About the Species
U.S. wild-caught California market squid is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
The population level is unknown. The entire population replaces itself annually.
The fishing rate is unknown. Timing of fishing can promote annual replacement of the population.
Pelagic gear used to catch market squid has minimal impact on bottom habitat.
Bycatch is low because pelagic roundhaul gear is selective.
- Short- and long-term changes in the market squid population are poorly understood, so there are no reliable estimates of population.
- Squid have a short life span (6 to 9 months) and fishermen target spawning squid because they die shortly after they reproduce.
- Even without fishing, the entire population replaces itself annually. As a result, market squid populations can handle a relatively high amount of fishing pressure.
- Ensuring that fishermen capture squid that have already spawned is key to the production of the next generation and future health of the population.
- Market squid are members of the mollusk family known as cephalopods, which means foot-on-head.
- They have eight arms and two tentacles that extend from the ends of their bodies where their mouths are located.
- They have a mixed, iridescent coloration of milky white and purple, but their coloring can change in response to environmental conditions.
- Market squid are fast-growing animals with a short natural life span. They reach up to 1 foot in total length, including their arms.
- They reproduce right before they die, around the age of 1 year.
- They spawn year-round. Spawning occurs April through October in central California and October through the end of April or May in southern California.
- Spawning squid congregate in large schools near their spawning grounds, usually over sandy habitats.
- Males deposit spermatophores into females, and the eggs are fertilized as females release them. Females produce about 20 egg cases, with each case containing about 200 individual eggs.
- Females deposit eggs on sandy habitats, building large mounds of egg cases. Eggs take several days to months to hatch, depending on temperature.
- Newly hatched eggs are called “paralarvae” and resemble miniature adults.
- Juvenile market squid feed on small crustaceans. As they grow, they feed on krill, small crustaceans, small fish, and other squid.
- Market squid are a critical food source for a variety of fish (salmon, lingcod, and rockfish), seabirds, and marine mammals.
Where They Live
- Market squid are found from the tip of Baja California to southeastern Alaska, but are most abundant between Punta Eugenia in Baja California and Monterey Bay, California.
- NOAA Fisheries, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife manage the market squid fishery in California.
- In California, the California Fish and Game Commission works with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to actively manage the fishery consistent with federal fishery management guidelines and the State of California’s Market Squid Fishery Management Plan:
- Seasonal catch limits.
- Monitoring programs designed to evaluate the impact of the fishery on the resource.
- Time and seasonal closures, including weekend closures (that provide for periods of uninterrupted spawning), and limitations on using lights to attract squid around several of the Channel Islands to protect nesting seabirds.
- Permit system limits access to the fishery.
- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries also cooperatively monitor the fishery to evaluate its impact on the resource.
- In 2019, commercial landings of market squid totaled more than 32 million pounds and were valued at approximately $16.4 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. These figures may not match other agency sources of data due to confidential information.
- Purse seines and scoop nets are used to harvest market squid.
- Habitat and bycatch impacts are minimal because the gear is used at the surface around dense schools of fish, which usually contain only one species.
- Fishermen usually fish for market squid at night directly above the spawning grounds where females lay their eggs.
- Squid seiners typically work with light boats—smaller vessels with several high-powered lights pointed from various angles. The lights attract groups of spawning squid to surface waters.
- Once a group of squid comes to the surface, the light boat signals the seiner to deploy its net, encircling the light boat, in order to catch the squid located under the lights.
- California market squid are an important source of bait for the state’s recreational fishing industry.