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: https://montereybayfisheriestrust.org/

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