The market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) fishery is the economic driver of California’s historic wetfish industry, which relies on a group of coastal pelagic species (CPS) including sardines, mackerels and anchovy as well as squid. In turn, the CPS complex produces more than 80 percent of commercial seafood landings statewide, and represents close to 40 percent of statewide dockside (ex-vessel) value. See CDFW Table 15, Pounds and Ex-vessel Dollars by Area, for individual years by clicking on this link, then click on the individual year and scroll down to Table 15.  This landings page also includes preliminary landings data from individual ports.

California’s wetfish industry has been actively involved in research since the beginning of the California Cooperative Fishery Investigations (CalCOFI) in the late 1940s. The nonprofit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) continues the tradition as a research partner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC).

Recognizing the importance of market squid to both the ecosystem and California’s fishing economy, CWPA implemented a field research program for market squid in 2005 in southern California (where on average 80 percent of landings occur), after sponsoring a workshop including state and federal fishery scientists and fishermen in 2004. The National Marine Fisheries Service provided the initial grant to develop our squid research protocol, based on research recommendations from the workshop. CWPA continued funding the program after the grant and our collaborative research continues to evolve, now focusing primarily on assessing squid paralarvae occurrence and abundance in relationship to environmental factors through seasonal bongo net tows near known squid spawning grounds.

CWPA’s squid scientist Joel VanNoord now directs our research program, as we continue to collect data following the CalCOFI quarterly cruise schedule. CWPA expanded and standardized our survey area in 2011 and again in 2014, and now sample squid paralarvae in bongo net tows at 45 sites in the Southern California Bight and Monterey Bay (Fig #1).

(Fig. 1 Station map indicating the approximately 43 California sampling stations in the collaborative CWPA & SWFSC squid research program. The coastwide network of marine protected areas is displayed by shades of green. Pink circles indicate bongo stations to sample squid paralarvae, red symbols indicate stations where bongo tows and water chemistry samples are aquired.)

CWPA’s squid studies encompassed the recent market squid population ‘boom’ during strong La Niña conditions 2010-2013. The following update summarizes preliminary findings.


Mature market squid aggregate in massive schools over nearshore, sandy substrate in order to spawn. Females extrude egg capsules through their siphon, inserting 50 to 300 embryos in each, and anchor these egg capsules to the seafloor (Zeidberg et al. 2011). These egg mops often cover large swaths of sandy bottom. Squid die within days of spawning (Macewicz et al. 2004), while the embyros continue developing, typically over four to six weeks, depending on ocean conditions, and eventually hatch as paralarvae.

Screenshot from a video taken in Monterey Bay, August 2014 showing a sandy substrate and egg mops of various maturity. White eggs are recently laid, while opaque eggs are closer to maturation.

CWPA’s research protocol continued the studies initiated by Dr. Lou Zeidberg under contract to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Dr. Zeidberg theorized that a Paralarvae Density Index could be developed to predict the strength of squid abundance [and the fishery] six to nine months after the field surveys. CWPA expanded and standardized the survey area in 2011, and again in 2014, when a small contract from the SWFSC enabled CWPA to extend our quarterly field surveys into the Monterey Bay area, California’s historic squid fishing grounds.

The fishery for California market squid is frequently the largest and most valuable fishery in the State of California, yielding an ex-vessel value as high as $ 74.2 million in 2010 (CDFW Table 15). As terminal spawners living less than one year, market squid populations are capable of tremendous variability in abundance. Landings flucuate as much as 95,000 MT from one calender year to the next.(Fig. 2).


Download a copy of this 2014 Squid Research Update (includes references to Literature cited)