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Whyalla Cuttlefish

Thursday, September 9, 2004
David is in South Australia’s coastal town of Whyalla where he gets to dive with some very loving cuttlefish.

The seaside city of Whyalla is South Australia's second largest city after Adelaide and boasts a Mediterranean climate of 300+ days of sunshine a year. It is the gateway to the Eyre Peninsula. When iron was discovered in Iron Knob, it became a very important steelworks, producing millions of tonnes of raw steel and ore pellets each year.

Another event which has put the area on the map is the annual migration of the Australian giant cuttlefish, sepia apama, onto the reef areas north of Whyalla. This is recognised as one of the most significant and spectacular naturally-occurring events in Australian waters.

Each year, between early May and mid August, hundreds of thousands of these unique animals, part of the mollusc family, arrive with unfailing regularity to mate and spawn, fulfilling one of nature's most basic drives — survival. They are attracted to the small area as they need a hard rocky surface to attach their eggs to and Black Point and Point Lowly provide that.

The cephalopods, which are basically a head, a modified foot which is partly a funnel, a set of eight arms and a body, are described as the chameleons of the sea, as they use thousands of complex structures embedded in their skin to produce thousands of colours and patterns, used for camouflage and mating displays.

They can change their shape and texture to imitate rock, sand or weed. If this fails, they expel a spurt of dark ink which forms a curtain they can escape behind.

Until as recently as 1996, cuttlefish fishing was limited to bait fishing by a few locals, recreational catch and an extremely limited commercial catch. As harvesting increased, divers were concerned that cuttlefish were being taken as they arrived at the breeding site, with no time to mate and spawn. With a short lifespan, low reproductive rate and high predation rate of the young, their very existence was in danger. Lobbying by the Whyalla Dive Club, the Primary Industries Minister and concerned individuals had the fishery closed until late 1998. All are delighted by the increase in cuttlefish numbers.

Tony Bramley of Whyalla Diving Services is the only dive operator in town. He offers 25 years experience in diving the temperate waters of southern Australia. His main job is as a commercial diver, but he enjoys taking divers to see these phenomenal creatures. He rents out full scuba gear and snorkels, but as the peak time is during cold months, he hires and sells dry suits for comfort. They say cuttlefish diving can't be compared to any other dive — it is shallow and sheltered and you are surrounded by hundreds of the creatures.


The gateway to South Australia's Eyre Peninsula


Whyalla Diving Services run dives starting at $110 per person, including all gear, or $30 per person if you have your own. Snorkelling starts at $70 per person. Dives run from May to August.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

Whyalla Diving Services & Whyalla Diving Adventures
Shop 4/1 Jenkins Ave
Whyalla 5609
South Australia
Mob 0418 804 421
Shop 08 86455693

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