Pale Octopus

Octopus pallidus

  • Timothy Emery (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Corey Green (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria)
  • Klaas Hartmann (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Mike Steer (South Australian Research and Development Institute)

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia South Australia MSF, NZRLF, SZRLF Negligible
Marine Scalefish Fishery (SA)
Northern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
Southern Zone Rock Lobster Fishery (SA)
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Stock Structure

Pale Octopus is distributed from the Great Australian Bight around Tasmania to southern New South Wales. There is evidence suggesting that Pale Octopus shows complex biological stock structure, with a number of discrete subpopulations in Bass Strait (less than 100 km apart) because of limited dispersal and isolation by distance1,2. However, further information is required to confirm the overall population structure across southern Australia.

Here, assessment of the stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

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Stock Status

South Australia

Stock status for South Australia is reported as negligible due to low or zero catches by this jurisdiction. Octopus spp. catch from the Marine Scalefish Fishery in 2015 was 10.5 t. Average catch in the past 10 years was 13.3 t.

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Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Pale Octopus 1.5 years, 1.2 kg Females 473 g, males <250 g

Pale Octopus biology5,7,8

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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Pale Octopus

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Fishing methods
South Australia


a In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing are also applied to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Recognised Traditional Owners (groups that hold native title or have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 [Vic]) are exempt (subject to conditions) from the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, and can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise customary fishing (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment). The Indigenous category in Table 3 refers to customary fishing undertaken by recognised Traditional Owners. In 2015, there were no applications for customary fishing permits to access Pale Octopus.

b Tasmania – Commercial In 2015 there were two developmental fishing permit applications to catch Pale Octopus south of 41 degrees latitude along the east and south-east coast of Tasmania. The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) has approved one operator to use up to 100 unbaited pots to catch 10 t of octopus per annum and another permit remains under consideration to use up to 4000 baited pots with no associated catch limit per annum.

c Subject to the defence that applies under Section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a Victorian recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.

d In Tasmania, Aborigines engaged in aboriginal fishing activities in marine waters are exempt from holding recreational fishing licences, but must comply with all other fisheries rules as if they were licensed. Additionally, recreational bag and possession limits also apply. If using pots, rings, set lines or gillnets, aborigines must obtain a unique identifying code (UIC). The policy document Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities for issuing a Unique Identifying Code (UIC) to a person for Aboriginal Fishing activity explains the steps to take in making an application for a UIC.

e Victoria – Commercial (catch) Pale Octopus is not differentiated from other octopuses caught in Victorian commercial fisheries.

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • In Tasmania, the fishing vessels that target Pale Octopus do not operate at night and there is no bait used in the pots, so they do not attract seabirds3. Surface gear is minimal, encompassing two buoys and ropes for each surface line so there is less likelihood of entanglement by marine mammals compared to rock lobster fisheries, which set more buoys and ropes3. The pots are lightweight and set on sandy bottom, and have been found to have little impact on benthic assemblages9.
  • Bycatch in the Tasmania Octopus Fishery is low and interactions with protected species are minimal, with seals the only species reported interacting with this fishery. Seal interactions are relatively rare (28 interaction records since 2000–01) and result in lost catch and gear damage3. Entanglement of migrating whales in pot fisheries has been reported in Western Australia, but no interactions have been reported with whales in Tasmania, despite Bass Strait covering part of the migratory route of Southern Right Whales3.
  • The 2012–13 ecological risk assessment of the Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery10 determined that octopus potting had negligible impact on by-product and bycatch species due to low historical catches (less than 1 t) of both and was a very low risk to habitat caused by the gear interacting with the seafloor. Although octopuses are a key predator and an important prey species, due to low catches, the fishery was considered a low risk to the community structure of the ecosystem.
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Environmental effects on Pale Octopus

  • Octopus species are known for having high individual growth plasticity,11 short life spans (less than 2 years)12 and biological processes (including growth and egg production) that are strongly influenced by environmental factors such as seasonal temperature5,7. If environmental conditions are unfavourable during the optimal spawning period (late summer–early autumn), significant declines in recruitment can occur as a result of suboptimal growth, and reduced egg production and fecundity5,7. Conversely, Pale Octopus hatched during summer and autumn may grow faster and mature earlier, with potentially higher fecundity due to warmer temperatures, than those hatched during winter and spring5,7.
  • Pale Octopus productivity and distribution is strongly influenced by environmental factors, such as temperature, which can impact reproduction and recruitment5,7. Studies on cephalopods throughout the world have shown that populations can proliferate in a warming environment combined with the removal of predators13.
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  1. 1 Doubleday, ZA, Pecl, GT, Semmens, JM and Danyushevsky, L 2008, Stylet elemental signatures indicate population structure in a holobenthic octopus species, Octopus pallidus, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 371: 1–10.
  2. 2 Higgins, KL, Semmens, JM, Doubleday, ZA and Burridge, CP 2013, Comparison of population structuring in sympatric octopus species with and without a pelagic larval stage, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 486: 203–212.
  3. 3 Emery, T and Hartmann, K 2016, Tasmanian octopus fishery assessment 2015/2016, University of Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Tasmania.
  4. 4 Rodhouse, PGK, Pierce, GJ, Nichols, OC, Sauer, WHH, Arkhipkin, AI, Laptikhovsky, VV, Lipiński, MR, Ramos, JE, Gras, M, Kidokoro, H, Sadayasu, K, Pereira, J, Lefkaditou, E, Pita, C, Gasalla, M, Haimovici, M, Sakai, M and Downey, N 2014, Environmental Effects on Cephalopod Population Dynamics: Implications for Management of Fisheries, in AGV Erica (ed), Advances in Marine Biology, Academic Press.
  5. 5 Leporati, SC, Pecl, GT and Semmens, JM 2008, Reproductive status of Octopus pallidus, and its relationship to age and size, Marine Biology, 155: 375–385.
  6. 6 Leporati, SC, Ziegler, PE and Semmens, JM 2009, Assessing the stock status of holobenthic octopus fisheries: Is catch per unit effort sufficient?, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 66: 478–487.
  7. 7 Leporati, SC, Pecl, GT and Semmens, JM 2007, Cephalopod hatchling growth: The effects of initial size and seasonal temperatures, Marine Biology, 151: 1375–1383.
  8. 8 Leporati, SC, Semmens, JM and Pecl, GT 2008, Determining the age and growth of wild octopus using stylet increment analysis, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 367: 213–222.
  9. 9 Coleman, RA, Hoskin, MG, von Carlshausen, E and Davis, CM 2013, Using a no-take zone to assess the impacts of fishing: Sessile epifauna appear insensitive to environmental disturbances from commercial potting, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 440: 100–107.
  10. 10 Bell, JD, Lyle, JM, Andre, J and Hartmann, K 2016, Tasmanian scalefish fishery: ecological risk assessment. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Tasmania.
  11. 11 Forsythe, JW and Van Heukelem, WF 1987, Growth, in PR Boyle (ed), Cephalopod Life Cycles, Volume II: Comparative Reviews, Academic Press, London.
  12. 12 Boyle, PR and Rodhouse, PGK 2005, Cephalopods: Ecology and Fisheries, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK.
  13. 13 Doubleday, ZA, Prowse, TAA, Arkhipkin, A, Pierce, GJ, Semmens, J, Steer, M, Leporati, SC, Lourenco, S, Quetglas, A, Sauer, W and Gillanders, BM 2016, Global proliferation of cephalopods, Current Biology 26: R406–407.

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