Archive for April, 2021

Apr 28 2021

California Market Squid – What to know, when & where to get it

California Market Squid

(year-round in California – late spring through early fall in Monterey Bay)

If you see boats lighting up Monterey Bay at night, it’s likely squid vessels at work. Market squid is one of the most important fisheries in Monterey Bay. It’s also one of the highest-grossing fisheries in the state, regularly switching positions with Dungeness crab for the most valuable annual catch. These sustainably harvested and versatile cephalopods are great battered and fried, grilled, sautéed, simmered in a marinara sauce, or cooked on top of bomba rice for paella.

Fishermen catch market squid using large seine nets that can scoop up more than 50 tons at a time, with very low bycatch. Squid fishing is typically done at night with light boats partnering with seine boats to find the squid, but you may also see them active in the daylight. Light boats shine up to 30,000 watts of light into the water, attracting spawning squid to the surface. Seine boats (with the help of a small skiff) then set their nets around the light boats in a large circle before hauling the net back. Smaller squid operations use dips nets to harvest squid.

Purse seining at work, with seine skiff, purse seiner and light boat. Photo by David Hills of @FishyPictures

Chinese immigrants established the first market squid fishery on the West Coast right here in Monterey in 1863. They were the first to develop the practice of using light to attract schools of spawning squid. They would hang torches and wire baskets burning wood at night from the sides of their rowboats and would drop nets into the water to bring up squid. Over the years, immigrants continuously enhanced the fishery with new adaptations. In the early twentieth century, Sicilians brought the lampara net to Monterey Bay, followed by the introduction of the purse seine by Yugoslavian and Italian immigrants in southern California.

California market squid is rated as “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. While most market squid caught in California is exported to overseas markets, ask your local fishmonger about its availability. Whole market squid can be time-intensive to clean but well worth the work. Pre-cleaned market squid takes little effort and cooks in minutes.

• Ask for fresh, local market squid from your fishmonger or Community Supported Fishery (CSF).
• Be adventurous and try cleaning your own market squid when available.
• California market squid won’t be found as calamari steaks, so don’t be deceived.
Seafood Illustration courtesy of “Monterey Bay Aquarium®

More about California Market Squid:

Market Squid: life, habitat, and management

Market squid, Doryteuthis (Loligo) opalescens, are small, reaching lengths of 12-inches, but typically average around 8 inches. Their geographic range is from Baja California, Mexico to Southeast Alaska, but they are most prominent in Monterey Bay and Punta Eugenia, Baja California.

They are iridescent white with some purple but will often change color to blend in with their environment. Market squid have very short life cycles — with an average lifespan of 180 days or 300 days at most — and die shortly after they spawn. They spend most of their short life in deep, offshore waters but come nearshore to spawn.

Market squid typically spawn in the Monterey Bay area from April to November and from October to May in Southern California, which keeps squid fishermen on the move between both regions throughout the year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the market squid fishery in California.

The fishery is open year-round, with the season lasting from April 1 to March 31, but is limited to 118,000 tons per year, weekend closures (to allow for periods of uninterrupted spawning), and a permit system that limits access to the fishery.

Where & When to Find California Market Squid

California Market Squid are accessible year-round, but as most are for export markets they’re not always easy to find.

You can buy market squid directly from local restaurants, grocery stores, and fish markets —check out our Local Catch page for more information, or check out our recipes page for tips on how to store, prepare, and cook market squid and other seafood.

Want a fun calendar to remind you of what is in season here in Monterey Bay? Download + print our seafood seasonality guide (downloadable pdf).

Original post:

Apr 13 2021

PFMC Approves Pacific Sardine Fishing Levels for 2021

Conducting its April meeting via webinar, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) approved management measures for the ‘northern’ stock of Pacific sardines for the season July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. The conflict over sardine fishery management became painfully apparent after the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) rejected the catch-only sardine biomass projection, which was the only estimate available because NOAA field surveys were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The catch for the Mex-Cal fishery (33,000 tons with only about 700 tons from California) was nearly three times larger than the sardine model’s northern sardine catch estimate for the Mex-Cal fishery in 2020. The Mexican catch was actually higher than the entire 2020 biomass estimate. This discrepancy illuminated serious problems with current assessment methods and assumptions.

The SSC recommended several urgent research priorities, including reconsideration of the model and assumptions used to assign sardines to northern vs. southern stocks. The CPS Management Team and Advisory Subpanel also supported the SSC’s recommendation to fall back to the 2020 assessment, and add another layer of precaution to account for the uncertainty, until problems can be addressed in a full stock assessment with independent scientific review. The approved management measures reduced the already low allowable catch by another 25 percent.

“We greatly appreciate the expressions of concern from the SSC, management team and advisory subpanel, and the Council’s action based on those concerns,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, Executive Director of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA). “This conflict is between what fishermen say is out there, based on what they see, and what biologists say, based on insufficient science.”

Both fishermen and independent scientific surveys have documented sardine recruitment and increasing abundance. But assumptions of continued decline and low recruitment caused the directed sardine fishery to be closed in 2015, and ‘northern’ sardines to be declared ‘overfished’ in 2019, which reduced the incidental take of sardine in other fisheries to 20 percent. The Council also was required to develop a rebuilding plan.

The directed fishery has been closed for nearly 7 years, and the model used to predict biomass has not updated the age data from the fishery since 2015. Stock assessment scientists prefer only age data from ‘directed’ fishing, and have not used age data from incidental catches or the live bait fishery, which have both seen an increase in small fish in recent years. The problem is that NOAA’s sardine acoustic trawl surveys, conducted primarily offshore, have not seen it, and those surveys, coupled with assumptions made regarding ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ sardines, have largely driven stock assessments in recent years.

To resolve this Catch-22, CWPA requested and received an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) in 2020 and coordinated a closely-controlled directed fishing effort to capture sardine schools throughout the year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) sampled and aged all the landings. Age data shared with the Council during the meeting showed a spike in young sardines, virtually all captured in water temperatures under about 62 degrees F, assumed to be ‘northern’ sardines.

CWPA is also conducting a nearshore acoustic survey in California this year, in cooperation with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), and has been cooperating with CDFW since 2012 in the Department’s nearshore aerial survey. “There’s a substantial body of sardines (and anchovy) in nearshore waters inshore of NOAA surveys in California. These fish need to be included in stock assessments, and we’re cooperating with the SWFSC and Department to collect the data needed,” Pleschner-Steele commented.

Another frustrating problem that California fishermen continue to face is the current scientific assumption that all sardines above 62 degrees F are assumed to be ‘southern’ stock sardines that have migrated up from Mexico. Those fish are subtracted from the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment. But for management, all catches are deducted from the ‘northern’ sardine harvest limit, regardless of water temperature. This is a big problem, particularly in summertime in southern California, when the live bait fishery is active. All California coastal pelagic (CPS) fisheries have been impacted by current sardine management policies that restrict the incidental catch of sardine to only 20 percent. This has sharply reduced landings for CPS finfish like anchovy and mackerel, because fishermen must try to find pure schools with no or few sardines. Even the squid fishery has had problems avoiding sardines.

“We strongly support the SSC’s urgent research priorities,” Diane Pleschner-Steele said. “We need to fix the problems with sardine assessments and management as soon as possible.” She added, “we are committed to conduct the research necessary to improve the sardine stock assessment. If the ‘northern’ sardine stock assessment accurately reflected the abundance of sardines reported by fishermen virtually yearlong (in water temperatures below 62 degrees F), northern sardines would not be considered ‘overfished.’”

California fishermen and processors are grateful that the Council considered the issues and uncertainties raised and combined scientific underpinning with practicality and common sense. Balance is a key mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Council and NMFS are required to consider the needs of fishing communities, not just biology, in developing rebuilding plans. The future of California’s historic wetfish industry hangs in the balance.