#LoveSpecies nominee: common cuttlefish
Nominated by: Marine Conservation Society UK
Why do you love them?
The common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) is an incredible creature that we believe deserves more love. Amongst the most intelligent invertebrates known, cuttlefish will definitely appreciate the love we give them.
Cuttlefish have incredible eyesight and an odd W-shaped eyelid that allows them to have panoramic vision. Despite their eyesight being advanced, it is thought that they are colour-blind, which is even more amazing as their skill in visual camouflage is unprecedented. Even in the dark, cuttlefish can detect textures and colour from the environment to help them camouflage. It is not truly understood how they can do this, but the cuttlefish clearly has a unique perspective and relationship with the physical world that we are yet to understand. This mysterious creature also has three hearts so clearly has the potential to return our love in a triple heartfelt way!
What are the threats to the common cuttlefish?
Cuttlefish, like other cephalopods, are extremely sensitive to environmental variability and their populations can fluctuate rapidly. In order to know how many cuttlefish we can catch, we must understand how various climate and ocean variables are changing and how cuttlefish react to those important variables. The acidity of the water is particularly important to cuttlefish as it affects the density of their cuttlebone and therefore impacts their buoyancy. If we catch too many cuttlefish any year, there may be too few adults to spawn the following years. Cuttlefish are more frequently fished for and are often caught as bycatch.
Often there is little data available about the level of cuttlefish catches per year. Having so little data is a problem as we often don’t know how many cuttlefish that we remove from our seas, making it difficult to understand how many are left to spawn in the future.
What we do to protect them?
One of our collective aims at the Marine Conservation Society is to raise awareness of important marine habitats, to create a network of marine protected areas (MPA’s) in the UK and encourage the government to legally establish and protect a network of habitats. One of our established areas lie below the white cliffs of Dover and offers an attractive habitat for the common cuttlefish. The intertidal and subtidal chalk has formed unique reefs, ledges, gullies and sand pits where young cuttlefish can thrive as they develop their amazing camouflage skills. Our campaigns also aim to highlight the importance of collecting data on commercial fishing and bycatch, which may prove valuable for the government to further protect cuttlefish and other species alike.