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Why cuttlefish?



  • Often unknown to the public, cuttlefish are found in UK offshore waters and move closer to shore at certain times of the year to lay eggs during which they can be seen by divers, snorkelers and even swimmers

  • Cuttlefish play an important ecological role in our coastal waters, they are a keystone resident and their presence is crucial to many other species in marine ecosystems

  • They are highly intelligent and charismatic invertebrates, often called the "masters of camouflage" due to their impressive colour-changing abilities

© Dan Bolt

  • Known as "black gold" by fishers, cuttlefish are a commonly caught species by the British fishing industry, with a growing consumer market in the UK, even though most sources for this species are rated as "avoid" by the MCS Good Fish Guide

CCI's impact

  • The limitations in cuttlefish protection in the UK currently centre around a lack of research and information. Closing these data gaps will allow informed conservation decisions to be made, leading to protections for this species.

  • At CCI, we are closing these data gaps with new and innovative research projects, working with partner organisations to deliver these.

  • We are gathering data through our citizen science project, Project Sepia, see how you can get involved here, or contact us about an outreach event here!

  • With a Fisheries Management Plan covering cuttlefish on the horizon, we have advocated for stronger fisheries protections for cuttlefish through this consultation process.


  • This means that cuttlefish are currently being threatened at all life stages, with large numbers of cuttlefish being removed from the population before they've had the chance to reproduce

    • Eggs have a smaller chance of hatching due to habitat loss and current potting practices

    • Young individuals are being potentially over-fished after migration to deeper waters and before they have the chance to reproduce

    • Mature individuals are limited in finding suitable habitat for egg-laying and have an increased impact on the population structure when removed through fishing

  • While in shallower coastal waters, there is no respite for cuttlefish. Seagrass, which is a preferred surface for egg-laying, has reduced by 92% in the past 100 years in the UK

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  • Cuttlefish frequently lay their eggs on inshore fishing pots as they are an available solid substrate. These eggs laid on pots are often left to dry on the shore or power-washed off, both of which kill the eggs

The current threats

  • While in offshore waters, cuttlefish are being fished by trawling boats, with no current fisheries protections. There has been a significant increase in the quantity and value of cuttlefish landed in the UK over the past 20 years 

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  • Common cuttlefish (Sepia officianalis) are distributed across the UK but congregate in larger numbers along the southern coast of England. They are typically found in two distinct habitats:

    • Offshore - in deeper waters of 100 metres or more

    • Coastal - more sheltered areas for egg laying on hard substrates such as seagrass and lobster pots


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  • Evidence suggests that the population is at a critical stage and action is needed to avoid overfishing and a severe population crash.

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