Cuttlefish, Pharaoh

Sepia pharaonis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Trap
Capture area — Western Indian Ocean (FAO 51)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail
Picture of Cuttlefish, Pharaoh

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

Sepia pharaonis is deemed to be Data Deficient as although it has a very wide geographic distribution it consists of a species complex. It is fished throughout its range but intensively in some regions such as off Yemen, Hong Kong and Thailand. Where available look for cuttlefish taken in fisheries where measures have been adopted to protect cuttlefish eggs. These measures include leaving egg encrusted cuttlefish traps in sheltered areas of the sea to allow the eggs to hatch and providing a removable surface on the outside of the traps on which cuttlefish can lay their eggs.

Biology

Cuttlefish (family Sepiidae) belong to a specialised group of molluscs, known as cephalopods, which also includes octopus and squid. This large, bottom-dwelling species occurs in fairly shallow depths over a wide geographic range, from Yemen to Thailand. This species rises up into the lower water column at night to feed on crustaceans and small fish. Growth rates are higher in females. In the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Seas abundances are highest between 10 and 40 m, whereas off Hong Kong large numbers congregate between 40 and 80 m during the mating season (November to February). Off Hong Kong spawning occurs seasonally between April and May and is seasonal with two peaks in January to February and July to September in the Gulf of Thailand. This species has been grown successfully in culture and techniques are being developed to culture the animals commercially.

Stock information

Stock Area

All Areas

Stock information

Cuttlefish are generally thought to be fast-growing and abundant and relatively robust to fishing pressure. Sepia pharaonis is deemed to be Data Deficient as although it has a very wide geographic distribution it consists of a species complex. It is fished throughout its range but intensively in some regions such as off Yemen, Hong Kong and Thailand. This species supports industrial or artisanal fisheries throughout its range. Mostly fished and abundant in Gulf and the Andaman Sea. In order to assess the impact of these fisheries it is paramount that the boundaries between the species within this species complex are known. Until taxonomic clarity is provided this species cannot be accurately assessed. In Yemen where this is a commercially important species, stocks have been estimated and an annual fishing quota has been recommended (Reid et al. 2005). Further research is recommended regarding the population trends, distribution, life history traits and threats impacting this species.

Management

Capture Information

A large, commercially important species that is caught using traps baited with eggs. Common sizes in landings range from 15 to 20 cm. Taking cuttlefish in traps is generally a more selective fishing method and less damaging than trawl fishing. However, cuttlefish are caught in traps when they come into inshore waters to lay their eggs and when eggs are laid on the traps they are destroyed during harvest. The traps used in the fishery provide an ideal surface upon which eggs are laid, but unfortunately the eggs are destroyed when the traps are cleaned at the end of the fishing season. This could have negative consequences for cuttlefish reproduction. Similarly, eggs laid on ropes attached to shellfish pots may be removed from the sea before hatching, when the pots are hauled.