Not long ago I took some friends to a favourite diving place of mine in Melbourne called Cottage by the Sea. This particular place has deep overhangs and crevices that provide shelter and feeding ground for lots of ocean life. It's home to one of the most inquisitive and cute ‘fish’ (actually an invertebrate, like an octopus) in the world - the Cuttlefish.
Imagine a creature that can change colour and texture on demand, can hover, shoot forward or backwards and has eyes that can look into your soul. A cuttlefish is SO much more than a piece of calcium washed up on the beach. This vid will give you a better picture:
One of my favourite things to do when diving is poke my head into the caves in the reef and see how fish are spending their day. I was doing exactly this when all of a sudden a large cuttlefish shot out and grabbed one of our air gauges with his tentacles! (Cuttlefish use their tentacles to explore things, just like we might pick something up with our hands.) The gauge was bright yellow and he was flashing different colours trying to match it. He seemed highly fascinated with the colour and shape of the gauge. Then he suddenly let go and hovered right near my friend's mask, having a good long look at her. Cuttlefish can actually make eye contact!
Our playful cuttle then moved on to another diver in our group who was quite nervous about the strange creature in front of him. I think the cuttle sensed this and actually toyed with him. The cuttlefish would dart forward; the diver would back up and the cuttle would raise four of his tentacles above his head and lower the other ones in a really funny gesture.
Then the cuttle moved towards me. He gently touched my raised hand with his tentacles before hovering up to my mask to look me in the eye!
We watched for a long while as the cuttle moved away from us. But when we decided to move on, I turned back a few times to see him slowly following us, watching us the whole time.
When we surfaced we couldn’t stop talking about our cuttle encounter. We felt he was communicating with us and that we were lucky to be in the presence of such an intelligent creature.
I have no doubt that most sea creatures feel pain, and since this experience with the cuttle (who are directly related to squids) my friends haven't eaten any calamari. It's often the case that people won’t knowingly contribute to the killing of an animal they feel empathy for. So why should our marine creatures be any different?
I love retelling this story because I know people who hear it will never look at cuttle bones on the beach the same way again. Would this kind of experience stop you eating squid or cuttlefish? Or have you given up seafood altogether?