CALIFORNIA MARKET SQUID+ Larger Font | + Smaller Font

One of the oldest fisheries in California, the market squid fishery began in Monterey Bay in 1863. Chinese fishermen rowed the bay at night in skiffs, with a blazing torch mounted in the bow to attract the squid. Accompanying skiffs set a small purse seine around the congregated squid and pulled net by hand. The catch was dried in nearby fields and exported chiefly to China.

The market squid is smaller than many other squid species, reaching a length of 12 inches, including its eight arms and two feeding tentacles. Market squid have a short life span, perhaps one year or less. Squid die after spawning.

The market squid harvest fluctuates widely due to natural cycles, such as El Niño events. The fishery also fluctuates depending on international market forces. Typical of short-lived, highly fecund species, the market squid resource appears to recover fully in a relatively short time period. Consequently, squid may be harvested more intensively than longer-lived marine species. Even so, federal regulations established a precautionary 30 percent egg escapement in the fishery, and the State’s Market Squid Fishery Management Plan implemented weekend closures and other harvest restrictions, including marine reserves where harvest is prohibited. The squid FMP also enacted a limited entry plan, reducing the squid fleet from 164 purse seine vessels to 77 transferable permits.

During the 1990s, market squid ranked as the largest commercial fishery by volume in six years of the decade (1993-2000, excluding 1998), and in four of those years (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000) ranked as the state’s most valuable fishery resource. Among US exports of edible fishery products in 1999, market squid ranked 6th by volume and 16th by value, higher than any other commercial fishery in California. Squid has continued as California’s most valuable fishery in the 21st century (in non-El Niño years). In 2005, market squid landings exceeded 122 million pounds, with a dockside value of more than $31 million.

Between 1989-2000, California market squid contributed about 66 to 75 percent of the value of total California exports in the wetfish industry (except for El Niño years, e.g. 1997-98). Squid again contributed more than two thirds of the total value of California wetfish exports in 2005.

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Representing California's Historic Fishery
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P.O. Box 1951, Buellton, Ca. 93427
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