Recently, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) closed the commercial fishery for market squid Loligo (Doryteuthis) opalescens. The closure came a month earlier than the year before.
This was the fourth straight year that the squid fishery closed early; the season typically extends all year, from April 1 to March 31. The difference this year — unlike the past — was that the Department collaborated with the squid industry on day-to-day management, including the closure date.
Squid fishermen and seafood processors, working with the Department, tracked catches daily from season start in April. They determined that the season’s harvest limit of 118,000 short tons of market squid would be reached early because squid began spawning far earlier than normal in Southern California in 2013, a fact documented by industry-sponsored squid research.
This uncommon industry initiative — a precedent-setting voluntary effort to cooperatively manage the squid fishery — represents a big step forward for conservation and responsible fishing.
Beginning in 2010, the superabundance of squid available to California fishermen was the product of a decadal resource “boom” the likes of which had not been experienced since 1999. Strong La Niña conditions produced a perfect storm of enhanced ocean productivity and market squid took advantage.
The fishery responded in kind, and markets increased their packing capacity to process the abundance. The squid fishery exceeded the seasonal catch limit in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.
In 2012-13, in lieu of proposed “slow down” restrictions that the industry opposed, the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA), a nonprofit organization representing the wetfish industry — including squid — volunteered to help track landings at the end of season. CWPA received full cooperation from participating markets, which helped to validate the Department’s preliminary totals.
Department representatives attended the CWPA annual meeting in March 2013 and discussed ways to improve in-season tracking of squid landings to achieve the goal of attaining the total allowable catch as closely as possible without exceeding the catch limit.
CWPA members volunteered to submit landing receipts daily in order to help track landings virtually in real time from the season start in 2013, and the collaboration between industry and agency began.
All major squid processors signed the CWPA agreement. The Department established a single email address to accept daily landing receipts so markets could voluntarily scan and submit via email.
In addition, it provided a website where markets could voluntarily upload scanned landing receipts, if they preferred. Additionally, the Department agreed to create and post landing updates on CDFW’s market squid page for individual processors and fishermen to monitor fishery progress.
Read the full opinion here.