Archive for May, 2020

May 16 2020

Squid Fishing Season is Off to a Good Start in Monterey Bay, After a Dismal 2019

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Copyright © 2020

Seafood News

Copyright © 2020 Milestone Communications,
By Parker Seibold
May 15, 2020

A good squid fishing season relies on a lot of factors, with water temperature, ocean currents and food source among the most important. Last year, for whatever combination of reasons, was a bad one.

The 2020-2021 commercial squid fishing season started on April 1 and dozens of boats can be seen dotting the horizon of Monterey Bay as the squid return, this year in better numbers.

“This has actually been one of the best Aprils we’ve had since 2010,” says Pete Guglielmo, a buyer and processor with Southern Cal Seafood, Inc. “Usually when the squid show up this early in the season, it’s proved to be a very good fishing season for the industry.”

As of May 8, 4,800 tons of the 118,000-ton seasonal catch limit had been landed in California, according to Katie Grady, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Around the same time last year, they’d brought in just over 1 ton. The preliminary total for 2019 shows the entire season’s catch was 15,000 tons.

The squid are also larger than they’ve been in the last several years, and in high demand. A majority of squid caught in Monterey Bay is exported. Because of shortages around the world last year, countries are buying what they can now that it’s available again. And with that, the price has gone from 50 cents per pound last year to 60 cents per pound.

It’s a good thing for local fishermen, says Anthony Russo, a skipper and owner of two fishing boats, because with the no commercial sardine fishing and tight restrictions elsewhere in the industry, many of them rely on squid.

“Sardines used to pull us through the bad years if the squid weren’t there,” he says. “If we wouldn’t have had a little bit of squid now it would have been really, really bad. Not just for the fishermen, but for the workers in the canneries and the markets. If they close, we don’t have anywhere to sell our fish.”



May 5 2020

Monterey Bay: Squid are back in abundance

Commercial fishing boats fish for squid off Lovers Point in Pacific Grove in 2018. ( Monterey Herald archive)

MONTEREY — Squid boats dotting the Central California coastline have been joined by salmon fishermen and women as both seasons are now underway. While the salmon fishery is just getting started up, the squid fishery is already showing signs of a promising season.

“I can tell you that the squid seems to be going really well,” said Moss Landing Harbormaster Tommy Razzeca, “we have a bunch of vessels working out of the harbor.”

The squid fishery is among the most lucrative and productive in the state, frequently valued in the double-digit millions. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, landings from California market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) were over 34,000 short tons in the 2018-2019 season, generating more than $33 million in revenue.

But according to Diane Pleschner-Steele, the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, these charming and elusive animals can be difficult to pin down. The statement has proven true in the last couple of years.

“We had a disastrous season last year,” Pleschner-Steele said, “they [the squid] took a hike.” Despite last year’s abundance in the Pacific Northwest, squid are sensitive to water temperature and California’s fishermen and women suffered the impact.

Katie O’Grady with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says “the main factors driving squid availability to the fishery are likely prey abundance (krill and zooplankton) and water temperature,” but there are still many unknown factors that make the behaviors of these slippery sea-creatures hard to predict. Despite last year being a bad squid season, preliminary totals indicate more than $15 million in revenue came from the fishery.

According to NOAA’s Supervisory Research Fish Biologist John Field, the “most useful source of information on squid would usually come from our May-June midwater trawl survey…but we’ve not yet had that survey and in fact may not have it at all this year.” California SeaGrant reports that the squid catch generally decreases during El Niño years, but increases with cooler waters during La Niña, but numbers vary widely year to year.

“When the water is right, the squid will come here to the Monterey area,” according to Pleschner-Steel. Fortunately for calamari connoisseurs, “the water temperatures are colder, and that tends to encourage the productivity of squid.” Or rather, their reproductivity.

Spawning squid are targeted because they die shortly after they reproduce, and so fishing season — though technically open all year round — coincides with the spawning season. The catch is historically best in Southern California in fall and Central California in spring-summer.

Pete Guglielmo of Southern Cal Seafood says his five boats, split between Monterey Bay and Half Moon Bay, are doing well since they started up a few weeks ago.“It’s much better than the last two seasons, and it’s definitely on an increase,” he said. “It’s better and the size of the squid is bigger.”

Like any other business, there are a couple of new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic which the fishery needs to adjust to. “It’s a condition that it’s really hard to maintain social distancing on the boat,” said Pleschner-Steele.

To account for safety concerns during the CODID-19 pandemic, Guglielmo says the boats are keeping the crews onboard. It’s not uncommon to work long days for squid fishing   “They’re not coming ashore,” he said, while, “at the loading docks, all our workers are wearing masks and keeping their distance.” Truck drivers are also staying in their trucks so the squid gets loaded directly on and doors closed, limiting the number of people who come in contact with the seafood.

At the plant where fresh squid is packaged and frozen for shipping, the workers are also wearing gloves and masks, and Guglielmo says the nature of the way they package means they are already normally more than 6 feet apart. Then it gets shipped to Asia.

“There is still use for the product,” said Pleschner-Steele. “But a lot of our squid in the past — the volume has gone to China.”

Despite fewer ships making the international voyages between Asia and the western United States, there seems to still be enough demand for California market squid, thanks to those less successful prior seasons.

“There’s been a shortage for a couple of years so the buyers are there to buy, “ said Guglielmo, “It’s nice to have demand for our product right now.” Some of that squid makes its way back to the Monterey Bay area, though it can be exported all over the world.

According to Seafood Watch, California market squid caught with purse seines is a “Best Choice” seafood option because of its healthy stock and sustainable fishing practice. Purse seines are nets that hang vertically in the water, held open by weights and buoys. With the spawning squid congregated in large groups, instances of bycatch are few, and the entire population can replace itself every few months.

Even so, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife limits seasonal catch to 118,000 tonnes and requires weekend closures for periods of uninterrupted spawning. If the tonnage is met, the season comes to an end.

Until then, the boats in the water are a sign that Monterey is not ready to surrender its title as “Calamari Capital of the World” even when the world looks much different.

“We definitely understand the severity of COVID 19,” said Guglielmo. “We are making sure that we are working safely for our employees and the community.”

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