Sepia officinalis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Trap
Capture area — Mediterranean (FAO 37)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail
Picture of Cuttlefish

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

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.


Cuttlefish (family Sepiidae) belong to a specialised group of molluscs, known as cephalopods, which also includes octopus and squid. In the North East Atlantic and Mediterranean, the main commercial species is the common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), although other species (S. elegans and S. orbignyana) are fished in the Mediterranean. Cuttlefish have eight arms and two tentacles, like squid, but differ from other cephalopods by the presence of a significant internal skeletal/buoyancy structure, the cuttle bone, which is often found washed up on beaches. The common cuttlefish typically has a two year lifecycle, whilst in southern areas one year is normal. After overwintering in deeper waters, cuttlefish move into shallow coastal waters to breed in spring and summer. Females only breed once, and die soon after laying up to 4,000 eggs, which are around 8-10 mm in diameter and known as sea grapes. They take up to two months to hatch. Males live longer, and breed more than once. Cuttlefish can attain body lengths of up to 45 cm and weigh up to 4 kg, although typically 20-30 cm and 1-2 kg is normal.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Sepia officinalis has been assessed as being of Least Concern by IUCN - The World Conservation Union. Although it is the focus of large-scale commercial fisheries, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea and off the west coast of Africa and may be close to being overexploited in some regions e.g. Mediterranean, it has a wide geographic range and is thus likely not under threat. Furthermore, FAO statistics indicate a constant yield of approximately 15,000 tonnes per year suggesting no overall decline in stocks worldwide.


There are no specific management measures for cuttlefish. Southern IFCA promote a voluntary Code of Practise (SIFCA Cuttlefish Traps Code of Practice) requesting fishers to minimise the removal or damage to cuttle eggs attached to gear when shooting, hauling or cleaning. Traps should also remain underwater until September. This allows any attached cuttle eggs to hatch.

Capture Information

Cuttlefish are taken in traps in targeted fisheries. 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.