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

Discussion in 'Marine Conservation' started by SaveCuttlefish, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. SaveCuttlefish

    SaveCuttlefish Cuttlefish Supporter

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    Hi everyone, this marine conservation post should be particularly pertinent to all of you.

    One of our beloved cephalopods is in trouble! Some of you will already be familiar with the mass breeding aggregation of Giant Australian Cuttlefish which occurs each winter in the chilly waters of Upper Spencer Gulf, South Australia. It's a remarkable thing to see- hundreds of thousands of animals up to 1 metre in length courting, fighting, displaying, disguising themselves, laying and tending their eggs... it truly is a natural wonder.

    This year however, the population arriving at the breeding ground numbered just 25,000 animals. Despite being another bumper year for tourists, the number of animals was down from 250,000 the previous season. You're probably all familiar with the short-lived nature of these animals, so needless to say, there is immediate cause for concern. Other unusual observations were also made, with many of the animals' eggs failing to adhere to the undersides of the rocks where they were placed.

    Unfortunately, the story gets worse. The Lowly Peninsula to which these animals migrate annually is marked for potential industrial development, several of which will further disturb their habitat and pollute their water. The most imminent proposed threat is a desalination plant to provide water to BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam mine. BHP have proposed to pump the waste-water brine back into the gulf, adjacent to the cuttlefish breeding grounds. They argue that the current and tidal flow at the position of the outflow are sufficient to disperse the brine and not impact on the cuttlefish breeding grounds. Other scientists including oceanographer Jochen Kaempf have different opinions, and have shown the risks are likely to be much greater than published in BHP Billiton's Environmental Impact Statement.

    Scientists from the University of Adelaide have shown that raising salinity above 20% of the already naturally high salinity of the area results in total mortality of cuttlefish eggs, with similar results recorded in squid (who also breed in the area). The Upper Spencer Gulf is home to rocky reef, sandy bottom, mangrove, seagrass and sponge bed habitats, and it's health is critical to a wide range of marine organisms. The area is also currently marked for future Marine Park classification in 2012.

    My wife and I are currently making a documentary film, online video series and are spearheading a campaign to protect these animals and their home. You can help us by signing and sharing our petition, downloading campaign posters and distributing them. There are a few other ways to help too.. we have some bumper stickers for cars and tshirts to wear to promote the cause... and we're soon to start collecting donations for our film's ongoing production.



    Thanks for your support everyone... we've been recommended to raise 5000 signatures before we send out a press release nationally in Australia, and we need to reach that number as soon as possible. Thanks in advance for your compassion and support! :snorkel:
     
  2. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Welcome, and thanks for the post!

    If you check our Ceph News Feed forum, you'll see we've had a few discussions about the problems that you're looking to uncover. Really glad you're here, and very much looking forward to seeing this develop.

    I'll stick this thread!
     
  3. SaveCuttlefish

    SaveCuttlefish Cuttlefish Supporter

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    Thanks for the warm welcome, Tony.. I'll have a trawl through the previous threads and shed some light on them. The most pressing concern is the desal plant... we're expecting an announcement soon from the State Government who were itching to close the BHP Billiton Olympic Dam expansion plan ahead of our state premier's resignation on October 20th. The premier and the treasurer have been dealing with BHPB behind closed doors, and BHP Billiton have a 'no interviews' policy when it comes to the indpendent media (so we've been told). There's also a deep water port plan (to serve the mines again, but not a BHPB project specifically) which is undergoing a feasiblity study at the moment. If it progresses, it will likely involve dredging to improve access to deep (20m+) water and also disturb their rocky reef habitat to drive pilons into the sea floor. If the port goes ahead, it will be a commercial facility for the purpose of exporting minerals, which will further exclude the public and scientists from working in this area, the same way there exists an exclusion zone presently around the Port Bonython jetty there. there are alse concerns about pollutants and risks of oil spills, as occured back in 1992... we'll be releasing the information as we gather and assemble it of course. :snorkel:
     
  4. neurobadger

    neurobadger Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    What's being tossed around as hypothetical causes of the 90% drop in cuttlefish numbers?
     
  5. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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  6. SaveCuttlefish

    SaveCuttlefish Cuttlefish Supporter

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    Possible impacts on the 2011 cuttlefish breeding aggregation

    1. Weather

    The first variable being considered is weather. It's been an unusual year for the Upper Spencer Gulf. The cuttlefish generally start arriving at the breeding grounds when the water temp drops to 17 degrees C. This happened 6 weeks late this year. It was also a year of unusually high rainfall, which is likely to have had an effect on salinity and water chemistry. The best case scenario we can hope for, is that the animals are still alive elsewhere in the region and simply did not migrate this year due to unfavourable conditions.

    2. Fishing Pressure

    Fishing pressure is an ongoing concern for this population. A year-round cuttlefish no-take zone exists around the breeding grounds (and is likely to be extended in area soon) but where the cuttlefish specifically migrate from is unknown. It is believed by Adelaide University scientists that the population is local to the Upper Spencer Gulf region, and is likely to be a distinct species or subspecies. These animals are caught by fishers to use or sell as bait. They have been historically sold as pet food also, though I'm unsure of the current market for these animals. Cuttlefish is also a popular snackfood in Asian cultures, though I'm not sure where the commercial cuttlefish catch ends up after processing. The bag limit for recreational fishers is WAY too generous in my opinion- they are currently allowed to catch 15 animals per day, or 45 per boat. I don't know how the commercial pressure targetting cuttlefish is licensed, monitored or regulated.

    3. Industrial pollution - Santos

    The Santos Gas Fractionation Plant at Port Bonython has been contaminating groundwater at their site since at least 2008 (believed by some to be even earlier). Santos have attempted to prevent the leaking hydrocarbons from entering the marine environment by constructing a subterranean barrier wall, with alleged success. Little has been disclosed publicly about this matter, and Santos is currently in court with the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) here in South Australia. The Port Bonython facility is the only industrial footprint on the peninsula and exports hydrocarbons from its 2.5 km long jetty. The rocky reef beneath and beside Santos' facility known as Stony Point, and is the popular strip for the cuttlefish to meet and breed on. It is also the most accessible dive site, with walk-in access, although divers cannot enter an exclusion zone 200 metres from their shoreline or loading facility. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the animals favour the area less and less in recent years. There was also an oil spill at the Port Bonython jetty back in 1992 which released 296 tonnes of heavy bunker fuel into the Gulf, which killed hectares of mangroves on the Port Pirie (Eastern) side of the gulf, though that incident was not likely to have effected the cuttlefish directly. Back in 1992, the cuttlefish aggregation was not documented in any way.

    4. Prawn Trawlers changed their grounds

    Apparently, this year the local prawn trawling fleet from south of Whyalla changed their trawling pattern/grounds. We are yet to investigate this. Trawlers pose a well described threat to bottom dwelling organisms, and are responsible for habitat degradation when they set their rigs too heavy, and drag the bottom. Bycatch in this industry is believed to be typically underreported.

    5. Rising nutrient levels

    Another concern is the level of nutrient in the Upper Spencer Gulf, which is skirted by marginal farming land. Unusual green 'slime' has been sighted in the gulf by local divers, though this requires further investigation.


    6. Conspiracy


    Another concern is the possibility of consipracy to intentionally eliminate the cuttlefish to benefit private sector commercial interests. Such an effort could be seen to have the potential to reduce the level of public resistance from a conservation perspective to the proposed developments for the peninsula (desal plant, port expansion, diesel storage, ammonium nitrate plant).


    7. Fur seal predation


    A group of New Zealand Fur Seals have moved into the region (less than a dozen) and some fishermen believe they have been eating cuttlefish. We have not seen or read any evidence to support this theories merits, but it's yet another sign of the changing dynamics in the region's ecology.
     
  7. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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  8. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Using the giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) mass breeding aggregation to explore the life cycle of dicyemid parasites
    Sarah R. Catalano, Ian D. Whittington, Stephen C. Donnellan, Bronwyn M. Gillanders 2013 (subscription)

     
  9. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Mysteries of the deep and the sex lives of cuttlefish The Sydney Morning Herald: Annabel Crabb March 30, 2014

     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2014
  10. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Giant Australian cuttlefish swarm back to SA Spencer Gulf breeding site

     
  11. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Cuttlefish surveys increased

     
  12. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Seals threaten cuttlefish, warn divers
    By ELI GOULD July 7, 2014, 11:01 a.m.
     
  13. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Scientists baffled by return of giant cuttlefish
    ABC Online
    ELIZABETH JACKSON: Scientists are struggling to explain a dramatic turnaround in giant Australian cuttlefish numbers in South Australia. Each winter the animals gather in the Spencer Gulf for the breeding season. Their numbers have been declining, from ...


    Continue reading...
     
  14. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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

     
  15. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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

     
  16. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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

     
  18. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Cuttlefish monitoring underway as Whyalla area citizen scientists help SARDI
     
  19. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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  20. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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

     

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