And fishermen thought spiny dogfish were bad… From mbari.org.
Humboldt squid (Docidicus gigas) are undoubtedly badass animals. Growing up to 6 feet long, capable of living in virtually oxygen-free water, and occasionally cooperating to drag divers to their doom, this species doesn’t even need any hyperbole to star in its own SyFy Original. I’d even consider these velociraptors of the sea more impressive than the giant and colossal squids, despite the fact that they’re “merely” the third largest squid species. Why? Unlike the other cephalopod heavyweights, Humboldts occur in huge numbers, and they’re spreading.
It’s been old news for a while that the range of the Humboldt squid is growing. Formerly confined to the Sea of Cortez and immediately surrounding areas, this beast now swarms all the way up the U.S. west coast, from southern California to Oregon, and has even started making appearances off of Alaska. The reasons behind this sudden explosion of killer squid are still being investigated, but evidence points to a combination of predatory release and global climate change. Large sharks are among the few predators that can take down an individual Humboldt, and have been overfished in the Pacific for decades. The increased numbers of squid are finding rich feeding grounds in areas outside their range, which have been made available by rising sea temperatures. As a result Humboldt squid have joined the rising number of species moving north to Alaska.
I’ve been thinking about squid today because of this post on Underwater Thrills, which poses a real problem for the fisheries of the northwest. Researcher Scott Cassell has found that Humboldt squid are just as fond of salmon as we are, and just as voracious. In fact, squid that had never been exposed to salmon still gladly ate them when presented the fish in an experiment designed to simulate (as closely as possible) a “natural” encounter between squid and salmon. The results lead Cassell to some conclusions that are a little alarmist for my taste but still get the point across: we’ve screwed up the oceans, the squid are loving it, and they may eat all of our fish before we get a chance to. Which leads to my favorite quote of the entire post:
We must stop eating tuna.
We must stop eating sharks.
We must stop eating krill.
We need to eat Dosidicus gigas at an unprecedented rate.
Not only is this an impassioned plea to re-think our fishing practices, it’s also an invitation to eat something that I’ve always wanted to try. See, I love calamari, and Humbolt must be like calamari steaks.
Eat Humboldt squid. The salmon are counting on you!