and in strong currents.

Hatching rates were estimated after 46 days of incubation under laboratory conditions. The findings underline the importance of environmental factors on cuttlefish reproduction.

The research was carried out by Dr Corina Ciocan, Senior Lecturer in the University of Brighton’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, postgraduate Ecology and Conservation MRes student Claudine Anne-Marie Annels, and Darren MacCabe, a former technician at the University, in conjunction with Hastings fishermen.

Speaking of the team’s findings, Dr Ciocan said: “Millions of cuttlefish eggs are destroyed annually because of the fishing practices, and we were very surprised to discover that some dislocated eggs are able to survive and develop – albeit in certain favourable conditions. Hopefully this study will stress the importance of developing management actions to preserve this natural resource.”

Cuttlefish come to Sussex coastal waters to breed. After they lay their eggs, they die. Some cuttlefish are caught in pots or traps, and, while this is generally a sustainable mode of fishing, researchers are seeking to decrease the number of eggs which are laid on pots and subsequently lost.

The University of Brighton project is part of wider efforts to reduce pressures of fishing on cuttlefish stock. High fishing pressure is generally exerted on spawning cuttlefish adults, with traps exploiting female attraction to deposition substrates and male attraction towards females, thus capturing almost exclusively mature breeding individuals.

Consequently, females often lay eggs on the trap surface and eggs are actively removed from the fishing gear to prevent a reduction in fishing capacity.

The University has partnered with the following organisation for this project: European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), Hastings Fisherman’s Protection Society and Sussex Inland Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA). A full report can be found on the IFCA website: https://www.sussex-ifca.gov.uk/research-and-science.

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