Pale Octopus (2020)

Octopus pallidus

  • Nils Krueck (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Paul Rogers (SARDI Aquatic Sciences, South Australia)
  • Nicholas Hill (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Karina Hall (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

Date Published: June 2021

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Pale Octopus is distributed from the Great Australian Bight around TAS to southern NSW. Stocks are classified as depleting in Tasmania, negligible in NSW and SA, and undefined in VIC.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Victoria Victoria Undefined Catch
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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 to suggest that Pale Octopus shows complex biological stock structure, with a number of discrete subpopulations in Bass Strait (less than 100 km apart) due to limited dispersal and isolation by distance [Doubleday et al. 2008, Higgins et al. 2013]. However, further information is required to confirm the overall stock structure across southern Australia. Here, assessments of stock status are presented at the jurisdictional level—New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

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Stock Status


A new, standalone commercial Octopus Fishery commenced in Victoria in August 2020. The fishery harvests predominantly Pale Octopus in Eastern Victoria using unbaited pots. Octopus fishing in central and western Victoria is less established and is managed through exploratory, temporary permits.

Pale Octopus has previously been caught in Victoria by some other commercial licence classes using a variety of gears but was not differentiated from other species of octopus in catch and effort reporting. For instance, landings of octopus of unknown species were recorded by Danish seine vessels up until the mid-1990s [Conron et al. 2020]. Trawl vessels also reported landings of around 10 t in some years but analysis of CPUE data indicated that there was likely to be a relatively high rate of discarding in earlier years of the series. More recently, many of these vessels have shifted to targeting species in other fisheries. 

Pale Octopus have likely been caught, and retained, by a variety of gears and fisheries operating in Eastern Bass Strait [Conron et al. 2020]. A fishery using octopus traps was operational from 1998–2003 and it is likely that some octopus were caught prior to this time but the gear was not accurately reported [VFA 2020]. Small amounts of octopus (< 2t pa) were subsequently caught using traps up until 2015 when landings began to increase in eastern Victoria, reaching 74t in 2019/20 [Conron et al.  2020].

Changes in the way the fishery has operated create uncertainty about the current stock status of Victorian Pale Octopus [Conron et al. 2020]. Due to historical non-reporting of octopus species, it is difficult to ascertain or confirm that targeted fishing in the past 5 years only included Pale Octopus, making its reliable assessment problematic. Substantial additional information will become available in future years from initiatives including research pot sampling now underway and a new research project titled "Understanding population structure and dynamics of Victoria's developing octopus fishery" commencing shortly that expand our knowledge on the species, inform future assessments and its status as the fishery further develops. 

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Pale Octopus in Victoria is classified as an undefined stock

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Pale Octopus biology [Leporati et al. 2007, Leporati et al 2008a, Leporati et al 2008b]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Pale Octopus 1.5 years, 1200 g Females 473 g, Males < 250 g
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Pale Octopus
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Fishing methods
Hook and Line
Traps and Pots
Hand held- Implements
Management methods
Method Victoria
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Customary fishing permits
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Spatial closures
Commercial 88.60t
Indigenous Unknown (No catch under permit)
Recreational Unknown

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

Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.

Tasmania – Commercial (catch) Catches reported for the Tasmanian Octopus Fishery are for the period 1 March to end of February the following year. The most recent assessment available is for 2018/19.

Tasmania – Commercial (management methods) A general possession limit of 100 kg of octopus per day (all species combined) is in place for holders of a fishing licence (personal) and a scalefish licence. This limit does not apply to Tasmanian Octopus Fishery licence holders operating in northern Tasmania.

Tasmania – Recreational (management methods) In Tasmania, a recreational licence is required for fishers using rock lobster pots, along with nets, such as gillnet or beach seine. A bag limit of five octopus and a possession limit of ten octopus (all species combined) is in place for recreational fishers.

Tasmania – Indigenous In Tasmania, Indigenous persons engaged in traditional 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. For details, see the policy document "Recognition of Aboriginal Fishing Activities” (https://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/Documents/Policy%20for%20Aboriginal%20tags%20and%20alloting%20an%20UIC.pdf).

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Pale Octopus - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Conron, SD, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA and Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, First Edition, November 2020. VFA: Queenscliff. 176pp.
  2. 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.
  3. Hall, KC 2015, Octopus (Octopus spp.), in Stewart, J, Hegarty, A, Young, C, Fowler, AM and Craig, J (ed.s), Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2013–14, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mosman, pp 231–234.
  4. Hall, KC 2018, NSW stock status summary 2018 - Octopuses (Octopus australis, Macroctopus maorum, O. tetricus and O. pallidus), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour, NSW
  5. 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.
  6. Hill, N, Krueck, N and Hartmann, K 2020, Tasmanian Octopus Fishery Assessment 2018/19, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania.
  7. Krueck, N, Hill, N, Hartmann, K, and Fraser, K 2021, Tasmanian Octopus Fishery Assessment 2019/20, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania.
  8. Leporati, SC, Pecl, GT and Semmens, JM 2007, Cephalopod hatchling growth: The effects of initial size and seasonal temperatures, Marine Biology, 151: 1375–1383.
  9. Leporati, SC, Pecl, GT and Semmens, JM 2008a, Reproductive status of Octopus pallidus, and its relationship to age and size, Marine Biology, 155: 375–385.
  10. Leporati, SC, Semmens, JM and Pecl, GT 2008b, Determining the age and growth of wild octopus using stylet increment analysis, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 367: 213–222.

Downloadable reports

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