Isobel Bloor


Over the last 50 years there has been a rapid increase in global landings of cephalopods (octopus, squid and cuttlefish). In European waters, cuttlefish are among the most important commercial cephalopod resources and within the North-East Atlantic, the English Channel supports the largest cuttlefish fishery, with the common cuttlefish, Sepia o cinalis (Linnaeus, 1758), dominating landings. S. o cinalis has a short (2 year) life cycle in the English Channel that is punctuated by seasonal migrations inshore and o shore. Using a combination of di erent métiers including beam trawling, otter trawling and coastal trapping, this shared fisheries resource is targeted at nearly every phase of the life cycle. Despite this continuing increase there remain only minimal management measures in place, with no quotas, no total allowable catches, no closed areas, no minimal landing size and no routine assessment of stocks. In order to provide sustainable fisheries management advice for S. o cinalis populations it is essential that a thorough understanding of the ecology and life history of this species, in particular the factors a ecting spawning and recruitment variability, is attained.In this thesis, I examine critical gaps in our understanding of the distribution, movements, habitat use and behaviours of spawning and sub-adult S. o cinalis. This research provides baseline data for this species within the inshore waters of the English Channel and uses a combination of novel field-based electronic tracking techniques, in situ subtidal observations of spawning patterns within natural environments and presence-only species distribution modelling. A maximum entropy (MaxEnt) modelling approach was used to predict the distribution of benthic egg clusters using presence-only data. The model showed very good performance in terms of predictive power and accuracy (test area under the receiver operating characteristics curve [AUC] = 0.909) and among the explanatory variables used to build the model, depth (gain = 1.17), chlorophyll-a concentration (used here as a proxy for turbidity; gain = 1.06) and distance from coastline (gain = 1.02) were shown to be the greatest determining factors for the distribution of S. o cinalis spawning. As part of the model output, maps (logistic and binary) of the predicted spawning distribution of S. o cinalis within the English Channel were produced.Subtidal observation were undertaken at spawning grounds on both the North and South coast of the English Channel to investigate spawning habitat and structure use. A total of 15 types of natural spawning structures were identified. The range of spawning structures used varied among sites with Zostera marina identified as the dominant spawning structure at two of the UK sites (Torbay and Poole Bay), potentially indicating a ‘preference’ for this structure within localities. Fractal dimension analysis of the seagrass beds at Torbay revealed that the spatial dynamics of seagrass beds within this site varied significantly between 2011 and 2012 (Mann- Whitney U: Z = 4.92, P < 0.0001) as a result of both anthropogenic and natural disturbance. Interannual changes in the spatial dynamics of these beds could a ect the annual pattern and intensity of spawning at a site. The use of structures with small diameters was found to occur, with cuttlefish adapting the device to their requirements by utilising multiple leaves or thalli in order to achieve a suitable diameter for egg attachment, this was evident in their use of both Chorda filum and Z. marina.This research also provided the first data on the fine-scale movements and behaviours of adult and sub-adult individuals, tracked within their natural environments, using electronic tagging methodologies. That expected patterns of short-term spawning site fidelity at a local level were observed in only two individuals, whilst larger scale movements (up to 35 km) along the coastline were observed in three individuals, indicated that a range of behaviours and movement patterns could occur among spawning adults. Similarly varied patterns of site fidelity were also observed in tagged sub-adults, tracked over an extended period (up to 73 days), using a static acoustic array. These results highlight the complex range of patterns and plasticity in behaviour that exist within natural populations.In summary, a series of di erent approaches was used within this thesis in an e ort to improve our understanding of the fine-scale movement, behaviours and habitat use of S. o cinalis (in both spawning adults and non spawning sub-adults), as well as their potential spawning distribution within the inshore waters of the English Channel. Observing the movements and behaviours of small marine animals like S. o cinalis in their natural environments has traditionally been di cult. Recent developments in technologies and techniques however, including those used within this thesis (e.g. electronic tagging), have highlighted the potential capacity of novel tools to monitor the in situ movements and behaviour of cuttlefish. By providing important insights into the ecology of this species these new tools can aid conservation and management advice for this important commercial fishery species, both within the English Channel and further afield.

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