The safety of Whyalla's precious Great Australian Cuttlefish population has come into question after a ban on fishing cuttlefish in Upper Spencer Gulf was lifted by the state government earlier this year.
Currently the cuttlefish spawning area at False Bay is protected by a permanent fishing enclosure, and a second temporary enclosure was put in place in the Spencer Gulf following a sudden decline in cuttlefish numbers in 2013.
According to the state government, a decision was made to let this enclosure lapse in February based on science from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) that indicated fishing outside of the False Bay spawning area had a 'negligible' impact on the cuttlefish population.
But Shadow Primary Industries Minister Eddie Hughes has slammed the decision to lift the ban, saying it will put one of Whyalla's national treasures at risk.
Mr Hughes said there was already evidence of thousands of cuttlefish being caught at Point Lowly by the commercial sector.
"The Whyalla community, international and domestic documentary companies, scientific groups, educators and conservationists have all done well to preserve this unique breeding aggregation," he said.
"The Giant Australian Cuttlefish draw world-wide attention, attracting many visitors each year. To diminish protection in the northern Spencer Gulf is reprehensible and defies logic.
"SA Labor is calling on the Marshall Liberal Government to immediately reverse this poor decision and reinstate full protection in the northern Spencer Gulf."
Professional Diving Tour Operator Tony Bramley, who owns the Whyalla Dive Shop and coordinates cuttlefish dives at Stony Point, also spoke out against the state government's decision.
"The decision by Minister Whetstone to reduce protection for the Australian Giant Cuttlefish is one of the most inept decisions I have ever known," he said.
However, Resources Minister Tim Whetstone said the decision was made on the best available science, and that the Upper Spencer Gulf enclosure was not required for the protection of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish population.
"I make decisions based on the science, not on emotion. When Fisheries Ministers make decisions on the basis of emotion, we get in a hell of a mess," he said.
"The South Australian tourism industry has taken a significant blow in the current COVID- 19 crisis. The last thing the Whyalla community needs is for misinformation to dissuade people from visiting the region and witnessing this marine wonder.
"The state government has, since 2013, contributed approximately $860,000 of funding for research to ensure we understand as much as possible about this species and have adequate management in place.
"The annual SARDI scientific monitoring program indicates the species' abundance in the northern Spencer Gulf region has remained high over the past five years, exceeding 110,000 individuals a year with 114,596 cuttlefish recorded in 2019."