Sepia officinalis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — English Channel
Stock detail

All areas (outside 6 nm)

Picture of Cuttlefish

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

There are no reference points to determine if cuttlefish are in a healthy state. Though a recent stock assessment show mixed trends in their abundance and a decreasing exploitation rate. Therefore, there is some concern for biomass, but fishing mortality is not of concern.

Despite cuttlefish being a high value species and their landing increasing dramatically, there is little management in place to protect the species.

There are several species of cuttlefish found in UK and French waters, though, the common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis are most commonly caught. France and the UK catch the majority (around 80%) of cuttlefish in the North-East Atlantic.

France generally employs increased management to protect the species.

They are usually targeted in trawls or and as bycatch in demersal fisheries. However, artisanal fisheries use proportionately more highly selective gear types including spears, pots, and traps, which generally pose a reduced risk to bycatch and the habitat than the trawling methods.

Cuttlefish is frequently marketed as fresh and frozen and is a highly attractive food item in Japan, South Korea, Italy and Spain.

Choose cuttlefish caught in inshore waters (caught in an IFCA district) or French waters as they generally are protected by better management. Choose cuttlefish caught using pot or creel.


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 grapesa. 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

Stock Area

English Channel

Stock information

A recent stock assessment by Alemany (2017) assessed three data-limited indicators to measure the Channel cuttlefishas biomass and fishing mortality. The first indicator (abundance indicies from bottom trawl survey) shows a decreasing trend in biomass between 2002 to 2014; the second indicator (Spawning stock biomass data estimated using landings per Unit Effort (LPUE) data) shows no clear trend and the third shows an increasing trend (a parameter measuring growth rates in biomass) between 2008 to 2011. Therefore, there are mixed biomass trends, however, the fishery independent survey showed a negative trend and therefore, there is concern for biomass. The exploitation rate decreasing and therefore no concern for fishing mortality. Therefore, there is no concern for fishing mortality.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

Cuttlefish are a data-limited species in the UK and there are limited manangement measures in place to reflect this. They are a non-quota species and there is no minimum conservation reference size. There is a restriction on the numbers of pot and trap fishing licences for the possibility to fish within 3nm of the coast. Only small vessels with a length less than 12 meters can have a licence, with a maximum of 500 traps per vessel. Mesh size regulations for trawlers depend on the those applied to the finfish stocks, which requires either a minimum mesh size of 80 mm or 100 mm. However, an 80mm mesh doesnat effectively reduce bycatch, and further mitigation measures are dependent on the skipper. Marine protected areas allow some protection to spawning cuttlefish and juveniles (before they become migratory) from towed gear, although the efficiency of this is uncertain. However, the effectiveness of MPAs at protecting cuttlefish populations, other than for their spawning time, as they are a migratory species.

There is little monitoring, control nor enforcement currently in place. There is a lack of data on cuttlefish and current methods to determine age are not very effective. Recent developments by Gras et al. (2014), and Alemany et al. (2015, 2017) have resulted in stock assesssments for the channel stock. Data collection including VMS data, logbook reports and dockside monitoring are mandatory for the over 12 metre fleets. However, cuttlefish are a non-quota species so the E.U. Data Collection Framework (DCF) do not require data to be collected for the species. In lieu of these data, scientific Observers and scientific vessels conduct surveys onboard a proportion of commercial vessels.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Beam trawling is not a well-targeted gear: the Southwest is a mixed fishery and previous studies have shown that typical catches when targeting cuttlefish comprise monkfish, flatfish species (soles, plaice, brill, turbot etc.), gurnards, invertebrates (such as urchins and starfishes) catsharks, crabs, however, most of the species that the trawl interacts with is not recorded in landings data. The minimum mesh size is not sufficient to protect many of these non-target species. Bycatch can include ETP species and there are prohibitions are in place for protected species such as common skate.


Abecasis, D., Afonso, P., OaDor, R. K., & Erzini, K. (2013). Small MPAs do not protect cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). Fisheries research, 147, 196-201.

Alemany, J., Rivot, E., Foucher, E., Vigneau, J., & Robin, J. P. (2017). A Bayesian two-stage biomass model for stock assessment of data-limited species: An application to cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) in the English Channel. Fisheries Research, 191, 131-143.

European Market Observatory for Market Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA)(2017) Monthly Highlights. Brussels: European Commission, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, p 1-3.

Gras, M., Roel, B. A., Coppin, F., Foucher, E., & Robin, J. P. 2014. A two-stage biomass model to assess the English Channel cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis L.) stock. ICES journal of Marine Science, 71(9), 2457-2468

ICES (2018) Interim Report of the Working Group on Cephalopod Fisheries and Life History (WGCEPH), 6-9 June 2017, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. ICES CM 2017/SSGEPD:12. 132 pp.

Mion, M., Piras, C., Giovanardi, O. (2014). Dinamiche di crescita di Mullus Barbatus L., 1758 e Sepia officinalis L., 1758 in relazione al fermo pesca biologico. (Growth dynamics of Mullus Barbatus L., 1758 and Sepia officinalis L., 1758 in relation to the summer trawling ban). Conference paper. 45 degrees Congresso della Societa Italiana di Biologia Marina. Venezia.

Wang, J., Pierce, G.J., Boyle, P.R., Denis, V., Robin, J.P., Bellido, J.M., 2003. Spatial and temporal patterns of cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) abundance and environmental influences: a case study using trawl fishery data in French Atlantic coastal, English Channel, and adjacent waters. ICES Journal of Marine Science 60:1149-1158.

Revill Nation. 2012. Pilot Project to investigate the survival rates of discarded cuttlefish. Available at: