May 27 2011

Fishermen end strike, net bountiful harvests of market squid

Local Flavor: About half of the dozen boats fishing squid in Monterey Bay this spring are residents of the Monterey and Moss Landing harbors, according to Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer. Above, fresh catch at Monterey Fish Company.

Glowing boats bob in the night off Pacific Grove’s coast, their lights luring lusty Loligo opalescens from the depths.

The romantic sight marks the return of Monterey Bay’s 150-year-old market squid fishery after an unofficial fishermen’s strike threatened to delay this year’s harvest.

When the squid season began April 1, local fishermen held back in hopes of pressuring processors to bump the price of calamari from $500 to $600 per ton, according to David Haworth, vice president of the California Wetfish Producers Association.

Blame it on gas prices: Boat captains, who aren’t unionized, negotiated with the four local squid processors in hopes of recovering some of their increased fuel costs. But the processors, who ship squid to Europe and China, are feeling the squeeze too.

“Our costs are up because of ocean freight being higher,” says Sal Tringali of the Salinas-based Monterey Fish Company. “The fuel’s killing us.”

Fishermen and processors were still at an impasse in early May. But some of the captains couldn’t pass up a good squid year, even at $500 per ton. Once they’d broken the liquid picket line, Haworth says, the other boats resumed fishing too.

The catch has been good: Royal Seafood founder Joe Pennisi says his son, Gino, recently unloaded 200 tons in a single evening.

“When there’s quantity,” he says, “you don’t worry about the price so much.”

Read the rest in the Monterey County Weekly.


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