Taxonomy and population structure of commercially important Indo-Pacific squids of the Uroteuthis (Photololigo) chinensis species complex

A project undertaken at the NSW Department of Primary Industries and supervised by Dr Karina Hall

As traditional finfish stocks have declined, global fisheries for cephalopods (squid, octopus and cuttlefish) have expanded rapidly, with landings exceeding 4 million tonnes in 2012. Taxonomic research has not kept pace and about a quarter of the world's squid catches remain unidentified. Large volumes of coastal loliginid squids are caught in tropical and subtropical areas, such as the Indo-West Pacific region, where species diversity is high and taxonomy often poorly defined. In the region, species of the Uroteuthis (Photololigo) subgenus support valuable fisheries and are sought after by fishers for their tender flesh and high market prices. Over the last 10 years, catches of these species in eastern Australian waters have declined, but the stocks are currently assessed as 'undefined' because of ongoing species identification issues, confused taxonomy and no information on population structures.

In eastern Australian waters, coastal squid are taken primarily as byproduct in trawl fisheries, with the bulk of the catch comprising broad and slender squids. These two morphologically similar species are currently classified within the Indo-West Pacific mitre squid U. (P.) chinensis complex, which has a wide species distribution extending from eastern Australia to southwestern Japan. However, preliminary genetic analyses of specimens from northern Australia in the early 1990s, suggest that broad and slender squids may be separate undescribed species with more limited species distributions.

This collaboration between the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Queensland Museum will combine fisheries and taxonomic expertise with modern molecular methods to investigate the taxonomy and population structure of the U. (P.) chinensis species complex in eastern Australian waters. This information will be used to inform more accurate risk and stock assessments for these commercially important species.

Research team

Dr Karina Hall, Fisheries Resource Assessment, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Dr Jess Morgan, Animal Science, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 
Dr Malcolm Dunning, Biodiversity Program, Queensland Museum

Figure 1. Broad squid from estuarine trawling in Hawkesbury River, NSW.

Figure 2. Slender squid from offshore trawling near Coffs Harbour, NSW.