Marine life Society of South Australia Inc
THE MARINE LIFE SOCIETY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA Inc.
Are you interested in any aspect of marine life? Do you want to learn more about the underwater world? Are you concerned about pollution of our oceans and destruction of reefs and seagrass beds? If so MLSSA is for you.
Our motto is “--- understanding, enjoying and caring for our oceans ---”. These few words summarise our aims. Members seek to understand our ocean, derive enjoyment from observations of marine life and are committed to protection of the marine environment.
Become a Society member and enjoy contact with others with similar interests. Our members include divers, marine aquarists and naturalists.
Our activities include:-
-Studying our local marine environment
Established in 1976, MLSSA holds monthly meetings and occasional field trips. We produce various informative and educational publications including a monthly Newsletter, an Annual Journal and a beautifully illustrated Calendar showing only South Australian marine life. Our library is a source of helpful information for marine enthusiasts.
Through our affiliation with other organisations (eg Conservation Council of SA and the Scuba Divers Federation of SA) we are kept up to date with relevant issues of interest. MLSSA also has close ties with appropriate Government organisations, e.g. various museums, universities and libraries.
Everyone is welcome to attend our General Meetings which are held on the third Wednesday of every month (except January and December). As our usual meeting place has been sold please access our website at : www.mlssa.asn.au to find out where and when the next meeting will take place. We begin with a guest speaker. After a short break there is the general business meeting and this may be followed by a slide show if time permits. The atmosphere is friendly and informal.
We welcome new members. We have subscription levels for students, individuals, families and organisations. We invite you to complete the membership subscription form on our website at:- http://www.mlssa.asn.au
Or you may wish to contact the Society for a form, or to complete the one on Page 40 of this Journal (or a photocopy) and send it with your payment to MLSSA.
The postal address of the Society is at present:-
120 Wakefield Street,
The MLSSA logo on the front page features a Leafy Seadragon which is unique to southern Australian waters. The Leafy was South Australia’s first totally protected fish and is the State marine emblem. Its beauty surpasses that of any creature found in tropical waters and, once seen by divers, is amongst the most remembered of their diving experiences.
Male Leafy Seadragon carrying eggs
Photograph courtesy of MLSSA member David Muirhead.
Cuttlefish Attacks On Divers (Steve Reynolds)
Invasive Marine Species: A Critical Assessment Of Global Legislation Concerning Prevention And Control With A Particular Focus On
Ballast Water Management. (Morgan Muirhead)
Early Settlement at Glenelg (Brian J. Brock)
The Flora & Fauna Of Piccaninnie Ponds And Ewens Ponds (Including Eight Mile Creek) - Part 2 (Steve Reynolds)
This year we have a variety of articles from either MLSSA members or by a member of their family. The Journal is shorter than previous years because we appeared to be trying for the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Journal ever. This was becoming a problem for the Printer and the Editor. To obtain the quality of articles we need is always a problem, as whilst most authors willingly supply articles when asked I am always aware of not putting extra stress upon busy people. We also prefer quality to quantity and would prefer articles from MLSSA members as this is YOUR Journal.
We start with we have another excellent article by the prolific Steve Reynolds on “Cuttlefish Attacks on Divers”. This well written article is accompanied by superb pictures from some of the best photographers we use for our calendars. Steve chose the pictures with care and they show the main features of the article to great advantage.
Morgan Muirhead, daughter of MLSSA member David, has supplied me with the article on “Invasive Marine Species”. This subject is explored from a different point of view. It is very interesting and well researched.
Brian Brock has explored the world of “Early Settlement at Glenelg” as the first of several short pieces. It is wonderful how a Failsworth Cap can lead a person on to marine exploration. His articles are all very relevant to the marine environment and its care.
Steve then adds a short update to his article published in our 2006 Journal.
The opinions expressed by authors of material published in this Journal are not necessarily those of the Society.
EDITING: Philip Hall
PRINTING: Phill McPeake
CONTRIBUTORS: Steve Reynolds
Brian J. Brock
PHOTOGRAPHY etc: As credited in each article
by Steve Reynolds
I must say from the outset that I don’t want to put people off of diving with cuttlefish. It is generally a pleasure to see them during a dive. Since I always try to encourage people to keep diving despite the perceived threat of sharks, the last thing that I would want to do is to deter people from diving with cuttlefish. I do, however, consider that it is important to try to learn what causes a cuttlefish (or a shark for that matter) to attack a diver, and to do whatever it takes to prevent such an attack.
Although I have seen many cuttlefish during my years of diving (almost 30 years to date), I have only ever been chased just the one time by a cuttle. That incident occurred some 18 years ago during an autumn dive at Port Noarlunga South on 7th April 1989. I can only recall that a largish cuttle caused me to retreat and try to hide behind rocks a couple of times.
(I had seen a few cuttles during a short dive at Port Willunga five days earlier without incident.)
I had long forgotten about the incident at Port Noarlunga South until 2005 when my friend Dennis Hutson told me about how he had become the victim of two cuttlefish attacks. It so happened that the July 2005 issue of Dive Log featured an article about a cuttlefish attack on a diver. I can still recall Dennis’s reaction when I showed him the article at the North Haven boat ramp just prior to a dive on the Norma wreck that same month (17/7/05).
The article in the July 2005 issue of Dive Log was Sharon Gowen’s report of how she was attacked by a large cuttlefish during a boat dive at Split Solitary, near Coffs Harbour, NSW. Although I don’t know the date of Sharon’s attack, it was on a ‘brisk autumn morning’. (This matches the period of both Dennis’s attacks and mine.)
Sharon says that “a huge cuttlefish” which was “about 1m long and nearly half that wide” attacked her. This cuttle was said to be “quiet” when Sharon first encountered it at about 14m. It then proceeded, however, to follow Sharon and her two buddies as they swam away from it. When Sharon looked back at the cuttle, it was following them at a distance of 10m. It continued slightly higher than the three divers, “shadowing” them as they went along a ledge. One of Sharon’s buddies also saw the cuttle following them and thought to herself “it might be curious”.
All of a sudden, the cuttle hit Sharon with a “thud” and wrapped its tentacles “around her head, across her mask and regs”. The tentacles across her mask blinded her vision. They also pulled her regulator from her mouth. Her first reaction was to scream. She then grabbed the cuttle’s tentacles and ripped them from her head. She was able to ‘throw’ the cuttle away from her.
With her mask full of water, she searched for, and found, her regulator. Trying to resume breathing on her regulator again, she still could not see clearly. By this time, one of her two buddies had come to her assistance. The buddy held Sharon’s hands tightly and accompanied her slowly towards the surface.
Sharon was able to clear her mask during the ascent. She said afterwards that her buddy had reassured her and made her feel safe.
But let’s go back to Dennis’s two attacks. The first attack occurred at Haystack Island, Yorke Peninsula on 16th April 2005. A smallish cuttle tried to bite Dennis and he had to fend it off with his cray snare for a distance of 4 - 5m until it gave up the chase.
Less than one month later, Dennis was attacked by a larger cuttle at the Norma wreck off of Semaphore. On 15th May 2005 a 60cm-long (total length) cuttle had chased him for a distance of 30m across the wreck. Dennis had to swim hard to keep ahead of the large cuttle, clubbing it some three times on the head with his dive torch.
When Dennis and I dived at the Norma on 17th July that year, we saw several cuttles at the wreck without incident. Dennis was even able to photograph a large specimen which now features on his website at
(under “Photo Galleries”, “Underwater Realm”, “Octopus and Cuttlefish”). (See page 5)
Cuttlefish at the wreck of the Norma, Semaphore
(taken by Dennis Hutson)
Dennis’s bad experiences with cuttlefish were not over yet. He was doing a shallow boat dive at Port Moorowie on the Yorke Peninsula, SA on 11th March 2006. It was on this autumn day that Dennis noticed that there was a small female cuttlefish at a range of about 2m. She approached him and was flashing her colours. Dennis saw this as an attack pose and he hit her away with a wave of his hand.
This did not deter her as she came back at Dennis, even angrier, so he backed away from her. He had moved a good 5m or more from where he had come across her and thought she might stop. She kept chasing Dennis so he had to hit her on the head with his cray snare. This only raised the ire within her and she attacked yet again. Dennis had to hit her extremely hard this time.
She took off to a nearby ledge and returned with a big male cuttle. This big male was flashing his colours and heading straight for Dennis, with the smaller female just behind him. Dennis had to make a ‘beeline’ straight for the boat. As he swam hard, he checked to see if they were still coming behind him. Fortunately for him, the male gave up the chase fairly easily.
An article by Dennis Hutson titled “My Story On The Nasty Cuttlefish Of SA” was published in our June 2006 MLSSA Newsletter (No.333). The article posed the question “Has anyone else witnessed this kind of cuttlefish behaviour before, where one cuttle will seek the assistance of another (bigger) cuttle to attack a diver?”.
MLSSA member Dr Brian Brock responded to the article by sending a letter and a copy of an article to the society. Brian thought that the article “Cuttlefish Behaviour” by DC Lake in the “South Australian Naturalist”, March 1986, Vol.60, No.3 answered a few questions.
Brian suggested that “Colour does not seem to be a factor in attacks” and “The acuity of vision and memory appear to be the main factors”. He added, “One could not eliminate sense of “smell” (some chemical factor). Brian suggests that “The moral seems to be, don’t razz up a cuttlefish”.
Dennis Hutson has since done further dives at the Norma and the “Barge” during the breeding season months of March and May. These two dives, however, were without any further incident. During his dive on the “Barge” on 31st March 2007, he even managed to feed a dead crab to a medium-sized cuttle of about 30cm.
During a subsequent dive at the “Barge” on 23rd June 2007, a dive buddy demonstrated to Dennis the way a cuttle reacts when a hand is placed below it. The dive buddy in question was Geoff Prince, who saw humour in dragging Dennis in close by his tank valve. He demonstrated that you can put your hand under a male and gently lift it. Dennis then managed to touch the end of the head of another cuttle. He says that the cuttles are so mesmerised by the mating ritual that you can touch them and their colours shimmer.
Dennis’s friend John later related something that he had seen during a TV show. When a (diver’s?) hand was placed below a cuttle, it would change colouration in such a way that a ‘print’ of the hand could clearly be seen through the back of the cuttle.
Michael Matthewson placing his hand below a cuttle at Rapid Bay
(taken by Michael Gosling)
NO CUTTLEFISH PATTING
Nicole Strzelecki from Adelaide Scuba Hove circulated the following email message early in July 2007: -
“I recently received an email from a concerned club member in regards to patting cuttlefish, particularly now that they are in breeding season. You may be enticed to stick your hand out and run your fingers over their soft skin, however, next time consider the consequences as it can cause the cephalopods to become distressed, as a result they do not breed and, in some extreme cases, it can result in death.”
Cuttles are generally thought to die after mating anyway, but it is best that they have the chance to breed before they die.
Nicole sent me this cuttle photo taken by Nathan Menzies (at Whyalla?). (See page 7)
An aggregation of cuttlefish (at Whyalla?) (taken by Nathan Menzies)
The attacks on DC (David) Lake had occurred during autumn, on the Anzac Day long-weekend in 1985. They occurred during some BSAC dives off Troubridge Point on the Yorke Peninsula. They were also reported in the BSAC magazine “Diver” under the title “Hunted down by a pair of murderous cuttlefish” which was written by my old friend Bill Mildren.
Bill tells me that, according to his dive logbook, David Lake and he were diving slightly east of Troubridge Point on 25th April 1985. They were down for some 40 minutes and the maximum depth was 16m.
Bill quoted these details from his logbook: - "Very attractive drop-off and ledges. Clear clean water. Reef. Attacked by two cuttlefish. Dave was as usual collecting junk and I believe he wanted one of the cuttles for his pot. He aggravated them."
It seems that David Lake provoked a cuttlefish by cornering and trying to grab hold of it. It retaliated by biting him on a finger, right through his glove. Bill says that he could only watch and laugh. But then another cuttle bit Bill on the hand too. David says that as they (the divers) swam away from the scene, the first cuttlefish then proceeded to stalk Bill and himself. Bill says that they were followed by both cuttles and had to fight them both off. Both divers received cuts to their hands.
David did subsequent dives with different buddies over the rest of the holiday long weekend. He suffered from further approaches by cuttlefish whereas his buddies and other divers did not.
David suggested that the cuttles “seemed unconfined by territorial boundaries”. They also “demonstrated a memory capable of retaining information over a period of days with sufficient discrimination of detail to recognize a particular diver from others wearing wetsuits, buoyancy vests and masks of the same make and colour”. They also demonstrated “co-operative behaviour between two apparently unrelated individuals” and “This co-operation was not the result of a shared threat to both animals”.
“Learning, memory and “systems of action wider than dictated by the immediate environment” (Young*) have been well documented in octopods but little has been recorded concerning cuttlefish behaviour,” he said.
* “Anatomy of the nervous system of Octopus vulgaris” by JZ Young?, 1972, Oxford University Press, NY.
Mike Scotland wrote about cuttlefish and attacks in his article “Cephalopods – Shimmering, Shredders of the Seas” in the February 2001 issue of Dive Log. He said “A Giant Sepia apama* approached (his) dive buddy (Tim) and postured at close range. It then grabbed his guage console and tried to take it back to its den. We struggled with the cuttle for several minutes before it let go of the nice shiny trophy. After the dive, we noticed that the rubber boot of the console had a 12mm gash in it left by the powerful beak.” Mike said that he himself tried to bite on the rubber console as hard as he could but he couldn’t even make a mark.
* (It is generally assumed throughout this article that the cuttlefish involved are the Giant Australian Cuttlefish, Sepia apama.)
In the same article, Mike also reports witnessing a cuttle seizing a small stargazer from the side of a larger stargazer. He said “a huge cuttle rocketed in, seized the small stargazer with lightening speed and wrapped it within the extended webbing between its arms”. It was then seen consuming the little stargazer nearby.
The book “Injuries to Man from Marine Invertebrates in the Australian Region” by JB Cleland and RV Southcott says that a small cuttlefish in NSW bit someone in the 1920s. The cuttlefish bite drew some blood. This attack occurred at Gunnamatta Bay, Port Hacking, NSW. It was reported in the article titled “Life of the Tidal Flats” by FA McNeill and T Iredale* in the Australian Museum Magazine, 2 (8), 1925. The small cuttlefish was said to be between 12.5 & 17.5cm long.
* FA McNeill wrote many papers about marine stings. Some of these papers he co-wrote with Elizabeth Pope. Tom Iredale wrote many papers about marine molluscs and their stings.
(Strangely enough, neither “Marine Animal Injuries to Man” by Dr Carl Edmonds nor the Reader’s Digest “Australia’s Dangerous Creatures” book seem to discuss cuttlefish at all.)
Tony Bramley from Whyalla Diving Services says that cuttles will sometimes latch on to shiny dive gear such as gauge guards, occys*, etc.. outside of the breeding season.
(You can understand these relatives of octopus grabbing an octopus regulator.)
Two of the incidents discussed above involved cuttles grabbing either regulators or guage consoles. I, myself, was doing a low-viz dive with Dennis Hutson at Port Noarlunga reef in the autumn month of May in 2007 when Dennis witnessed a medium-sized cuttlefish grab at the bunch of car keys clipped on to my BCD. I was too preoccupied to realize what had happened at the time. I wondered whether the cuttle believed that my keys were either something nice to eat or a nice trophy to take back to its den.
Dennis said that the cuttle was about 30cm total length and that it retreated to a small den after its unsuccessful attempt to take my car keys. At least two incidents discussed below involve cuttles grabbing at dive torches.
It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point that Alex Gaut said in her article “The Amazing Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)” (MLSSA Journal, No.11, December 2000) that “Despite their ability to produce an astonishing range of colour, it is widely believed by scientists that most cephalopods are colour-blind”.
That same month, I met Ben Gryst (of Bensa Photography & Imaging) who told me of yet another cuttlefish attack on a diver friend of one of his own friends. It seems that the diver panicked during the attack and died as a result of ascending too quickly.
Michael Matthewson offering his regulator to a cuttle at Rapid Bay
(taken by Michael Gosling)
A cuttlefish at the Rapid Bay jetty attacked Neville Skinner on 21st May 2000. Neville’s dive buddy, Nigel Muggridge was video filming during the dive when a mid-sized cuttle started to attack Neville’s wristwatch. The whole incident lasted at least five minutes and was captured on video. Neville tried everything to ward off the cuttle, including triggering his camera flash off in its face.
Here is a still taken from Nigel Muggridge’s video footage: -
Cuttle attacking Neville Skinner at Rapid Bay jetty 21st May 2000
(Taken by Nigel Muggridge)
When Neville had the opportunity to, he brought out a glove that he carries with him and put it on his bare right hand to cover his dive watch. After a quick inspection of Neville’s gloved hand, the annoying cuttle then lost interest. Neville took up cave diving after this incident.
Neville showed a DVD version of the video at our July General Meeting. Both a CD and DVD copy of the video are available for loan from our Society library – mlssa nos. 8028a & 8028b.
Chris Hall recalls two incidents that have occurred between himself and an aggressive cuttlefish. Although the precise details are not known, one of them occurred during a dive at the Dredge, off of Glenelg, about 15 years ago (1992?). Chris was swimming along the portside keel of the Dredge, close to the bow. A ‘biggish’ cuttlefish grabbed at Chris’s dive torch. Chris managed to take this photo of the cuttle.
Cuttlefish at Rapid Bay jetty
(taken by Dennis Hutson)
The other incident occurred during a Reef Watch ‘Adopt a reef’ monitoring dive at Hallett Cove reef on 29th May 2005. In that incident, another ‘biggish’ cuttlefish became aggressive whilst Chris was attempting to take photographs of something or other else.
The cuttlefish that grabbed Chris’s torch at the Dredge
(taken by Chris Hall)
You may have noticed an emphasis by me that several (if not all) of the recorded attacks by cuttlefish occurred during autumn months. I can still recall a dive that I did at Wool Bay jetty on the Yorke Peninsula in April over 21 years ago. It was during my dive there on 5th April 1986 that several largish cuttles behaved aggressively towards me. They would raise two arms upwards and display a dark-reddish colouring whilst looking directly back at me, similar to the behaviour shown in the photo below.
Cuttlefish with two arms raised upwards
(taken at the Barge, Glenelg by Dennis Hutson)
In Gary Graf’s article “How I learned to get along swimmingly with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish” in GEO Magazine, March-May 1987, Vol.9, No.1, Gary said “A giant Australian cuttlefish approaching with two arms raised (is) a type of hostile behaviour not uncommon during the spring mating season”. A photo of a cuttle displaying this hostility features in the article. Graf also said that during the “spring* mating season you may also see a bit of aggression, easily recognisable as the cuttlefish moves forward with its arms held high as if about to reach out and wrap itself around you”.
* Certainly, Graf spoke of a “spring mating season”, and so does Christine Deacon in both “Australia Down Under – exploring Australia’s underwater world” and “Down Under with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish”. She mentions a spring mating season, saying that October was “allegedly the beginning of the mating season for the Australian giant cuttle”. A caption for one of the article’s photos, however, contradicts this comment by saying “The giant Australian cuttlefish is seen seasonally in Jervis Bay, appearing at the beginning of winter. Large numbers of aggressive cuttles are seen at this time when they are mating”.
Graf says that he usually sees ‘his’ cuttlefish “during the spring and summer months” because “they head for deeper water during winter”. (Although Graf seems to be from Sydney, Australia, he was a graduate of Boston University’s School of Communication.) It seems to be quite the opposite in SA though. Late May is well recognized as being the beginning of the mating season for the Australian giant cuttle. They seem to start to come in to shallow waters during autumn, in readiness for the winter breeding season. Once that the breeding season is over, they then seem to retreat back to deeper waters. Sharon Gowen’s attack at Split Solitary, near Coffs Harbour, NSW occurred on a ‘brisk autumn morning’.
Deacon says that “When (cuttlefish) raise their tentacles, divers should be careful – as they are large and their beaks may be dangerous”.
It may well be that autumn is the danger period when it comes to the possibility of cuttles attacking SA divers, as indicated by the following table: -
DETAILS OF KNOWN ‘UNPROVOKED’ ATTACKS ON SA DIVERS
* As discussed earlier, David Lake provoked a cuttlefish by cornering and trying to grab hold of it. It retaliated by biting him on a finger, right through his glove. Bill says that he could only watch and laugh. But then another cuttle bit Bill on the hand too.
These same details are grouped in to ‘months’ in the table at the top of page 11: -
As indicated in the two tables, all of the known ‘attacks’ on SA divers occurred during the three month period of March to May.
According to the July 2007 issue of the SODS newsletter (Vol.14, Issue 7,
some SODS members were diving at the Dredge in March 2007 when a new diver was being “distracted by an amorous Cuttlefish that kept tugging at his torch, attracted by the light”. This new diver was also struggling at the same time to stop his mask from fogging up.
Tony Bramley from Whyalla Diving Services told me that the 2007 cuttlefish-breeding season at False Bay began on 4th May 2007. The taking of all cephalopods, including cuttlefish, from False Bay, near Whyalla, is not allowed from 1st March to 30th September each year.
Many thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of breeding cuttlefish are expected to gather near Whyalla each winter. (Some sources say tens of thousands whereas others say hundreds of thousands.)
Unfortunately, some 450,000 were harvested there about ten years ago. It was also unfortunate that two fishermen went and caught 442 of the cuttles at the protected Whyalla breeding grounds in June 2007. Authorities fortunately caught the two fishermen and confiscated their catch. The two men then faced serious fishing charges.
I sometimes recorded the odd cuttlefish sighting in my dive logbook and such recordings were often made during the autumn months. I have now scanned my logbooks for any references to cuttlefish sightings. I was surprised to find that I had written a comment about cuttlefish fighting at Stansbury jetty on 6th December 1986. Although the Whyalla cuttlefish breeding season runs from early May until (the start of?) September, I was even more surprised to find that I had written a comment about cuttlefish mating at Edithburgh jetty on 29th September 2001.
Sharon Gowens said that the “huge cuttlefish” which attacked her was “about 1m long and nearly half that wide”. According to “Australian Marine Life” by Graham Edgar, the Giant Cuttle, Sepia apama reaches a length of 800mm. One about that size would appear to be 1m long underwater.
Alex Gaut said in her article “The Amazing Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)” that “Sepia apama . . ranks as one of the largest cuttle species in the world”. She goes on to say that they reach a length of over a metre, saying, “this measurement includes the arms and tentacles, which can stretch out to almost double the length of the animal”. She says, however, “Correct scientific measurement uses the dorsal mantle length i.e. from the front of the mantle between the eyes to the posterior tip of the mantle”.
She added that “The largest animals measured in SA had mantle lengths of ~40cm, but in NSW they have been measured up to ~60cm”. She said that “There is no explanation for this size difference, it could be different environmental conditions, or possibly different species, but the research has not yet been done to confirm or deny either of these possibilities”.
It is generally understood, as confirmed by Alex, “The largest males are always larger than the largest females”. In his article “How I learned to get along swimmingly with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish”, Gary Graf referred to a cuttle that seemed to “stretch a good 1.5m from tentacle tip to posterior point”.
Tony Bramley from Whyalla Diving Services says that he himself has seen cuttles to >3kg and almost a metre in length. He has heard of even bigger ones, which he says would have to be correct judging by the size of some of the cuttlebones that he has seen.
Two articles by Karina Hall in “Southern Fisheries” magazine (“Cuttlefish Mysteries” and “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish” both say “The giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) is one of the largest cuttlefish species in the world reaching up to 60cm mantle length and over 5kg in weight.” “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish” goes on to say “Another point of interest is that the cuttlefish found in the Black Point area were never as large as the giants recorded in other regions. The maximum size recorded for a male at Black Point was 40cm mantle length, as opposed to the 60cm monsters commonly found in Jervis Bay, NSW”.
It is fair to say then that many large cuttles will be (or appear to be) a metre or more long.
In the book “A Guide to Squid, Cuttlefish and Octopuses of Australasia”, by Mark Norman and Amanda Reid, it says that the Giant Cuttlefish has a mantle length of “up to half a metre and a total length of one metre”.
Brad Crouch’s article about the Whyalla cuttlefish breeding season in the “Escape” section of the 17th June 2007 edition of the “Sunday Mail” said that “the biggest are about as big as a labrador” (and just as docile).
QUICK GROWTH & EARLY DEATH
It has been suggested that cuttlefish grow extremely quickly and only have a short lifespan of about 18 months. It has also been suggested that they die at about this age shortly after mating has occurred. Alex Gaut said in her article “The Amazing Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)” that “Sick-looking animals have been observed around Black Point (the SA breeding ground) towards the end of the spawning season. Some have been observed with the posterior tip of the sepion* protruding through the mantle, causing the head and arms to droop. Once in this moribund state, the animals are incapable of withstanding rough weather and are often found washed up after storms”.
* According to Alex, the sepion is the calcium carbonate cuttlebone, the modified shell inside cuttles that allows them “to live in the water column like a fish, able to accurately and quickly control their buoyancy by changing the quantity of gas in the tiny chambers of the sepion”.
“A Guide to Squid, Cuttlefish and Octopuses of Australasia” by Mark Norman and Amanda Reid says, “After spawning most cuttlefish die”. It also says that all cephalopods “Grow very fast . . in a year and are generally thought to be short-lived, with life spans ranging from a few months to two or three years”. It then goes on to say, however, that “some large or cold-water species may live longer” and “Most species of octopus and squid die after spawning, but other cephalopods may spawn several times”.
Tony Bramley from Whyalla Diving Services says that cuttles are ‘semelparous’, (meaning that) they, like salmon, die after spawning. He says that they will die on the spawning grounds, still trying to mate while they are dying (or dying whilst they are still trying to mate).
In his article titled “Cephalopods – Shimmering, Shredders of the Seas” (Dive Log, February 2001), Mike Scotland said, “Cephalopods have superb growth rates. Picture the largest Cuttlefish that you have ever seen, well in excess of a metre in length. It is probably only 6 to 8 months old. The rate of increase in body size is nothing short of stupendous. Super growth is a relatively common phenomenon in the marine world”.
But let’s get back to the subject of cuttlefish attacks. Gary Graf said in his article “How I learned to get along swimmingly with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish” that although he hadn’t yet heard of any divers being eaten by an aggressive cuttle, he had “seen a few divers furiously finning the other way, as if such a fate were a distinct possibility”.
Graf also described the hunting process of cuttles, saying that “moving quickly forward – the cuttlefish uses its octet of arms to engulf the victim and shovel it towards a very sharp, powerful parrot-like (upside down) beak”. He added that, to his knowledge, “no divers have yet ‘gone’ this way – but I’ve been with a few who evidently thought such a fate might be on the cards: amazing how fast one can swim when one really wants to!”
He went on to say that he had witnessed cuttlefish behaving aggressively towards a buddy but he was “never sure whether (he) was witnessing a predator bent on sampling a rubber-skinned alien, or the pass of a would-be lover”.
Could this last comment be the answer regarding the reason for some cuttlefish attacks? A successful attacking cuttle has latched on to divers’ facemasks and regulators as if attempting to lock tentacles, head-to-head, with a mate.
Tony Bramley from Whyalla Diving Services says that cuttles appear to be very preoccupied with the mating game during the breeding season and generally ignore divers completely. They have, however, bitten divers who have grabbed them (which is fair enough).
One example of such a provoked attack occurred when Bill Mildren and Dave Shaw were both diving with a UK BSAC examiner off the Yorke Peninsula (in Aug '94?). Bill thinks that the examiner interfered with a cuttlefish and it had a go at him. Quick as a flash, Dave Shaw gave the cuttle a straight left which set it back a few feet, end of story.
INFORMATION FROM THE INTERNET
When I recently did a Google search of the Internet for “cuttlefish attacks”, the response for "cuttlefish attack"+"diver"was “Results about 376).”
Video footage of a cuttlefish attacking a diver at “The Gutter, Bass Point, NSW on 4th April 2004 (04/04/04) can be seen at
for some very good video footage of a cuttlefish retaliating against a nuisance diver. It can also be found at
At some stage of my searching of the Internet, I found the web page at
which shows scuba diver Doug Pemberton being attacked on the head by a large octopus. Octopuses (and squid(s)) are also cephalopods and therefore related to cuttlefish.
According to “Observational learning does not explain improvement in predation tactics by cuttlefish (Mollusca: Cephalopoda)” by Boal J.G., Wittenberg K.M., and Hanlon R.T., “Results suggest that odor may serve as a primer for cuttlefish predatory attack behavior, perhaps by enhancing food arousal and improving attention”.
for more details about this paper.
If you visit
you may be able to see a video of a cuttlefish attacking a camera.
A web page titled “Cuttlefish Mystery” by Karina Hall used to be available at
http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/pages/fisheries/rec_fishing/rec90.htm:sectID=299&tempID=10 until PIRSA updated the site. The web page described the aggregation of the cuttlefish Sepia apama at Black Point, tagging studies to determine where they come from and their complex spawning behaviour. The original source for the web page was “Cuttlefish Mysteries” by Karina Hall, “Southern Fisheries” magazine, Winter 2000, Vol.7 No.2, p.10-11.
I visited at the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre Library where the librarian there, Suzanne Bennett, assisted by providing me with a copy of the original article in “Southern Fisheries”. She also provided me with a copy of Karen Hall’s earlier article titled “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish” (“Southern Fisheries” magazine, Summer 1998/99, Vol.6 No.1.).
Suzanne suggested that “Cephalopod Behaviour” by Hanlon, Roger T. & Messenger, John B., Cambridge University Press, 1996 (Call no. 594.5H241) might also be of interest. The book described ‘co-operative hunting’ as “the combined action of two or more individual predators to secure prey that might otherwise escape” and went on to say that “there is no unequivocal evidence for such behaviour in any cephalopod”. The book also says that “Social organisation . . . is weakly developed or non-existent in cephalopods, except for that related to reproduction. Cuttlefish (& octopus) are basically solitary animals . . ”. It also describes reproductive behaviour as “including agonistic behaviour (i.e. the complex of behaviours that includes fighting, threat, appeasement, . . . (i.e. all behaviour that precedes and accompanies the sexual act) . . .”.
The authors of “Cephalopod Behaviour” (Hanlon & Messenger) either haven’t read David Lake’s comments “They also demonstrated co-operative behaviour between two apparently unrelated individuals” and “This co-operation was not the result of a shared threat to both animals”, or they consider either that this behaviour is “related to reproduction” or that it is “reproductive behaviour”.
Another paragraph in the book “Cephalopod Behaviour” states that “Neural mechanisms initiating reproductive behaviour in cephalopods have not been identified but a hormonal influence on maturation of the gonads has been shown”.
Wells & Wells performed experiments on octopus in 1959, which showed that the pathway of physiological control of the reproductive system is:
Light → eye → optic lobe → subpedunculate lobe → optic gland → gonad
“Cephalopod Behaviour” explains that “The first four links are neural and inhibitory, the last hormonal and excitory. When the optic gland is freed from inhibition, it releases a hormone . . . that causes the gonad to grow. In Sepia it seems that there may be more than one hormone involved”.
When I left the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre Library, I was able to have a quick word with Scoresby Shepherd, our Patron, about my research on cuttlefish attacks. Scoresby was surprised to hear, despite his many years of diving experience, that anyone would be fearful of being attacked by a cuttlefish. He thought that there seems to be very little on record regarding any actual injuries being caused by a cuttlefish bite, and I agreed. We also agreed that any retreating diver would probably be mostly fearful of the unknown when it came to the threat of being bitten by a cuttlefish. But what about some of the incidents reported above? David Lake and Bill Mildren, for example, were both bitten on their hands.
A few ‘provoked’ attacks have been described above, but consider this table summarising the ‘unprovoked’ attacks described above: -
I can’t say for certain that the ‘attack’ in the 1920s was ‘unprovoked’ because I don’t have any idea what may have happened. There was only one injury from all of the other incidents. Sharon Gowens could easily have suffered more were it not for the assistance of her dive buddy. The friend of Ben Gryst’s friend apparently suffered the ultimate fate when he panicked and surfaced too quickly, although this hasn’t been confirmed.
Some vital information about cuttlefish attacks came through just after the completion of this article. It came through in the form of an email message from Antony King who described some three separate attacks on two different divers during the one dive in the month of May: -
“Hi Steve, I have been chased by Cuttlefish... I think it was 12th May 2007 i.e. the start of breeding season (I think) at Seacliff Reef, entering the water at 11.30. They're usually quite placid, but this time (on the same 100-minute long dive), one had a go at my camera, and another at my torch. I think the one that had a go at my camera was attracted to the red lens surround. It didn't chase me, but I have a picture of lots of tentacles! The other one actually followed me for some way. I noticed it when I felt it tugging the head of my canister torch, which was hanging below me (I had neglected to clip it off). I think it was attracted to the bright blue surround of the torch. It kept following me for a while, even as I had ascended around 3-4 metres. I came to the conclusion that it was breeding season, and (that) the colours (of the torch) attracted (it). On the same dive, someone with brightly coloured fins found a cuttlefish attached (to their fin). At Seacliff Reef, I think there are less potential 'partners' than at Point Lowly, etc., so the Cuttlefish will try to mate with pretty much anything. Whilst it could be a bit frightening for some divers (esp. new ones), I think the easiest way to make the cuttlefish lose interest is to give it a gentle nudge with one's fins. It also means that the diver’s face, etc.. is the furthest point from the cuttlefish.
Cheers, Antony.” Many thanks go to Antony for this information. (See picture below.)
Cuttle trying to latch onto Antony King’s camera
(taken by Antony King)
“A Guide to Squid, Cuttlefish and Octopuses of Australasia” by Mark Norman and Amanda Reid says “Cephalopods’ mouths have a hard beak, resembling a parrot’s beak, which they use to kill or paralyse prey by injecting poisonous saliva”. (It also says that octopus “inject poisonous saliva”.) Again, it says that some cephalopods use poisons as a means of defence to protect themselves.
Aggressive cuttlefish on Seacliff Reef
(Photo by Antony King)
MORE ABOUT THEIR BEAKS
The beak of any cephalopod is part of what is called the ‘buccal mass’. The ‘buccal mass’ includes the beak, radula and the salivary system. According to the book “Cephalopod Behaviour”, “The cephalopod ‘buccal mass’ is a large and complex structure, comprising the beak with its associated muscles, the radula, the salivary papilla, the salivary glands with their ducts and the sub-mandibular gland. It lies in front of the brain, in the centre of the arms. The beak is chitinous and its musculature generally massive (Kear, 1994) so that it can be a formidable weapon, as anyone who has been bitten by a cephalopod will know”.
Further, “The radula is a toothed ribbon that moves back and forth like a rasp . . . It carries food towards the oesophagus, and in some octopods it is known to be involved in the initial stages of drilling holes in the shells of molluscs and the exoskeleton of crustaceans.
It seems, however, that the poisonous saliva mentioned above stems from the salivary papilla, which carries the duct from the posterior gland. According to “Cephalopod Behaviour”, “The essential organ for drilling . . is the salivary papilla which carries the duct from the posterior salivary gland (PSG). The papilla and the eversible tip of the duct bear small teeth and the secretions of the PSG are delivered precisely to the drilling site”.
It goes on to say that “In Sepia officinalis . . this PSG secretion contains a ‘cocktail’ of other substances, including dopamine and serotonin, toxins, proteolytic enzymes and chitinases. The principal toxin is cephalotoxin”.
According to Karen Hall’s article “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish”, cuttlefish “have extremely strong beaks, similar to a parrot, which they can use to crack open hard-shelled animals like crabs, and a tooth lined tongue for rasping away at food held in the arms”.
Dennis Hutson says that the attack pose is when the cuttles point straight at you and close up their tentacles. When they are only 30cm from your face, they lunge at you, wrap their tentacles around your head and bite you with their very sharp and very hard beak. A few divers have had their equipment bitten.
The view shown in the next photo is the last thing a victim sees before being bitten by a cuttle.
The last thing a victim sees before being bitten by a cuttle
(taken by Michael Matthewson at Seacliff)
One cuttlefish 'attack' that resulted in a diver being bitten occurred at Rapid Bay jetty around 2003-4. Hank van der Wijngaart was diving from his boat anchored about 50m north of the eastern end of the ‘T’ end of the jetty. Around the centre of the ‘T’, he found a cuttle tangled in fishing line and proceeded to free it. He didn't really expect a wild animal to realize that he was helping it. As he tried to free it, it gave him a bite. The bite wasn’t severe but it was a bit of a shock or a surprise to Hank more than anything. He did, however, manage to free the cuttle which then swam away. Hank says that his injury from the cuttle bite was not serious and that he had forgotten about it by the time he had surfaced.
I don’t know what time of the year Hank’s attack occurred and it’s not really relevant since the cuttle was only protecting itself from a large
MORE ABOUT THEIR ARMS
According to “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish” by Karen Hall, “Cuttlefish have eight sucker lined arms growing from the front of their head, similar to squid. They also have two longer tentacles, which are kept tucked away in pouches underneath their eyes. They shoot these tentacles out in a rapid whip-like motion to seize their prey within their arms while they consume it”.
MORE ABOUT THEIR DENS & TERRITORIALITY
Also according to “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish”, “Sepia apama have been described by divers as being solitary animals, inhabiting caves and overhangs. The males are very territorial, and fiercely protect choice dens in order to attract females looking for a place to lay their eggs. Even in other regions of South Australia such as near Edithburgh in Gulf St Vincent, male cuttlefish have also been reported to occupy and guard dens”.
This may sound strange when considering the mating behaviour that occurs in the waters of upper Spencer Gulf each winter, but that sort of behaviour (large spawning aggregation) occurs in that area only and nowhere else. As Karina Hall says in her article titled “Cuttlefish Mysteries”, “Nowhere else does such a large spawning aggregation of cuttlefish occur. Generally, the individuals of most cuttlefish species are solitary animals occurring in low densities over very large areas. Numbers of the giant Australian cuttlefish in other coastal areas do increase during the spawning season. However, they do not reach the extremely high densities commonly observed in the waters adjacent to Black Point (near Whyalla, upper Spencer Gulf)”.
As already mentioned above, “The Flamboyant and Fascinating Lifecycle of the Giant Cuttlefish” says that “(Elsewhere across their distribution,) Sepia apama have been described by divers as being solitary animals, inhabiting caves and overhangs. The males are very territorial, and fiercely protect choice dens in order to attract females looking for a place to lay their eggs”. It goes on to say “The cuttlefish of the Black Point area, however, behaved in a very different manner. Instead of males guarding a den or territory, they fiercely guarded their chosen female”.
PROTECTION FROM CUTTLES?
If cuttlefish are more of a threat than we realize, we may soon have to start wearing a shark shield kind of device (a Sepia Shield?) to protect ourselves from them. With a Shark Shield attached to one leg and a Sepia Shield attached to the other leg, we will start to look like an octopus, or similar creature, ourselves. But seriously, it should never come to that.
The August 2007 issue of the SODS newsletter featured a photograph of Michael Matthewson with his face right up next to a largish cuttle. It seems that the cuttle didn’t mind the close attention by Michael at all. (See picture on page 18.)
Chris Deacon’s two articles said, “The colour patterns on the giant Australian cuttlefish suggests it is curious as it approaches a diver and lets her stroke its tentacles”. We need to show cuttlefish more respect, however, by leaving them alone and not harassing them in any way though, and we probably shouldn’t be attributing human emotions such as ‘curiosity’ and ‘friendliness’ to wild creatures such as them.
Michael Matthewson with his face right up next to a largish cuttlefish at Rapid Bay
(taken by Michael Gosling)
The annual cuttlefish-spawning season at the top of SA’s Spencer Gulf runs from May until September each year. Phone any of: - 8645 7900, 1800 088 589, or 8682 4688, or visit either of
to find out more about the cuttlefish. Phone Whyalla Diving Services on either 8645 8050 or 8644 1141, or contact them at
to arrange for a dive with the cuttlefish.
Whyalla Diving Adventures
can be contacted on 0418804421.
You can view some cuttlefish information on the PIRSA website at
http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/fisheries/recreational_fishing/target_species/cuttlefish including the following topics: - What Are They, Habitat, Movement, Feeding, Predators, Reproduction, Catch History, Closures, Catch Limits & Legal Lengths.
You can also view the PIRSA pamphlet “Cuttlefish Closure – Spencer Gulf” (October 2006) at
Cuttlefish on Seacliff Reef
(Photo by Antony King)
My thanks to everyone who assisted me with this article, especially Dennis Hutson, Brian Brock, Tony Bramley, Chris Hall, Neville Skinner, Scoresby Shepherd, Bill Mildren, Hank van der Wijngaart, Ben Gryst, Michael Matthewson, Kevin Smith and Suzanne Bennett (the librarian at the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre Library). Thanks again to Dennis, Chris, and Michael M, along with Michael Gosling, Nathan Menzies and Nigel Muggridge for allowing me to use their cuttlefish photos.
“My Story On The Nasty Cuttlefish Of SA” by Dennis Hutson, MLSSA Newsletter, June 2006, No.333.
“Attack of the Killer Cuttlefish” by Sharon Gowens, Dive Log, July 2005, No. 204.
“Cuttlefish Behaviour” by DC Lake, South Australian Naturalist, March 1986, Vol.60, No.3.
“Cephalopods – Shimmering, Shredders of the Seas” by Mike Scotland, Dive Log, February 2001.
“The Amazing Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama)” by Alex Gaut, MLSSA Journal, No.11, December 2000.
“Australia Down Under – exploring Australia’s underwater world” by Christine Deacon, 1986, Doubleday Australia P/L, ISBN 0 86824 241 1.
“How I learned to get along swimmingly with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish” by Gary Graf, GEO (Australasia’s Geographical Magazine) March-May 1987, Vol.9, No.1.
“Down Under with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish” (an excerpt from “Australia Down Under – exploring Australia’s underwater world” by Christine Deacon), GEO Magazine, March-May 1987, Vol.9, No.1, (along with Gary Graf’s article “How I learned to get along swimmingly with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish”).
“A Guide to Squid, Cuttlefish and Octopuses of Australasia” by Mark Norman and Amanda Reid, Gould League of Australia/CSIRO Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0 643 06577 6.
“Injuries to Man from Marine Invertebrates in the Australian Region” by JB Cleland and RV Southcott, Commonwealth of Australia, 1965.
“Life of the Tidal Flats” by FA McNeill* and T Iredale in the Australian Museum Magazine, 2 (8), 1925. (This article is listed in the Australian Venom Compendium website at
The July 2007 issue of the SODS newsletter, Vol.14, Issue 7,
- the web page which shows scuba diver Doug Pemberton being attacked on the head by a large octopus.
- the website for the Australian Venom Compendium.
“Cephalopod Behaviour” by Hanlon, Roger T. & Messenger, John B., Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Suzanne Bennett, the librarian at the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre Library also suggested that the following entries from the library’s catalogue might be of
(Sepia apama): Fishery Assessment report to PIRSA for the Marine Scalefish
Fishery Management Committee. 2002” (South Australian Fisheries Assessment
Series 01/09 SARDI Internal Report No.139) by Hall, Karina C. (South Australian
Research and Development Institute) - Call no. 639.2(06)S8.
“The Life history and fishery of a spawning aggregation of the giant Australian cuttlefish Sepia apama” by Hall, Karina C. (University of Adelaide) - Thesis submitted to the University of Adelaide for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2002. Call no.639.27H177.
“Estimated abundance and biomass of the unique spawning aggregation
of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish
(Sepia apama) in northern Spencer Gulf, South
Australia (SARDI Aquatic Sciences Publication No.
RD05/0012-1 SARDI Research Report Series Number 97 - Report to Coastal
Protection Branch, Department for Environment
and Heritage, South Australia) 2005, by Steer,
M.A. Hall, K.C. (South Australian Research and Development
Institute (Aquatic Sciences) ). Call no. 639.2(06)S8.
“Fisheries biology of the cuttlefish, Sepia apama Gray, in South Australian waters” (FRDC Final report) by Hall, K. C. Fowler, A.J. (South Australian Research and Development Institute Fisheries Research & Development Corporation FRDC Project 98/151), 2003. Call no.639.2(06)S723.
“Dynamics of the mating system of the giant Australian cuttlefish, Sepia apama Gray” by Hall, K. C. & Hanlon, R.T. (Bulletin of Marine Science Vol.71(2) 2002; p.1125). BRIEFS Hall2
(The South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre Library (reference only) is located at 2 Hamra Ave, West Beach S.A. 5024. The hours of opening for the library are: -
Tues. 1 - 4pm, Wed. 9am –12noon + 1 - 4pm, Thurs. 9am –12noon. Contact details are: -Phone: 82075423, Fax: 82075422, Email: email@example.com .
for more details.)
by Morgan Muirhead
Australian inshore marine waters are among the world's most biologically diverse. That marine biodiversity has become a prominent topic for debate in the international legal regime over the past few decades perhaps should not surprise us given that “of the thirty-five phyla found in nature, all but one is found in the marine environment.”1
Habitat destruction and invasive species are recognised as the two greatest causes of biodiversity reduction.
While there are many ways in which invasive marine species can be introduced to Australian waters, the large majority are established through the discharge of ships’ ballast water. Ballast water is the sea water that ships take on at port either by gravity or through pumping, in order to maintain stability and enhance voyage safety. At any given moment, approximately 3,000 different marine species are being transported in the ballast water tanks of ships around the world.2 As travel times between ports reduce and the range of overseas ports trading directly with Australia increases, unprecedented levels of invasive marine species are brought to our shores.
International legislation designed to prevent and control the spread of invasive marine species exists but is fraught with gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies ranging from problems with terminology, scope and taxonomic coverage to weaknesses in the provisions regarding eradication and control. On this latter point, while if effective this emphasis would be logical and cost efficient, the available evidence suggests that prevention is not always achievable and thus will never obviate the need for fully funded aggressive, timely and expert eradication protocols.
As vessels are the primary vector for the introduction of invasive marine species, a particular focus of this essay is the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (BWC).3 Furthermore, a consideration of the relationship between invasive species legislation and the multilateral trading system is crucial to understanding the limitations currently facing regulation of invasive marine species.
Invasive alien species (IAS) are those species, sub-species, or lower taxon introduced outside their normal past or present distribution whose “establishment and spread threaten ecosystems, habitats or species with economic or environmental harm.”4 IAS are introduced through trade intentionally (imported products such as fish for aquaculture) or unintentionally (by-products, parasites of traded products, hitchhikers and stowaways in vessels).
Between 150 and 200 million tonnes of ballast water from overseas locations are discharged inside Australia’s territorial seas every year, resulting in more than 250 introduced marine species now being established in Australian waters.5 Devastatingly, the ecological consequences of such exotic species are largely irreversible. The discovery in March 2002 of the invasive seaweed Caulerpa taxifolia in West Lakes and the upper Port River is a South Australian example of an invasive marine pest which has begun to threaten local biodiversity through the exclusion of native species.
International Legislative Regime
At least forty-two treaties dealing with environmental issues, the marine environment and international quarantine refer to the regulation of IAS.6 Given the recent increases in the dimension of the IAS problem, it is widely recognised that isolated action by States is not enough to adequately manage and prevent their introduction. Two key provisions dealing with invasive marine species are contained in the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS). Article 8(h) of the CBD states that each contracting party “shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.”7 Whereas Article 196 of UNCLOS requires parties to take all measures necessary to prevent, reduce or control pollution of the marine environment resulting from the intentional or accidental introduction of alien or new species to a particular part of the marine environment, which may cause significant and harmful changes thereto.8 Both the CBD and UNCLOS fail to provide any guidance on how either of these objectives should be achieved. Further, the broad and ambitious style of the provisions hinders States from clearly understanding the nature of their international obligations.
Problems with the International Regime
IAS terminology presents particular challenges for scientists, policy makers and lawyers. Definitions are used in legal instruments to provide an agreed meaning for a particular term, clarify scope and provide legal certainty and consistency.9 However, legal instruments such as the CBD and UNCLOS use variable terminology, sometimes inconsistently and without adequate definitions. The term ‘accidental’ is widely used as a synonym for unintentional. However, many consider this terminology to be inappropriate in the context of pathways where risks associated with the introduction of species are well known and possible damage is not unforeseeable.10 Sanitary and Phytosanitary instruments use ‘pest’ and ‘weed’ terminology, preferring to avoid terms like ‘alien’ and ‘invasive’ as they are considered too emotive.11 Perhaps one of the greatest drawbacks of the international legal regime is the lack of agreement on a precise definition of exactly what constitutes an IAS.12 Further complicating the legal instruments is that they are consistently qualified by phrases such as ‘significant harm’, ‘as far as possible’, ‘to the extent possible’ that give no direction on how significant the harm needs to be to amount to an environmental threat or how the appropriateness of measures is to be determined.13 Terms such as these give rise to inconsistency in implementation.
Taxonomic scope presents another area of discrepancy. Biological invasions can be generated by all taxonomic groups and at all taxonomic levels. Only the CBD adequately covers all aspects of IAS as they relate to all levels of the biodiversity hierarchy. While the CBD addresses alien and new species separately, UNCLOS groups alien and new species together. ‘New’ is a reference to living modified organisms, which arguably do require different legal treatment to alien species.
Further, there is virtually no legislation relating to marine introductions generated by land-based activities, including through sewage and runoffs, other than those that come within the scope of UNCLOS (Art. 194). Again, no substantive guidance has been developed to facilitate implementation.14
The CBD obligation has three components: prevention, eradication and control. In practice, these components should be part of a broader framework that starts even before prevention and continues beyond control and restoration of an ecosystem.15 Elements of this broader practical framework should ideally include establishment and maintenance of a knowledge base on alien species, continuous monitoring, feedback and policy review. Currently there are no binding instruments that explicitly link IAS with the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems. While the Ballast Water Convention recommends that port States undertake biological monitoring in their ports and implement early warning and information dissemination systems, other multilateral environment agreements do not usually distinguish ‘eradication’ from ‘control’ or provide guidance on implementation. The Secretariat of the CBD has highlighted that this gap between ‘eradication’ and ‘control’ is most marked for the marine environment.16 An exception to this is The Bern Convention, which is unique for its suite of recommendations on eradication and control of named alien species, such as Caulerpa Taxifolia.
The pathways by which marine species are introduced may be intercontinental, intracontinental, transboundary or domestic. Invasion processes ignore political boundaries between countries and their states. Consistent with the ecosystem approach developed under the CBD (which is a strategy for maintaining an ecosystem as a functional, dynamic unit), legal frameworks need to support coordinated approaches and consultation between different jurisdictions on prevention, early warning and mitigation. The CBD does address this issue in relation to marine and coastal biodiversity but not with enough specificity. It urges “particular attention to transboundary effects” of alien species and genotypes that threaten marine ecosystems, habitats and species.17
Existing international environmental law is generally under-developed and lacks rules for the possible liability of States for damage related to invasive marine species. The lack of clear rules is a serious flaw because it means that biodiversity-related prevention and control obligations are not underpinned by a deterrent element.18 Further, none of the existing legal instruments provide any remedies for victims of environmental damage. Article 14(2) of the CBD requires parties to examine issues of liability and redress but does not provide any further details.19 Important issues such as these ultimately require a much greater degree of precision in order to be effective.
In common with most other areas of international law, there is an inconsistent level of commitment and obligation. Many treaty obligations have not been uniformly adopted by all interested or affected parties, for example, the USA is not a party to the CBD.20 Conventions such as the CBD and UNCLOS merely indicate preferred outcomes and do little in the way of providing guidance on how to accomplish their objectives, and as a result many of the international provisions relating to IAS remain largely ineffective.
On a more positive note, institutional linkages between relevant marine organisations have expanded over the past decade, promoting coordination of legal drafting processes to ensure greater consistency and efficiency. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has developed institutional links with the World Maritime University, the UN Train-Sea-Coast programme, the global shipping and port industries and international environmental non-governmental organisations in order to coordinate activities on a global scale.21 At a regional level, Australia and New Zealand show increasing cooperation between regulatory agencies on the development and review of legal instruments and quarantine health standards. Australia’s ballast water requirements were developed with cross-industry group support.
Since 2001, under the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements (ABWMR)22, all ballast water from outside Australia’s territorial sea (generally 12 nautical mile limit) must be managed to make it low-risk to the marine environment before being discharged. Ballast water categorised as presenting a high-risk of introducing exotic marine species is all salt water from ports or coastal waters outside Australia’s territorial sea. The ABWMR, like most other national ballast water requirements, implement the guidelines of the IMO which emphasise ballast water exchange outside of coastal waters. Compliance by vessels arriving to Australia is better than ninety-nine percent for the roughly 12,500 annual voyages.23
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004 (The Ballast Water Convention – BWC)
On 13 February 2004, the IMO adopted the BWC, which is the first international legal instrument to attempt to address the risks posed by ballast water. Australia has been prominent in providing drafting and support for the BWC, and was the first country to notify its intention to sign the Convention, which aims to encourage the development of standards to prevent ballast water from transporting aquatic IAS around the globe.
Obligations are imposed on both flag states and port states. The BWC establishes default concentration-based discharge standards, which a ship flying the flag of a State Party must meet by a certain date, and requires State Parties to apply the BWC to nonparties as a port entry condition, ensuring they have no more favourable treatment than State parties. Ships must develop ballast water management plans, maintain a ballast water record book, undertake certain ballast water management measures, and eventually comply with the concentration-based discharge limits.24
The significance of the BWC is that it takes the international community beyond outdated focus on protection of the marine environment and moves towards biodiversity protection, essentially by addressing the power imbalance between flag states and port states. However, until the convention comes into force (when thirty states covering at least thirty-five percent of the world’s gross tonnage have unreservedly become parties to the Convention25) only basic interim precautions, together with a complex surveying and certification system, will be imposed, and furthermore, these restrictions will only be imposed if they do not cause delay or deviation for ships.26 Much more legislative and regulatory work needs to be done on the BWC framework before it becomes binding. For now, it is important in its own right because it heralds broader institutional change at the IMO, which is increasingly being forced to balance its traditional emphasis on ship and crew safety with biodiversity concerns.27
There are several ways in which the IMO has shifted away from its traditional approach to pollution prevention. Importantly, the preamble of the BWC acknowledges the threat that ballast water poses to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.28 A central provision of the convention is that it explicitly regulates the discharge of those organisms and pathogens that “may… impair biological diversity”, suggesting an expanded role for the IMO as the regulatory authority of the Convention.29 Definitions include the use of the arguably more restrictive term ‘harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens’ as opposed to IAS, and these are made with greater reference to biodiversity protection than pollution prevention.30 But some vague qualitative phrases as witnessed in the UNCLOS and CBD are used, for example Article 4.2 requires each party, “with due regard to its particular conditions and capabilities”, to develop national ballast water management policies and promote attainment of the Convention objectives.
Inspection, enforcement and sanction provisions have been incorporated into the BWC to ensure there is some ability to deter ships’ violation of Convention standards. Article 9 provides that port states have the right to inspect flag states’ ships, in order to verify that the ship has a valid International Ballast Water Management Certificate, inspect the Ballast Water record book, and sample the ballast water in accordance with IMO guidelines. This authorisation of compliance sampling rather than merely a paper examination is a crucial step that should enforce compliance with the Convention. Flag, coastal and port states are required to establish sanctions for violations. Article 8 requires that where there has been a violation, parties adopt sanctions that “shall be adequate in severity to discourage violations of this Convention wherever they occur”. The legislative drafters have offered no more specificity on the type of sanction to be imposed. Port and coastal states have authority not only to deliver information regarding a violation to the flag state, but also to institute enforcement proceedings.31 Ultimately the BWC envisages an expansion of port state control. Flag state control is increasingly outdated and must be complemented by, and in some situations give way to, coastal and port state control.
Unfortunately the BWC, although not yet in force, appears for the most part to be crippled by the same gaps and imprecision of the CBD and UNCLOS. However, producing a more aggressive legal instrument, with more immediate impact, may alienate the shipping industry and decrease the likelihood of ratification, hence rendering the whole process static.32 However, the alternative is that the environmental benefits of the BWC will remain limited and the major risks presented by the introduction of marine species will persist. The only way to properly address ballast water issues in the long term is to hold the shipping industry accountable. Any heavy solid or liquid can serve as ballasting material, the only reason ships exclusively employ sea water is for operational and economic convenience. Hence ship construction laws should arguably be amended so that all new ships built cannot physically take on any water from the marine environment. As it stands, assuming timely entry into force of the BWC, the concentration-based ballast water performance standards will come into effect between 2009 and 2016, depending on vessel class, size and construction date. By 2016 all ships should have the required technology to treat ballast water.33
The dilemmas posed by the shipping industry are complicated by the fact that invasive marine species are introduced through multiple vectors – not only through ballast water and sediments but also through hull fouling and anchor chains. Organisms attach themselves onto the hull and anchor chains of the ship at one location and detach at another.34 Unfortunately the BWC excludes other ship-associated vectors in order to concentrate specifically on marine pest introduction by ballast water and sediments.
Biodiversity versus Free Trade
Recent increases in global trade, spurred in part by free trade agreements, have driven the problems associated with invasive alien species to devastating levels. Because alien species move through international transport and trade pathways, national measures to prevent or minimize risk of unwanted introductions have implications for the multilateral trading system.35 The World Trade Organisation (WTO), primarily through the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures 1995 (the SPS Agreement), sets out binding principles and standards to be followed in national measures. These principles are focused on animal, plant and human life and health/food safety, and include no specific provisions addressing ecosystem function. Where no international standard exists, the State concerned must justify a national measure as it affects international trade through scientifically-based risk assessment, essentially forcing the State to protect the right to trade before protecting their biodiversity.
The SPS agreement thus hinders the development of environmental legislation based on the precautionary principle, which dictates that cost-effective preventive measures should not be held back because of scientific uncertainty where there are threats of irreversible or serious damage.36 Our limited understanding of invasive marine species is a problem compounded by the potentially long lag period between introduction and invasion.37 Even so, there is little doubt that ballast water has already contributed to irreversible alteration of many ecosystems worldwide. The CBD endorses the use of the precautionary principle as an appropriate standard in the administration of IAS, and indeed reference to the principle is contained in the Convention’s preamble, yet the stance taken by the WTO makes application of the principle virtually impossible.38 In order to address this issue, environment and trade policies need to be mutually supportive with a view to achieving sustainable development. Some sort of enlargement of existing sanitary and phytosanitary instruments should take place in order to build a closer interface with biodiversity parameters.39
The great uncertainty regarding the impacts of existing marine IAS makes the already considerable challenge of drafting domestic or international laws that are capable of adequately addressing the introduction of IAS even more difficult. Efforts undertaken by the CBD, UNCLOS and BWC in formulating principles provide a strong basis for incorporating core concepts, such as the precautionary principle, into the IAS regulatory framework. That said, a key element of strategic planning must be the review of existing legal instruments and practices to resolve issues with regulatory gaps and loopholes. Essentially the international legal regime for the regulation of IAS remains ineffective due to the ambiguous nature of the environmental treaties and the lack of specificity in relation to exactly how States should implement measures to achieve treaty objectives. Inconsistencies in terminology, scope, political boundaries, weakness in eradication and control provisions, and lack of liability and redress provisions further complicate the problem. The BWC highlights a fundamental change in the role of the IMO towards biodiversity protection. While the BWC is a significant step forward in representing the increasing concerns among the global community about the environmental impacts of ballast water, it is crucial that this Convention comes into timely force. A major barrier to implementation of the precautionary principle is presented by Australia’s free trade obligations under the SPS Agreement. This conflict needs to be overcome by amending the SPS Agreement so that it accommodates greater biodiversity protection. We cannot afford to compromise the biodiverse flora and fauna that inhabit our oceans, if not for our own continued existence, then purely for their intrinsic value.
Bates, Gerry, Environmental Law in Australia (5th ed, 2002).
Beeton RJS, Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis, ‘Independent Report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage – State of the Environment Report’ (2006) Australian State of the Environment Comittee.
Firestone, Jeremy and Corbett, James J, ‘Coastal and Port Environments: International Legal and Policy Responses to Reduce Ballast Water Introductions of Potentially Invasive Species’ (2005) 36 Ocean Development and International Law 291-316.
Firestone, Jeremy, ‘Dilemmas and Dimensions of Non-Indigenous Organisms and Pathogens in the Marine Environment: A Sea Change’ (2006) 9 Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy 123-132.
Leverenz, Renae, ‘Legislative Control of Invasive Species in Australia’ (2002) 13(1) Polemic 28-32.
Riley, Sophie, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323-359.
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2.
Tsimplis, Michael, ‘Alien Species Stay Home: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004’ (2005) 19(4) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 411-445.
Convention on Biological Diversity, opened for signature 5 June 1992, ILM (entered into force 29 December 1993).
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, opened for signature 13 February 2004, ILM (not yet in force).
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, opened for signature 10 December 1982, 1833 UNTS 3 (entered into force 16 November 1994).
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, ‘Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements’ (2001)
at 5 March 2007.
1 Jeremy Firestone, ‘Dilemmas and Dimensions of Non-Indigenous Organisms and Pathogens in the Marine Environment: A Sea Change’ (2006) 9 Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy 123, 125.
2 Jeremy Firestone and James J Corbett, ‘Coastal and Port Environments: International Legal and Policy Responses to Reduce Ballast Water Introductions of Potentially Invasive Species’ (2005) 36 Ocean Development and International Law 291, 292.
3International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, opened for signature 13 February 2004, ILM (not yet in force).
4 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 31.
5 Beeton RJS, Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis, ‘Independent Report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage – State of the Environment Report’ (2006) Australian State of the Environment Committee.
6 Sophie Riley, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323, 331.
7 Convention on Biological Diversity, opened for signature 5 June 1992, ILM, art 8(h) (entered into force 29 December 1993).
8United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, opened for signature 10 December 1982, 1833 UNTS 3, art 196 (entered into force 16 November 1994).
9 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 7.
11 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 7.
12 Sophie Riley, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323, 336.
13 Ibid 335.
14 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 9.
15 Sophie Riley, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323, 333.
16 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 14.
17 Ibid 15.
18 Ibid 16.
19 Sophie Riley, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323, 336.
20 Sophie Riley, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323, 334.
21 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 18.
22 Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements (2001).
23 Beeton RJS, Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis, ‘Independent Report to the Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage – State of the Environment Report’ (2006) Australian State of the Environment Committee.
24 Jeremy Firestone and James J Corbett, ‘Coastal and Port Environments: International Legal and Policy Responses to Reduce Ballast Water Introductions of Potentially Invasive Species’ (2005) 36 Ocean Development and International Law 291, 293.
25 Michael Tsimplis, ‘Alien Species Stay Home: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004’ (2005) 19(4) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 411, 424.
26 Michael Tsimplis, ‘Alien Species Stay Home: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004’ (2005) 19(4) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 411, 411.
27 Jeremy Firestone and James J Corbett, ‘Coastal and Port Environments: International Legal and Policy Responses to Reduce Ballast Water Introductions of Potentially Invasive Species’ (2005) 36 Ocean Development and International Law 291, 293.
28 Ibid 295.
30 Ibid 298.
31 Jeremy Firestone and James J Corbett, ‘Coastal and Port Environments: International Legal and Policy Responses to Reduce Ballast Water Introductions of Potentially Invasive Species’ (2005) 36 Ocean Development and International Law 291, 297.
32 Michael Tsimplis, ‘Alien Species Stay Home: The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004’ (2005) 19(4) International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 411, 444.
33 Ibid 411.
34 See the IMO’s 2001 International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships (Anti-Fouling Convention).
35 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 9.
36 Renae Leverenz, ‘Legislative Control of Invasive Species in Australia’ (2002) 13(1) Polemic 28, 31.
37 Jeremy Firestone, ‘Dilemmas and Dimensions of Non-Indigenous Organisms and Pathogens in the Marine Environment: A Sea Change’ (2006) 9 Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy 123, 127.
38 Sophie Riley, ‘Invasive Alien Species and the Protection of Biodiversity: the Role of Quarantine Laws in Resolving Inadequacies in the International Legal Regime’ (2005) 17(3) Journal of Environmental Law 323, 351.
39 Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘Review of the Efficiency and Efficacy of Existing Legal Instruments Applicable to Invasive Alien Species’ (2001) CBD Technical Series no.2, 24.
by Brian J. Brock
Photographs by Philip Hall, Fig 2c by Bob Baldock, sketches by Brian Brock
Three of my ancestors were early settlers; William Archer Deacon, The Africaine 2/11/1836; Isabella Baird, The Navarino 1837; John Brock, The Lysander 1839. It is perhaps appropriate that I study early settlement at Glenelg. I am concentration on the important ship foulers called Bryozoans. They are colonial marine animals. Some are encrusting, but many look like small bushy algae. Segments of coralline species are important fossils (River Murray cliffs, Blanchetown, Overland Corner and Mount Gambier limestones; Point Turton and Wardang Island flux quarries and sand deposits …..).
The first individual in the colony develops from a planktonic larval stage that selects and settles in a spot to its liking. After a short “resting” period, metamorphosis to a feeding zooid called an ancestrula, takes place. The ancestrula may have characteristic spine counts around the orifice from which ciliated tentacles of the polypide protrude. The ancestrula buds in a particular way, producing other zooids of the same genetic constitution, which bud in turn, developing the mature form of the colony.
Different species within a genus have different spine counts and arrangements on the ancestrula. So it is possible to distinguish between, for example, the different species of Bugula, at the ancestrula stage. To make the counts, one has to collect ancestrulae and examine them microscopically. The ancestrula and spines are fairly easily damaged. If small bits of the substrate are collected from a zone in which a particular bryozoan species is growing, in the hope of finding ancestrulae, the substrate specimens must be handled carefully. They may be kept in fresh seawater for immediate microscopic examination, or preserved (for example, in 80% methylated spirits, 10% deionised water, 10% glycerine). If fortunate enough to possess an underwater microscope, development may be watched in in-situ specimens. Live marine colonies will stay alive in fresh seawater in a refrigerator, for a couple of days. Look at fresh live marine and freshwater species.
Fig 1a: glass plate araldited to grey cement-aggregate window-sill tile.
Fig 1b: Two ground glass plates tied to a black plastic backing sheet & 6mm acrylic.
A useful technique is to put tiles of some kind in the water during the peak settlement period for a particular bryozoan species. The main substrates I have used, are 8 x 10cm glass plates with a diamond-belt-ground collecting surface, and cement aggregate window-sill tiles (Brock, 1979a, 1985, 2006). Fig. 1a shows a glass plate araldited to a grey cement-aggregate window-sill tile drilled for suspension horizontally 50cms below the surface of the water beneath a floating marina-platform. The collecting surfaces face downwards and bryozoan larvae and other propagules may settle on the glass or the grey cement. Fig. 1b shows two of the ground glass plates tied to a black plastic backing sheet and a 6mm acrylic sheet. The acrylic is drilled for strong fishing-line across the corners of the glass plates, and for wires that will attach the acrylic to a jetty-pile at a depth of about 50cms below low Spring Tide Level. This depth of immersion has been chosen because I am trying to collect ancestrulae of Tricellaria porteri (originally described as Menipea Porteri by MacGillivray in 1889). This species is believed to settle below Low Spring Tide Level (Brock 2006).
Tricellaria occidentalis, the other species recently found at Glenelg (Brock 2006), settles above Low Spring Tide Level (Nielsen 1985; Anna Occhipinti Ambrogi 1991, as Tricellaria inopinata in Venice Lagoon).
Fig 1c: Glass plates, one with black plastic backing, colonized on a Glenelg jetty-pile between 5/12/06 and 8/1/07.
Fig. 1c shows two glass plates that were immersed at Glenelg Jetty on 5/12/06 and raised on 8/1/07. Only one of the glass plates has a black backing. The other was attached to the clear acrylic and was lighter in colour as a consequence. Bryozoans, algae and hydroids were amongst the wealth of marine organisms that settled on both plates. I showed them to Dr Bob Baldock while they were still alive. He took several photographs. One of the bryozoans was a pellucid bushy colony and is likely to be Tricellaria porteri (Fig. 2a). The other is the reddish bushy common jetty-pile and boat fouler called Bugula neritina. The tentacles of a B. neritina zooid are fully extended in Fig. 2b. I preserved the tile in 10% formalin-sea-water but left it for several months before trying to make ancestrula spine counts. By then, the wires had rusted and corroded and rust covered everything on the plates. It was not possible to make clear spine counts on the rusty colonies. Fig. 2c is an old photo, by Bob Baldock, of Tricellaria from a tile set below low tide level off Outer Harbour.
Histogram of Brock 2006 (MLSSA Journal Number 16 Page 4)
As can be seen from the line histograms in Fig. 1 of Brock 2006, the main settlement period for Tricellaria porteri occurred in Spring at Outer Harbour in 1976. I’ll put a new tile in at Glenelg on 28/9/07 and take it out on 26/10/07. With a bit of luck, I might be able to collect and make spine counts on early ancestrulae of Tricellaria porteri, thereby settling the question of its occurrence at Glenelg. (4/10/07. I was foiled by the waves on 28/9/07; could not get near the proposed settlement site. Two tiles were set on 30/9/07. They are due out on 28/10/07, waves willing!)
Fig 2a: A pellucid bushy bryozoan,
possibly T. porteri.
Fig 2b: Bugula neritina with ciliated tentacles extended.
Fig 2c: Dorsal view of Tricellaria from a tile set below low tide level off Outer Harbour.
j., joint; l.a., lateral avicularium; l.s., long spine; o., opesium; r.c., root chamber.
THE DRIFT OF THINGS
(with respect to Roland Robinson, 1973; and Robert Frost, 1951).
Drift lines contain many treasures from the deep (or shallows). Several lines can usually be seen, the highest indicating storm-tide levels. If calm weather prevails drift lines indicate levels reached by Spring and Neap highs, or even the recent high high and low high of the 24 hour tidal rhythm. Seahorses, pipefish, cuttlefish “bones”, puffer-fish or cow fish, shark and ray eggs, pumice, plastic, light bulbs, gin bottles and other modern day artifacts are common.
The Failsworth cap.
Recently, I retrieved a Failsworth cap, a finely crafted light mooring rope and three golf balls from near the mouth of the Patawalonga. Try as I might, I could not get all of the fine sharp sand and foraminifera out of the hat. Beating it on a garden sieve over a large sheet of newspaper yielded the forams I have drawn (Fig. 3). Fragments of bryozoans and coralline algae, broken sponge spicules, sea urchin spines, ostracod tests, and minute shells were also in the sand. Refer to Cann and Gostin (1985) for some Port Gawler forams.
Fig.3: Foraminifera from within the fabrics of a drift Failsworth cap.
W.J. Parr had a comprehensive article on foraminifera in the July14th 1942 edition of the South Australian Naturalist. The front cover of the edition has illustrations of 12 common St. Vincent Gulf forams. He mentions Glenelg as a possible collecting site, and raises the interesting idea of collecting and looking at living forams. Fresh drift algae and marine flowering plants might be a good source of these. Shake some healthy fresh drift with seawater in a wide-mouthed jar. Discard most, but not all of the weed, and leave the jar near a unilateral source of light. Forams should move to the lighted side of the jar. I have not tried it, but it is high on my list of priorities, as is making a little stage aquarium for my microscope so that pseudopodia and movement of living forams may be observed (dark field illumination).
Following are some drawings of ancestrulae and parts of young colonies of Tricellaria occidentalis from tiles set on Glenelg jetty piles from 30/9/07 to 27/10/07. The tiles were raised a day earlier than intended because inclement weather was predicted for Sunday 28/10/07.
I have not found ancestrulae with only 6 spines, so I have not been able to prove that Tricellaria porteri still occurs in our waters. Most of the Tricellaria occidentalis colonies on the piles are above Low Spring Tide level, so I was a bit surprised to find it settling on tiles set lower than that.
Watersipora and at least two other bryozoan species settled on the pitted (with a hot wire) acrylic.
Small colonies were transferred to fresh seawater held in a Perspex ring stuck to a microscope slide with Bostik Super Glue. A fine camel hair brush, was used for the transfer. Most of the hairs were cut off the brush, so it was really fine and very small colonies were picked up without damage. The colonies were freed from the tiles using the tip of a Utility Cutter blade.
Spine counts were made at 100x using a compound microscope. Drawings were made using a camera lucida kind of drawing attachment on an Olympus ECTr3 microscope. The Perspex mini-aquarium, did not have a coverslip on it. The little colonies being well submerged, there was no distortion of the image.
GREENHOUSE GASES WITHOUT COWS
Shallow lower intertidal pools have developed just east of the southern breakwater near the mouth of the Patawalonga due to wave wash. I noticed gas bubbling up in these pools and from other black sand areas between and just south of the breakwaters. Hydrogen peroxide turned the black sand lighter and the water near the bubbling sand milky. The smell of hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas or sewer gas) was quite noticeable, as it is in other areas where a lot of rotting algae and marine flowering plants accumulate. The milkiness of the water was due to the splitting of the hydrogen sulphide by the hydrogen peroxide, releasing colloidal sulphur.
The smell did not seem bad enough for all of the gas to be hydrogen sulphide (remembering several years of the stench near the Kipp’s Apparatus in qualitative analysis Chemistry laboratories).
A second test solved the mystery. I went to the pools with a jam-tin, preserving-jar lid, and a box of matches. Finding a good stream of bubbles in a still pool at Low Spring Tide, I dug out the spot sufficiently to collect a tin full of gas by displacement of sea-water. The tin of gas, with lid on, was taken to a spot on firm sand nearby. I dried my hands, slid the lid aside, and put a lighted match to the gas. It burnt down quietly with a pale blue flame (a little colour). There was no smell of burning sulphur, or sulphur deposit. I concluded that the gas was mainly methane. The gases are produced by microbial action on decaying organic matter, mainly algae and marine flowering plants, but also associated animals (Eltringham, 1971, pp.10 & 11; & 190 & 191).
I have seen gas bubbling up from black mud near the mouth of the Torrens, but have not tested it. I have done the peroxide test for hydrogen sulphide in several places. Lead acetate paper could also be used (turns black).
My eloquence about methane bubbling up from black sand at Glenelg, stirred friends to pass on information about methane clathrate, or burning ice. Go to Wikipedia for details and many references. Enough methane is trapped in the ice lattice under certain conditions, for the ice to burn when heated (the methane burns; the ice melts).
The production of methane and hydrogen sulphide by bacterial activity in beach muddy sands, and in the gut of cows and humans etc. is natural. Nature at work. Let it be.
BEEN THERE DONE THAT (or have we?).
I continue to be surprised at what I find or observe on “the same old beach”. Storms often wash up something new. A recent find south of the southern breakwater was the rock shell Cleidothaerus albidus Lamarck 1819. I have not found it before, but there were three specimens cast up, one tightly closed. The right valve adheres tightly to a rock. Without the flat left valve, it looks like a little pearly armchair. My eyes must have passed over Cotton’s illustration dozens of times without registering it (Cotton 1976 Plate II no.21). I have not yet seen an attached specimen. Time I had another snorkel!!
Right valve: mother of pearl armchair.
Right valve: showing the flat surface that adheres to rock.
In the 70’s, I found a razor shell containing octopus eggs, just north of the Patawalonga outlet. Nearby was a moribund octopus (battered and exhausted). I put the octopus and what I presumed were its eggs, in a bucket of fresh seawater. The octopus slowly began pumping water and showing more signs of life. Later, in a seawater aquarium in our Currie Street laboratory, the octopus became even more active, found its eggs and sat over them, forming a protective chamber with its body, through which it continuously pumped water. It brooded and cared for its eggs, tending them with the tips of its tentacles, until they hatched, several weeks later. It then died. After a recent blow, I found another razor-fish shell containing eggs on 17/8/07, in the same spot. I did not collect them then, but on Sunday thought maybe I could do an egg count. On Monday 19/8/07, I picked up the shell and washed it in the sea. To my surprise, there were two batches of eggs in the shell, one on each valve. One batch had been completely covered with sand as the shell was cast high up on the beach. The covered eggs looked to be in better condition than those that had been exposed to heat and air flow under their little “carport”. There were about a hundred eggs in each batch, each egg being attached to the shell by a slender stalk. The eggs looked like pendulous teardrop pearls. To quote from an illustrated poem – article that appeared in the December 1979 Red Gum magazine (Brock, 1979b):
Octopus eggs in old razor shells
are brooded and guarded –
life for many
for one discarded.
I did not put the 19/8/07 eggs in an aquarium. The little octopi within them, were well developed, and it is likely that some would have hatched in a well aerated aquarium. Then would have come the problem of feeding them. The best solution would perhaps be to put them back in deeper clear water. (A tasty dish for a hungry fish without mother’s protection?).
Just hatched octopus
STICK-ON-THE-PILES OR BREAKWATERS.
How do these stay at homes feed and reproduce? (See: Heide & Heide 1972 for Galeolaria). Some answers can be found by direct observation of jetty-pile or rock pool organisms using a mask, or underwater viewer. Specimens dislodged by storms may revive in a shallow pool or container of seawater. The development of embryos of some marine invertebrates can be followed in simple aquaria. The chapter on Molluscan egg masses in Part II of Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia assists in identifying some of the egg masses found in drift lines or where laid (Smith, Black & Shepherd, 1989). What eats the mussels, periwinkles, warreners, sea-urchins, pheasant shells, seasquirts, bryozoans and barnacles? What marine creatures can lift abalone or limpets from their rocks? Slowly you can find out.
The National Geographic Magazine has some spectacular photographs of marine invertebrates eg: Nov. 1973 on barnacles (Starbird & Sisson); Feb. 2007 Hawaii’s unearthly worms (Holland & Murawski). See also: Dakin-Bennett (1987);
Take a x10 hand lens to fresh drift algae and marine flowering plants in a shallow dish of fresh seawater. Spirorbids and other segmented worms, bryozoans, hydroids, foraminifera, crustaceans, and delicate epiphytic algae might be seen. How did they get there? What do they eat?
INDIGENOUS AND EXOTIC COASTAL PLANTS.
The pocket of sand high up the beach in the southern angle of the breakwater adjacent to the Patawalonga outlet, and the fringing gardens, support some of the original coastal-dune flora, and several introduced salt-fallout-tolerant species. It is not the place for Norfolk Island Pines, but Metrosideros is happy enough. Surfactants in runoff and sewage effluent, make it easier for salt to penetrate and damage the leaves of coastal plants. Sea Rocket (Cakile) and coastal spinifex (Spinifex sericeus) are fairly tolerant of sand blasting and salt fall-out. Nitraria schoberi, Atriplex cinerea, Leucophyta brownii, Isolepis nodosus, Olearia axillaris and Carpobrotus rossii are also fairly tolerant. More sensitive coastal species could be planted in the lee of the tall flats. The buildings act rather like dunes, shielding plants behind them from much of the salt and fierce winds. More use could be made of our attractive flowering and brightly fruited coastal natives. Look at Bagust and Tout-Smith (2005), Dashorst and Jessop (1990), and Kraehenbuehl (1996), for excellent illustrations. Neville Forde presents the results of a decade of scat analysis and careful field observation of feeding of birds on coastal and inland plants (Forde, 1986). Don’t forget the woody fruited species like Allocasuarina verticillata, Banksia marginata, Callitris gracilis and the two common coastal Melaleuca species. Parrots can handle these. I even saw silver gulls gorging on seeds of an introduced Pinus species at Coobowie during one extremely hot spell. The dry heat had caused most of the mature pine cones to split open. Many wattle species have prominent arils or funicles popular with coastal birds. (Whibley & Symon, 1992). If fortunate enough to have mistletoes on woody coastal species, do not cut them out. They provide fruits, nectar, and associated insects for honeyeaters and other birds (Reid, 1986; Forde, 1986).
In these parching times, it is salient to remember that no-one watered our diverse and colourful dune flora.
“What a priceless entail we have in Australia – our natural indigenous plants.” A.O. Barrett (1937). For the purpose of this exercise, I would say our coastal plants and animals. How much can we hand on? Beware lest carparks, marinas and highrise completely alienate the Coastal Commons. Some introduced species need controlling but I am not against all. The pine-cone confetti beneath Pinus species, attests to their value as food for parrots. Rabbits, rats, cats and foxes do have to be controlled if we wish to preserve coastal native plants, birds and little animals. Our native species entail, is a source of the best ecotypes for the local area. I have been privileged to wade and wander and swim with some for decades, but I have only dipped the brush in the paint. Remember to look at the mosses and lichens.
Bagust P. & Tout-Smith L. (2005) The Native Plants of Adelaide (Dept. for Environment & Heritage, Adelaide).
Barrett A.O. (1937) Australia’s Entail (Robertson and Mullens Ltd., Melb.).
Brock B.J. (1979a) Biology of Bryozoa Involved in Fouling at Outer Harbour & Angas Inlet. Unpublished M.Sc. thesis Zoology Dept. University of Adelaide.
Brock B.J. (1979b) Eggs on the marine scene. Red Gum 3 (4) pp 10 & 11.
Brock B.J. (1985) South Australian fouling bryozoans. In: Nielsen C. & Larwood G.P. (Eds.): Bryozoa: Ordovician To Recent (Olsen & Olsen) pp. 45-49.
Brock B.J. (2006) Evidence for the occurrence of three fouling bryozoan species ….. in Adelaide waters. MLSSA Journal No. 16 pp. 4-8.
Cann J.H. & Gostin V.A. (1985) Coastal sedimentary facies & foraminiferal biofacies of the St Kilda Formation at Port Gawler, South Australia. Trans. R. Soc. S.Aust. 109(4) pp. 121-142.
Coleman N. (1977) A Field Guide to Australian Marine Life (Rigby Ltd.).
Cotton B.C. (1976) South Australian Shells (S.A. Museum).
Dakin W.J. & Bennett I. (1987) Australian Seashores (Angus and Robertson).
Dashorst G.R.M. & Jessop J.P. (1990) Plants of the Adelaide Plains & Hills (Botanic Gardens of Adelaide).
Eltringham S.K. (1971) Life in Mud & Sand UNIBOOKS
Forde N. (1986) Relationships between birds & fruits in Temperate Australia. In: Ford H.A. & Paton D.C. The Dynamic Partnership (S.A. Govt. Printer) pp. 42-58.
Frost R. (1951) Complete Poems. Reluctance (3rd line of last stanza on p 50).
Heide C. & Heide E.K. (1972) Fertilization in tube worms (Galeolaria caespitosa). SASTA journal no. 723 pp. 63 & 64.
Holland J.S. & Murawski D.A. (2007) Hawaii’s unearthly worms. National Geographic 211 (2) pp. 118 – 131.
Kraehenbuehl D.N. (1996) Pre-European Vegetation of Adelaide: A Survey from the Gawler River to Hallett Cove. (Dept. of Housing & Urban Development. S.A.)
MacGillivray P.H. (1889) On some S.A. Polyzoa Trans. R. Soc. S.Aust. 12 pp. 24-30 & Plate II.
Nielsen C. (1985) Ovicell formation in Tegella & four cellularioids (Bryozoa, Cheilostomata). In: Nielsen C. & Larwood G.P. (Eds) Bryozoa: Ordovician to Recent (Olsen & Olsen) pp. 213-220
Occhipinti Ambrogi A. (1991) The spread of Tricellaria inopinata into the lagoon of Venice: an ecological hypothesis. In: Bigey F.P. (Ed.) Bryozoaires Actuels et Fossiles: Bryozoa Living & Fossil. Bull. Soc. Sci. Nat. Ouest Fr., Mém. HS1 pp. 299-308.
Parr W.J. (1942) Foraminifera. The South Australian Naturalist. 21 (3) pp. 1-9.
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by Steve Reynolds
My article “The Flora & Fauna Of Piccaninnie Ponds And Ewens Ponds (Including Eight Mile Creek)” in our 2006 Journal was essentially the continuation of one that was featured in the September 2006 issue of Dive Log Australasia (“MLSSA’s 2006 Mount Gambier Trip”). That article described our trip in detail whereas the Journal article discussed the flora and fauna of the ponds in detail.
The article which featured in the Journal was, unfortunately, not the final version that was intended. The final draft was apparently not received by the Editor so one of the early drafts was published in error. I became concerned that some information was missing whilst I was re-reading my own work in the Journal. A comparison of the Journal article with my final draft revealed that some of the intended information was missing. It is now my aim to rectify the error.
Page 49 of the Journal featured a list of “the common reeds and bulrush that dominate the area surrounding Ewens Ponds” (two items). The article then went on to say “Tea-tree thickets consisting of Leptospermum pubescens and Scented paperbark, Melaleuca squarrosa are scattered amongst the reeds and bullrush. These vegetation associations (in the upper reaches of the ponds) have root systems which stabilize the banks and prevent contamination by surface runoff.”
A sentence explaining that “The Biology of Ewens and Piccaninnie Ponds, South Australia” by Dr. Neil Hallam discusses the vegetation of the ponds in detail, including Leptospermum and Melaleuca species” was missing after this. It should have featured just before the reference to my list of the vegetation (plant and algae species) known to occur in Ewens Ponds.
The actual list of the vegetation known to occur in Ewens Ponds was featured on page 50 of the Journal. This list, however, was incomplete. It should have listed 20 species including the following at the bottom of the page: -
Some paragraphs in the Journal article were placed in positions different to the intended final draft version. This does not seem, however, to spoil the message. Part of the intended text was omitted from the Journal article though, including one of my lists. This text is now reproduced below: -
“The Biology of Ewens and Piccaninnie Ponds, South Australia” by Dr. Neil Hallam says that, “The dominant species before drainage was watercress, Nasturtium officinale, occurring there in great masses from deep in the (Ewens) ponds to the surface. At the present time (1983-5) it is mainly restricted to Eight Mile Creek between the ponds and along the edges of Eight Mile Creek as it flows from the third pond to the sea”.
“The Biology of Ewens and Piccaninnie Ponds, South Australia” also says that pondweed “Potamogeton pectinatus is only found now (1983-5) in the lower reaches of the creek and at Piccaninnie Ponds. It also says that “Myriophyllum, once recorded for Ewens Ponds by Eardly*, is now found only at Piccaninnie Ponds. Myriophyllum elatinoides has not been seen in Ewens Ponds or Eight Mile Creek over the last five years (to 1983-5), although it was recorded by her in 1943”.
Constance Eardly carried out an ecological survey of Ewens Ponds in 1943. It seems that her results were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia that same year.
“The Biology of Ewens and Piccaninnie Ponds, South Australia” repeats the comment that “Potamogeton pectinatus occurs only in the lower reaches of Eight Mile Creek (beyond the third pond). It also says the same for the Sea Tassel, Ruppia maritoma.
The vegetation of Eight Mile Creek is said to be “dominated by clumps of green Nasturtium* and red purple Veronica catenata.
* The watercress Nasturtium officinale (also called Rorippa officinalis or Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum or Radicula nasturtium-aquaticum).
The freshwater red alga, Batrachospermum species is “locally abundant” but it is often classified as rare. It is said to be present within the small cave (overhang) at the bottom of the third pond and also beneath the landing of the first pond at Ewens Ponds.
The channels between the ponds at Ewens Ponds are said to be dominated by the watercress Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, the Lesser Water parsnip, Berula erecta (or Sium latifolium) and the common spike-rush (Eleocharis acuta).
And . . .
According to Dr. Neil Hallam, the tea tree thicket Leptospermum lanigerum is said to surround Piccaninnie Ponds “and bog plants such as Typha (bullrush), Cladium and Eleocharis (sedges).”
This next part of my list covers some of the vegetation (plant and algae species) known to occur in Piccaninnie Ponds: -
Triglochin procerum (or procera?)
Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae)
Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (also called Rorippa officinalis or Nasturtium officinale or Radicula nasturtium-aquaticum)
According to Dr. Neil Hallam, “Large clumps of Triglochin procera also dominate the pond edges. Some of the other plants that grow at Ewens Ponds such as Ranunculus, Nasturtium and Hydrocotyle do not grow as robust at Piccaninnie Ponds presumably because of the higher salinity. The swamp system surrounding the ponds is dominated by tussock species such as saw sedges (Gahnia spp) and rushes (Juncus and Scirpus spp).”
(As indicated in the previous Table, Gahnia spp and Scirpus spp belong to the Cyperaceae family and Juncus spp belong to the Juncaceae family.)
Dr Hallam also says that Water Milfoil, Myriophyllum propinquum, does not occur at Ewens Ponds. In Piccaninnie Ponds, however, it “grows as a submerged aquatic at the edges of the chasm, usually with filamentous algae entangled in it”.
He also says that, “The aquatic moss Distichophyllum microcarpum is another species not present at Ewens Ponds and it grows down the walls of the chasm to depths of 16metres”.
He says that, “The only other plants growing down into the chasm are blue-green algae, these purple tufts contrasting with the bright green 2-3 cm high clumps of Distichophyllum on the limestone ledges . . .”.
He also says that, “Large clumps of Lemna triscula . . . can be seen on the ledges within the chasm and in the swamp surrounding. This species is quite rare at Ewens Ponds but grows well in the harder, more saline waters of Piccaninnie Ponds”.
I trust that the above clarifies any discrepancy in the original Journal article.