Posts Tagged market squid

Dec 4 2015

Could market squid become a new Southeast fishery?

Southeast Alaska marine scientists got a rare peek this year into the hatching of a certain species of squid.

“I’ve never seen it. In fact, I’ve never seen squid in Southeast and I’ve been here since 1976,” said Gordon Garcia. He works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute in Auke Bay.

Market squid eggs were found this past summer in a salmon capture device at the NOAAs Little Port Walter field station. That’s located on the eastern shore of the southern tip of Baranof Island.

The squid are native to Southeast and are commercially harvested in California. But Garcia said this is the first time evidence of market squid spawning has been found at the research station, which has been there since the 1920s.

NOAA's Gordon Garcia shows one of the tanks that is being used to hatch and culture market squid in the wet lab at Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

NOAA’s Gordon Garcia shows one of the tanks that is being used to hatch and culture market squid in the wet lab at Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

“The squid actually spawned in the capture device and our staff there grabbed some of them,” Garcia said. The live squid died quickly, so he settled for eggs and began experimenting in July. I visited him in September.

Garcia is a facilities manager at the institute, but he studied marine zoology in college and spent 30 years at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He’s curious to know if the squid can be cultured.

In the tanks where the squid eggs are kept, Garcia points out what he calls “squidleys,” also known as hatchlings.

“We see this mass of squid hatching and they’re all attracted to the light,” Garcia said as we watched the squidleys dart around and swim.

This photo was called Squidnado because of the tornado-like formation of market squid hatchlings that swam toward the light. (Photo courtesy Gordon Garcia/NOAA)

Garcia calls this photo “Squidnado” because of the tornado-like formation of market squid hatchlings that swam toward the light. (Photo courtesy Gordon Garcia/NOAA)

The eggs are housed in what looks like a puffy, translucent white sea anemone. About 30 to 40 eggs are in each finger.

Garcia took an early photo of the first hatchlings that resembled an underwater tornado. He dubbed it “Squidnado” as an homage to recent cheesy sci-fi movies that mix weather phenomenon and marine life.

The experiment is conducted in eight tanks. One of the tanks has water piped in from Auke Bay, which stays around 49 degrees Fahrenheit. In another tank, the water is warmed to 61 degrees.

The eggs in the warmer tank hatched first but then died after about a week. Eggs in the cooler tank began to hatch about four weeks later.

Garcia said market squid typically live about a year and grow to 8 to 10 inches long.

“You could get those little calamari rings out of them. Yeah, dice them up,” he said, laughing.

At one point, there were clouds of squidleys in the lab’s tanks, Garcia said. As many as 7,000 hatched between late summer and early fall.

“They’re just popping out as we’re talking. You can see that cloud is getting denser and denser. If I were to go shake these egg masses, I’d probably triple the number of critters that you see there,” Garcia said.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them all. I hate to see them die, but that’s nature, of course. We’ll take the strongest and see if we can’t make them grow.”


Market squid

Market squid hatchling is photographed under extreme magnification. (Photo courtesy Gordon Garcia/NOAA)

Garcia spent three months experimenting with the size of the tank, the kind of gravel at the bottom, water flow and food sources. The tricky part was getting the squid to eat.

He tried salmon meal, rehydrated freeze-dried rotifers or a form of zooplankton and brine shrimp. Some of the cold water squid doubled in size after feeding on the brine shrimp, but the shrimp themselves did not thrive very well in the cold water.

Sadly, despite Garcia’s attempts to keep the squidleys alive, the experiment only lasted about three months. The last one died Oct. 6.

Watch the video on the original post:

Oct 21 2015

Plenty of anchovies in Monterey Bay, but maybe not elsewhere



Protectionist groups are basing their “crisis” mantra on a paper that chose to ignore the abundance of anchovy observed at nearshore survey sites in southern California in recent years.  In reality, fishermen report abundant anchovies in southern California as well as Monterey Bay.   Here is a comment from one fisherman:


“There has been major tonnage [of anchovy] in the Los Angeles / Long Beach harbor for quite some time — a year plus. Almost all of it has been very small pinhead. There has been pretty good volume of ‘chovy in front of Newport Beach for a couple of months. Little bit bigger than pinhead but not real big. In June, Catalina was loaded with small pinhead anchovy. Front and back of the island. Volume was many thousand ton. At the same time, we would see the anchovy in the channel daytime as well, a lot of it! “  
As the reporter quoted at the end of this story:  the allowable harvest limit for anchovy is very conservative.




Monterey Fish Company worker Geronimo Hernandez feeds anchovies from a chute into iced bins while unloading the El Dorado fishing boat at the Moss Landing Harbor on October 16, 2015. The boat is owned by Frank Aliotti Senior. (David Royal - Monterey Herald)

Monterey >> Things are shifting for fishermen in Monterey Bay.

Market squid are disappearing, and in their place, fishing boats are reeling in piles of anchovies.

But while they appear abundant, conservation groups warn that the forage fish may be at their lowest levels since the 1950s.

“It’s an anomalous year,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. “Typically these are not the kind of oceanographic conditions that anchovy like. But they are here and they’re really close to shore, which is why we’re having a spectacular year for whale watching.”

Anchovies aren’t just bringing whales into the bay — they’re also attracting fishing fleets.

“There are thousands of tons,” said Sal Tringali, president of Monterey Fish Company, whose fishermen in Moss Landing are landing about 120 tons of anchovies each night and expect to do so for about another month. “There are all the anchovies you want out here.”

Tringali said the majority of his harvest never fills human bellies, as roughly 70 percent of the catch travels to Australia to feed tuna.

Records from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife show that, across the state, fishermen landed 13,508 metric tons of anchovies this year.

That number was fine in previous years, but now it’s dangerous, said Geoff Shester of conservation group Oceana.

“This level of catch is sustainable when the stock is healthy,” Shester said. “But new information shows that the stock is at such a low level right now, it’s literally in a state of collapse.”

Survey cruises conducted by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center detected little to no anchovy eggs from 2010 to 2013. The lack of eggs, coupled with a recent study still in review that suggests anchovy biomass has decreased by over 99 percent from 2005 to 2009, has Shester and his fellow conservationists concerned.

“Every ton we can keep in the water is extremely valuable for the future of anchovies and the amazing multimillion-dollar whale-watching and wildlife-viewing destination that is Monterey Bay,” Shester said.

Shester, along with representatives from four other conservation groups, recently sent a letter to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which oversees fisheries from Washington to California, urging the council to reconsider its anchovy management strategy and conduct a new stock assessment. They argue that because the last anchovy assessment was taken in 1995, current management policy doesn’t apply to modern numbers.

Sit on the docks where anchovies are sorted and you’ll likely see lots of the silvery fish piling up. But it’s a mirage, warns William Sydeman, ecologist of the Farallon Institute, who coauthored the paper that estimated anchovies at low levels.

“People think that if they’re in Monterey Bay, they must be everywhere,” Sydeman said. “They’re not. They’re only in Monterey Bay.”

Sydeman said anchovies tend to aggregate near shore when their numbers are low, giving the appearance of abundance. When numbers are actually strong, he said, the fish expand offshore, disappearing from sight.

“People think, ‘Oh look at all these whales, there must be a ton of fish,’ and that’s probably true,” said Sydeman. “There is a local abundance of anchovies. But it’s local. That doesn’t mean global abundance.”

The National Marine Fisheries Service enforces a cap on anchovies. Josh Lindsay, policy analyst for the service, believes that number is conservative.

“To take a precautionary approach,” Lindsay said, “we took the overfishing limit and told the fishing fleet that they could only catch 25,000 metric tons. That’s a pretty large buffer built into our management.”

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet next month to review the latest findings on anchovy numbers.

Read the original post:

Aug 5 2014

Paul Greenberg misses the boat in his push for local California squid; fails to understand market


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Opinion] by D.B. Pleschner  Aug 5, 2014

Recently author Paul Greenberg, now on a media tour promoting his latest book, wrote about California squid in the LA times – suggesting something was amiss when California exported its squid, and then re-imported it for local consumption.   But he never talked to the squid fishermen.  Now they want to set the record straight, with the ‘inconvenient truths’ about the California Squid fishery, which is one of the lowest impact fisheries on the planet.  D.B. Pleschner, head of the California Wetfish producers, responds.



In his op-ed to the Los Angeles Times last week, author Paul Greenberg could have dodged some critical misstatements and inaccuracies about the marketing of California squid – the state’s largest catch.
All he had to do was check with local sources, including the California Wetfish Producers Association, which represents the majority of squid processors and fishermen in the Golden State and promotes California squid.


Instead, Greenberg missed the boat on a number of issues, including the overall carbon footprint of seafood, but equally important, the reasons why most of the squid that California exports is consumed overseas!


To set the record straight, here are some inconvenient truths you wouldn’t know about squid by reading last week’s op-ed:


First, size matters and price rules when it comes to California market squid, which are one of the smallest of more than 300 squid species found worldwide. The U.S. “local” market really prefers larger, “meatier” squid, notwithstanding Greenberg’s ‘locavore’ movement.


Greenberg acknowledged the labor cost to produce cleaned squid in California adds at least $1.50 per pound to the end product. In fact, local production costs double the price of cleaned squid, due to both labor (at least  $15 per hour with benefits) and super-sized overhead costs, including workers’ comp, electricity, water and myriad other costs of doing business in the Golden State.


Del Mar Seafood is one processor in California that micro-processes cleaned squid at the request of markets like the CSA that Greenberg mentioned. In fact, virtually all California squid processors do the same thing at the request of their customers. But at 1,000 pounds per order, we would need 236,000 CSAs, restaurants or retail markets paying $1.50 more per pound to account for the total harvest.  If the demand were there, we’d be filling it!


Greenberg also misconstrued the issue of food miles. Respected researchers like Dr. Peter Tyedmers, from Dalhousie University in Canada, found that transport makes a minor contribution to overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when considering the carbon footprint of seafood (or land-based foods). Mode of production is far more important.


Here’s another surprise:  California squid is one of the most efficient fisheries in the world – because a limited fleet harvests a lot of squid within a short distance of processing plants.


Studies show that the California wetfish fleet, including squid, can produce 2,000 pounds of protein for only 6 gallons of diesel. Squid are then flash frozen to preserve freshness and quality. Keep in mind that even with immaculate handling, fresh squid spoil in a few days.


As counterintuitive as it may seem, even with product block-frozen and ocean-shipped to Asia for processing, California’s squid fishery is one of the ‘greenest’ in the world. One recent survey estimated that about 30 percent of California squid is now either processed here or transshipped to Asia for processing (other Asian countries besides China now do the work) and re-imported.


China, although important, is only one export market that craves California squid. With a growing middle class billions strong, Chinese consumers can now afford California squid themselves. Many countries that import California squid prefer the smaller size, and California squid goes to Mediterranean countries as well.  In short, most of the squid that California’s fishery exports are consumed overseas.  Why? The U.S. palate for squid pales in comparison to Asian and European demand.


Also important to understand: California squid is the economic driver of California’s wetfish industry – which produces more than 80 percent of the total seafood volume landed in the Golden State. California squid exports also represent close to 70 percent by weight and 44 percent of value of all California seafood exports. Our squid fishery contributes heavily to the Golden State’s fishing economy and also helps to offset a growing seafood trade imbalance.


The sad reality is that price really does matter and most California restaurants and retail markets are not willing to pay double for the same – or similar – small squid that they can purchase for half the price.


Nonetheless, we do appreciate Greenberg’s pitch for local seafood. Our local industry would be delighted if, as he suggested, all Californians would be willing to pay $1.50 a pound more for California squid.  We may be biased, but in our opinion California squid really is the best!


D.B. Pleschner is Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit designed to promote sustainable wetfish resources.

Photo Credit: The Smelly Alley Fish Company

Apr 24 2014

Lowly squid tops king salmon as Monterey’s top cash fishery

More than 6 percent of California’s seafood haul comes from the Monterey area, a region with a deep history of commercial fishing. Last year, catches of the humble squid generated about twice as much cash as the kingly chinook salmon.

We’ve crunched the numbers to rank the top 10 commercial fisheries in the coastal fringes of Silicon Valley, which you can peruse below.


Bryce Druzin
Reporter- Silicon Valley Business Journal

View the original article here.

Aug 19 2013

California’s squid industry is booming

For years, the squid business in Morro Bay has been light weight, but this year, it’s heavy. Tons and tons of Market Squid are brought into the harbor every morning.

The abundance is because it’s spawning season. At this time of the year, Market Squid travel in massive schools to spawn and die.

The squid industry was volatile for a few years because the state did not want them to be over-fished, so regulations were put in place. Today, there is a limit on how many one boat can catch, and under new regulations, they cannot be fished on the weekends.

“This boat went out last night. They can get 40 tons in a couple hours,” said Giovanni DeGarimore.

The Ocean Angel threw nets just off the coast from Pismo Beach.

“They use these big nets. So they circle it and then they close it up at the bottom and scoop it all up,” he explained.

Once they’ve scooped tons and tons of squid, the boat heads back to Morro Bay to unload.

“We are unloading for Del Mar Seafoods. They are one of the larger producers of calamari in California,” said DeGarimore.

For Giovanni DeGarimore. the process is like a harvest. The tanks on the boat are connected to a suction tube that moves the squid onto a conveyer belt. The squid are then dumped into bins and iced.

Watch the story and read the article here.

California s squid industry is booming - KSBY

Jun 24 2013

How to prepare squid: How to clean, prepare and cook squid.


These are a few tips from our friends in the UK on how to clean, prepare and cook squid, note that the squid is a little larger than California squid, but the process is similar.
BBC Good Food
Points to remember:

  • Pull out the tentacles from the main body. Cut just below the eye and discard the innards. Discard the beak and then trim the long tentacles level with the rest.
  • Pinch the two fins together, thread thumb underneath and pull them away from the body, along with the membrane and discard.
  • Pull out the shell or ‘quill’ and then remove the innards using the back of a knife.
  • Cut the squid open, and scrape any more innards out and discard. Cut into slices, or score the squid and cut into pieces.
  • You can now cook the squid. Frying is a popular method – squid pieces just need to be cooked for 30-40 seconds on a very high heat. Serve immediately.

Read more tips and watch video here.

Dec 5 2012

Squid fishermen wrap up another banner year

HALF MOON BAY — It’s a great time to be a calamari lover.

California fishermen have capitalized on favorable ocean conditions with a historic three-year haul of market squid, whose cylindrical bodies are most recognizable in appetizer form: sliced, breaded and deep-fried. These small squid make up the state’s largest fishery by both weight and value, having brought in roughly $68.5 million in 2011.

Fishermen netted a record-breaking 133,642 tons of the cephalopods during the 2010-11 season, then topped that mark the following year with 134,910 tons, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. This season’s catch was also robust, though it is expected to fall a bit short of those staggering totals.

More than 80 percent of the state’s market squid are typically caught in Southern California around the Channel Islands, and most of the rest are netted in Monterey Bay. But this year brought unprecedented fishing activity to the San Mateo County coast, said Mike McHenry, one of only a couple of people who fish squid out of Pillar Point Harbor north of Half Moon Bay.

“This is by far the biggest season we’ve ever seen up in this country,”

Read the full article here.

Jul 13 2012

California Still Leaving Plenty of Fish in the Sea



 Letters to the Editor

Re “Fisherman agree: Big fish need little fish” (Viewpoints, June 22):

The article omitted key facts the public should understand about California’s fisheries. Appealing to the Pacific Fishery Management Council to “forestall the harvest of forage species that aren’t currently being fished,” the authors cited a Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force study finding that worldwide, forage fish are mostly ground into meal to feed livestock and farmed fish. This is untrue in California. They didn’t point out that according to the same report, we already leave plenty of forage fish in the sea. West Coast forage fisheries harvest only 2 percent of the total forage pool, leaving 98 percent in the ocean. The most important forage species on the West Coast are already well managed. The PFMC recently approved deliberative action, allowing more time for scientific analysis and the development of the most practical, effective management tools. This is a win for all, providing the most cost-effective and timely response to concerns that new fisheries might over-exploit forage species.


— Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director, California Wetfish Producers Association

Read more via the Sacramento Bee.
May 8 2012

How to Eat Sardines Sustainably

Please note that the quote below by Geoff Shester incorrectly states that most of California Pacific Sardines go to tuna farms. In actuality, most CA sardines are exported for canning for human consumption. It should also be noted that the Lenfest Report identified CA’s forage fisheries to be one of the most precautionary, sustainable forage fisheries in the world. California limits harvesting to only allow 2% of the total forage pool, leaving 98% in the ocean for other marine life

Written by Miriam Goldstein

Sardines school off Baja California. Photo by Jon Bertsch.

I only eat anchovies with Caesar salad, and am rather fond of the tiny fish that add a bit of strong flavor to the romaine lettuce. I’m unusual for wanting to get even that close to the tiny, oily fish – sardines, anchovy, menhaden –  that used to be a staple of regular American food. That’s why Julia Whitty’s recent article in Mother Jones in which she encourages consumers to pause before they “ take a bite of that sardine sandwich” was so surprising. You won’t find sardines anywhere on the list of the top 10 consumed seafoods – or do you? Here’s why eating more sardines directly would actually be good for the ocean:

1) The United States Pacific sardine fishery is not overfished. This may be surprising to people who are familiar with the famous collapse of the Monterey (central California) sardine fishery, which was described by John Steinbeck in his book Cannery Row. Puzzlement over this collapse launched one of the most important long-term oceanographic investigations of all time, the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation, which continues to provide critical scientific information to this day. Over 50 years of investigation has shown that this crash actually WASN’T caused by overfishing – at least not directly.

Sardine and anchovy populations are actually  tied directly to large-scale climatic conditions – if they’re favorable, there’s lots of fish. If they’re unfavorable, the fish crash. Overfishing may have exacerbate the crash and slowed recovery, but it probably didn’t cause it directly. Some researchers are predicting a similar sardine crash this year due to unfavorable climatic conditions similar to those seen before the late 1940s crash, and are encouraging managers to decrease sardine quotes in order to speed post-crash recovery. (Though this is controversial – see this response).

Historically, sardine & anchovy fisheries in other parts of the world, such as the South American anchoveta fishery (the biggest fishery in the world) are less well regulated. Overfishing in these ecosystems leads to no room for error – if there is the slightest change in the climate that causes the  fish to reproduce less fast, the fishery crashes. Buy U.S. Pacific sardines.

2)   Americans should eat more sardines directly, and fewer sardines indirectly. Only about a quarter of the enormous U.S. sardine haul is eaten directly  – the rest are sold as bait or as fishmeal. All of the three most popular U.S. seafoods – shrimp, salmon, and canned tuna – are farmed with fishmeal or caught with bait. This is why Jennifer Jacquet developed her “Eat Like A Pig” campaign. Grist covered this issue in response to Whitty’s article as well:

Geoff Shester, the California program director at Oceana, talked to Grist contributor Clare Leschin-Hoar for the article, “Small fish, big ocean: Saving Pacific forage fish.” We followed up with him to ask his take on sardine-eating. In the case of Pacific sardines, he said that “the lion’s share go to bluefin tuna farms (ranches) in Australia, then to commercial longline bait in international tuna fisheries.” Overall, he says, “consumers are demanding the wrong things. Instead of demanding farmed salmon, which uses at least three pounds of forage fish to get one pound of salmon, people should be demanding the forage fish themselves.”

Also, sardines are healthy! They appear on the New York Times list of the  11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating. Also, food writer Michael Pollan’s Rule 32 (Don’t overlook the oily little fishes”) elaborates further:

Wild fish are among the healthiest things you can eat, yet many wild fish stocks are on the verge of collapse because of overfishing. Avoid big fish at the top of the marine food chain–tuna, swordfish, shark–because they’re endangered, and because they often contain high levels of mercury. Fortunately, a few of the most nutritious wild fish species, including mackerel, sardines, and anchovies, are well managed, and in some cases are even abundant. Those oily little fish are particularly good choices. According to a Dutch proverb: “A land with lots of herring can get along with few doctors.”

3)   Since sardine and other small forage fish like anchovies and menhadan congregate in single-species schools in the water column (see the awesome photo by Jon Bertsch at the top of this post!), there’s relatively little bycatch. Fishers are able to catch these fish, and only these fish, without accidentally killing a lot of other marine life. This is emphatically not the case with the longline tuna fisheries for which forage fish become bait. Fish farming operations have other significant environmental impacts, such as the infection of wild salmon stocks with farmed salmon parasites and damage to the ocean bottom communities. Eating sardines directly is far better for the ocean environment than filtering them through large predators caught accidentally with more large predators.

Read the full article on DeepSeaNews.



Mar 28 2012

For California Fishermen, Squid Means Big Money

Capt Nick Jurlin's crew hauls squid aboard the Cape Blanco on their round trip from San Pedro to the western side of Santa Catalina Island. The catch is abundant -- and valuable. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)


















Written by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

Long before calamari reaches the table, crews set out from San Pedro and elsewhere to round up California’s most valuable catch. But environmentalists question whether the haul is too large.


As the sun sets over the ocean, the six crewmen on the Cape Blanco are starting a long night’s work off the far side of Santa Catalina Island, putting on orange slickers and hard hats to fish for the milky white mollusks that have become California’s most valuable catch.

Below the gentle waves off the side of the boat swims an immense school of market squid.

Capt. Nick Jurlin, pacing impatiently with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, is eager to pull in as much of it as possible.

Five nights a week, the third-generation fisherman from San Pedro steps into a pair of rubber boots and hunts for squid along the Southern California coast. The 50-year-old with spiky blond hair and wraparound sunglasses looks the part of a man who’s wrestled with nets in the salty air since he was a teenager — his arms are taut, his neck creased and weathered, his voice gravelly from going without sleep.

On a night like this, the 90-foot steel vessel can bring in as much as $50,000 worth of the seafood so popular worldwide that all but a fraction is shipped overseas to be served as calamari.

But for the Cape Blanco and dozens of squid fishing boats working out of ports like San Pedro and Monterey, the boom is an uncertain one. Doubts are emerging about how long one of California’s last remaining money fish will stay bountiful.

Though Jurlin and his crew are four hours from shore tonight, they are not alone.

Rocking in the waves around them are a dozen other purse seiners beginning the same ritual: encircling the darting mass of tentacled, hot dog-sized sea creatures with huge nets that will be cinched up like the drawstring of a purse.

A flotilla of smaller boats assists by following the swarms and coaxing them to the surface with 30,000-watt lanterns that light up the ocean with an otherworldly green and white glow.

On Jurlin’s signal, a deckhand swings a hefty metal bar above his head and slams it into a pelican hook, freeing a clunky metal skiff that plunges into the water and rumbles away, its motor filling the night air with exhaust.

Each man takes his position on the Cape Blanco’s deck, working among strained cables and ropes as thick as fire hoses. A hydraulic winch whirs, engines roar and propellers gurgle as a tangle of black netting, yellow floats and steel rings tumble into the water off the back of the boat. The skiff tows it all in a wide circle around the squid, trapping the school.

Most of the world’s market squid is harvested from California’s shallow waters, where they gather in enormous schools each year to mate, deposit their eggs on the seafloor and die.

Cold ocean conditions have drawn them in such numbers lately that fishermen have handily caught their 118,000-ton limit — enough to fill 60 Olympic-size swimming pools — and the state has shut them down early two years running. Surging demand in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe has boosted prices and launched a fishing frenzy worth more than $70 million a year.

The good times have drawn the attention of conservationists, who fear such abundant catches are threatening the foundation of a delicate marine food web. Groups like Oceana and Audubon California are pushing for new protections for squid, sardines, anchovies, herring and other small, schooling prey known as “forage fish.”

A bill moving its way through the California Legislature would require the state to leave more small fish in the water for seabirds, whales, dolphins and other natural predators to feed on.

Those like Jurlin, whose families have fished these waters for generations, say a smaller catch could be crippling.


During the squid season, Jurlin pushes off each afternoon from Terminal Island, where a few other purse seiners dock along a waterfront of weedy and abandoned lots where street names — Sardine, Cannery and Wharf — reflect a fish-packing industry that is largely gone.

He follows the squid from the Channel Islands to San Diego, setting out net after net and returning before dawn the next morning.

Tonight he motors along the backside of Catalina as his crewmen eat spaghetti and watch baseball in the galley. Many, like Jurlin, are the sons or grandsons of fishermen.

It isn’t long before they bring in their first net.

Frigid water falls in sheets from the net as it is pulled through a giant hydraulic pulley towering above the deck. The men pile it into a slippery mound, slowly corralling the squid closer to the boat.

Whether stacking rings or piloting the skiff, each crewman is dedicated to a single task. There is no conversation. It is dangerous, straining work, and they focus with intense precision.

By the time Jurlin and several deckhands reach over the side of the boat to gather the last bunches of loose net, their bright slickers are drizzled with black ink from the squid.

Fishing for squid can be good money, but it is unpredictable.

The boat’s owner, Tri Marine Fish Co., takes half the earnings, and the crew divides the rest. For a good night’s work, deckhands can earn well over $1,000 and the captain and engineer even more. On a bad night, they might catch enough to cover fuel.

In the off-season, the fishermen sew up nets, make repairs and paint the boats — without pay. A few months of the year, they make a little money fishing for sardines. But without squid, there are no big paychecks.

As luck would have it, the night’s first net bursts with an exceptional haul: 40 tons of squid.

“Everybody’s going to do real well tonight,” Jurlin tells the crew.

They lower a heavy metal pump into the thick stew, and the catch goes sloshing into the ship’s refrigerated wells below deck.

Once their catch is stowed, the crewmen hose off and light up cigarettes as the fog moves in.


A half century ago, the sardine was king of the sea.

In the 1930s and ’40s, the largest fishing industry in the Western Hemisphere centered on California’s harvest of the oily, silvery fish. Monterey was its capital, its crowded waterfront the backdrop for John Steinbeck novels such as “Cannery Row.”

But the boom went bust by mid-century as overfishing brought a devastating collapse.

Squid fishing exploded in the 1990s when worldwide demand jumped. Over the last decade, the California Department of Fish and Game has kept the fishery in check with catch limits, a ban on weekend fishing and a cap on the number of squid boats.

Squid come and go in cycles, streaming to shore when waters are cold and vanishing during warm El Niño periods. And they live just a year, making it difficult for scientists to assess the health of their population. Conservation groups, in saying current limits are too permissive, point to research saying those huge fluctuations make small species like squid particularly vulnerable to collapse.

The industry says California’s regulations already guard against overfishing and don’t need to be changed.


Standing at the helm in the dark, Jurlin studies a glowing grid of navigation screens and electronic fish finders.

He sips coffee and watches for diving birds and sea lions — nature’s squid detectors. He talks to himself to stay awake and keeps a running dialogue on the radio with friendly boats to gather intelligence on fishing spots.

Like many fishermen here, Jurlin is a descendant of immigrants, born into the profession.

His grandfather was an illegal immigrant from Croatia who jumped ship in Canada and made his way to San Pedro to fish almost a century ago. Jurlin’s father fished, and his grandmothers and mother packed tuna back when the San Pedro waterfront was alive with canneries.

Jurlin started working on Alaskan salmon vessels as a teenager and bought his first boat when he was 21.

Over the past 30 years, he and his wife have raised two daughters, bought a condo in downtown Long Beach and a second home in Arizona. Squid has paid for it all.

He has staked his future on being able to continue. When the first squid upswing hit 16 years ago, he bought his own seiner. During this boom he put his two sons-in-law aboard to learn the profession.

“We’ve been hitting it pretty good, but it’s sustainable,” he says. “We get a bad rap from the environmentalists. They’ll tell us there’s no fish, and we’ll come out here and see incredible amounts. They say we want to rape and pillage the ocean. But this is our livelihood.”

As is so often the case lately, Jurlin and his crew are catching so much squid so quickly that it strains buyers in San Pedro, who can only fit so much in their freezers.

So tonight, each vessel can load up with just 70 tons before returning to the docks, where workers will pump the squid ashore and slop it into plastic-lined boxes. Forklifts will wheel it into warehouse-sized blast freezers, where it will be prepared for shipment to Asia. From there, it will be processed and shipped around the world, some back to restaurants in California.

It’s just before midnight when the captain of a fellow squid boat, the Ferrigno Boy, radios to report he has caught too much. Could the Cape Blanco suck up the surplus?

“Okey-dokey,” Jurlin responds, setting down the radio. “That’s it. Another day in paradise.”

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