Based on landings information and projections, DFG biologists expect that by December 17, the season’s harvest limit of 118,000 short tons of market squid will be reached. The squid fishing season runs from April through the following March of each year, meaning the fishery will remain closed through March 31, 2011. This is the first time that the harvest limit has been reached since it was implemented by the Fish and Game Commission in 2002.
“We have had a banner year for market squid this year” said Dale Sweetnam, a DFG senior marine biologist who oversees the commercial market squid fishery. “In California, we have had squid landings from La Jolla to Half Moon Bay and reports that market squid are abundant off many of the offshore banks, the Channel Islands, as well as off Baja California. The colder than normal water conditions we have observed since February have provided optimal conditions for squid spawning.”
The presence of market squid is strongly correlated with environmental factors, such as water temperature and nutrient availability. In warm water years and during El Niño conditions, squid become scarce and landings decline. However, when water temperatures cool, even after severe warm water events, market squid numbers can rebound quickly and dramatically.
DFG, with assistance from squid fishermen and seafood processors, has been tracking catches daily this fall in anticipation of reaching the harvest limit, which was established to ensure the squid fishery does not expand beyond levels experienced in the 1990s. “The wetfish industry and California Wetfish Producers Association are very pleased to partner with DFG to ensure a sustainable market squid resource and fishery,” said California Wetfish Producers Association Executive Director Diane Pleschner-Steele.
Market squid is by far California’s largest and most valuable commercial fishery. In 2009, just over 100,000 tons was landed with an ex-vessel value of $56.5 million. California market squid is used domestically for food – often identified as “calamari” in restaurants – and is an important international commodity. Last year, California fish businesses exported market squid to 36 countries with China being the leading importer of California market squid.
The harvest limit is one of many provisions governing the squid fishery, which has been managed under the state’s Market Squid Fishery Management Plan (MSFMP) since 2005. The goals of the MSFMP are to ensure long term conservation and sustainability of the market squid resource, reduce the potential for overfishing and provide a framework for management. In addition to the harvest limit, weekend closures were implemented to allow for periods of uninterrupted spawning each week.
The MSFMP was developed under the provisions set forth by California’s Marine Life Management Act (MLMA), which became law in 1999. The MLMA created state policies, goals and objectives to govern the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of California’s living marine resources such as squid.