Global landings of cephalopods (cuttlefish, squid and octopus) have increased dramatically over the past 50 years and now constitute almost 5% of the total world’s fisheries production. At a time when landings of many traditional fin-fish stocks are continuing to experience a global decline as a result of over-exploitation, it is expected that fishing pressure on cephalopod stocks will continue to rise as the fishing industry switch their focus onto these non-quota species. However, long-term trends indicate that landings may have begun to plateau or even decrease.In European waters, cuttlefish are among the most important commercial cephalopod resource and are currently the highest yielding cephalopod group harvested in the north-east Atlantic, with the English Channel supporting the main fishery for this species. Recruitment variability in this short-lived species drives large fluctuations in landings. In order to provide sustainable management for Sepia officinalis populations, it is essential that we first have a thorough understanding of the ecology and life history of this species, in particular, the factors affecting spawning, early life stage (ELS) survival and recruitment variability.This review explores how and why such variability exists, starting with the impact of maternal effects (e.g. navigation, migration and egg laying), moving onto the direct impact of environmental variation on embryonic and ELSs and culminating on the impacts that these variations (maternal and environmental) have at a population level on annual recruitment success. Understanding these factors is critical to the effective management of expanding fisheries for this species.