The Squid Are In!

By Jim Covel, Director of Guest Experience

When we say “the squid are in,” we could be talking about the Aquarium’s new special exhibition, Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes. However, at this time of the year we’re talking about the annual spawning run of market squid in Monterey Bay. 

Many a night in the past month I’ve awoken to an eerie green glow in my bedroom window, emanating from the bay. This isn’t an alien sighting, but it could be described as a visitation from a bygone era. The green light is used by squid fishers to lure these cagey cephalopods near the surface where they can be more easily caught. Large purse seiner boats quickly encircle the concentrated schools and haul them aboard by the ton. Market squid is the largest commercial fishery in Monterey Bay, with the catch running into thousands of tons in a good year—and by all accounts 2014 is turning out to be a great squid year in Monterey Bay.

Part of our history

The squid fishery is a remnant of Monterey’s past. Chinese fishers came to Monterey in the 1850s and are credited with starting commercial fishing in the bay, including squid. They developed the technique of fishing at night, with a fire burning in a wire basket suspended over the gunwhale of a sampan boat.  Squid would rise to the light and were easily dipped out with a net. In those days the squid were salted and dried for shipment to Asia.

Today the process is largely the same, although the scale has increased dramatically. Specialized electric lights that emit a green light have replaced the flame in a basket. The sampans are long gone and today there are large purse seiners that can land as much as 40 tons of squid in a few hours. Much of our Monterey squid still goes to China to be processed, as well as Taiwan or India. That squid is consumed in Asia or shipped around the world—including the United States. So even when you’re eating market squid caught in California, odds are that it has traveled across the Pacific for processing.

That’s a lot of squid

The statewide limit is 118,000 short tons, set by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. After the season starts April 1, squid landings are reported every week. (The total through June 6 was 7,323 short tons.) When the total for all landings reach the limit, the fishery is closed for that year. Some years that limit is never reached; in other years the total may be reached in six to eight months. In order to give the squid (and fishers) a break, there is no commercial squid fishing from noon Friday through noon Sunday. On average, the squid fishery earns over $70 million per year in California. 

Right now the Aquarium feels like “squid central.” From the deck we can watch over a dozen purse seiners fishing for squid next to the Monterey and Pacific Grove. Inside, we can watch the amazing behaviors of several species of live squid on display in Tentacles exhibit. And if that isn’t enough, Cindy’s Waterfront Restaurant at the Aquarium serves some very tasty calamari!

Read our Seafood Watch recommendation for market squid

Buy tickets now or later? Visit at 10 a.m. or 4 p.m.? Get insider tips for the perfect summer visit in our latest podcast! 

We’re Building a new Ocean Education and Leadership Center for California’s Schoolchildren and Teachers!

Each year, more than 75,000 schoolchildren and teachers take part in our array of free school programs. We’ve always known we can do far more in reaching and teaching students and educators about the oceans, given the right space. On Monday, we became the new owners of two connecting buildings located at 585 and 625 Cannery Row, a short walk from the Aquarium. One is destined to become our state-of-the-art, K-12 Ocean Education and Leadership Center.

Reaching teens and teachers

So what will the new center do? It will mainly offer innovative and highly interactive education programs for teens and teachers—programs that will take advantage of the most appropriate, cutting-edge learning technology.

The Aquarium’s role in science education has become increasingly important at a time when the capacity to deliver 21st century science learning is on the decline in schools. “We have a crisis in science and environmental education right now,” Executive Director Julie Packard points out. “Society’s success will depend on today’s young people having the knowledge, skills and motivation to create solutions to very complex problems.”

The new Ocean Education and Leadership Center will make a significant contribution to science education throughout the state of California. It will allow for some increase in the number of students who can attend an Aquarium education program, and a much deeper impact on many that do. The new 13,000 square-foot center will also allow the Aquarium to better meet California’s Next Generation of Science Standards, while doubling the yearly number of science teachers who take part in our teacher institutes to more than 1,200.

Turning the center from a concept to a reality will depend on a $50 million fundraising campaign that supports our Children’s Education Fund. To date, the campaign has raised $20 million toward that goal.

Center highlights

  • Four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning labs, each large enough to accommodate for 40 students
  • A large multi-use space for workshops and video teleconferences
  • A new pre-Aquarium orientation space for visiting school groups
  • Storage and supply rooms, including for new technology
  • A rainy-day lunch space for school groups
  • Offices for 35 education staff
  • Collaborative meeting spaces for staff, teachers and youth
  • A convenient, safe parking lot dedicated to schoolbus pick-up and drop-off

The new Ocean Education and Leadership Center is expected to open at the start of the school year in fall 2016.

Learn more about our education programs

Help make our Ocean Education and Leadership Center a reality

Bet you didn’t see that coming! Watch these clever cephalopods capture prey in less time than it takes to say “tentacle.”

Learn more about our Tentacles special exhibition

"We’re all equal in the Great Tide Pool." In our Days of Discovery program, kids with disabilities learn scuba and explore the underwater world right off our decks! We offer this free program with Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network.

(Photos: Patrick Webster)

Now that’s moody! Watch this day octopus change color three times in 30 seconds.

Learn more about this amazing animal

Happy #FathersDay! Did you know that in the seahorse family, fathers are tasked with carrying young? These zebrasnout seahorses are currently on display on our Splash Zone!

Happy #FathersDay! Did you know that in the seahorse family, fathers are tasked with carrying young? 

These zebrasnout seahorses are currently on display on our Splash Zone!

Did you know that we help rescue and rehabilitate threatened snowy plovers? Birds in distress and eggs that have been abandoned are often brought to the Aquarium. We’ve taken in more this year than ever before: in excess of 20 eggs, and numerous chicks. We’ve already successfully released several in the Monterey Bay area! Learn more in our latest video podcast.

Want to help our oceans? Follow the lead of these students! Young innovators presented year-long projects to reduce plastic use at the Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit at the Aquarium in May. Partnering with NOAA, the Aquarium helps educators develop action-based classroom lessons about marine debris.

Students made an impact in their schools, with results like:

  • 90 percent reduction in classroom water bottle waste
  • 3,000 reusable grocery bags distributed
  • 21,000 single-use plastic water bottles saved from landfills

Learn more about this program

Learn how plastic pollution hurts ocean birds—and how you can help!

The High Cost of a Mother’s Love
How much energy does it take a mother sea otter to care for her pup? Quite a lot, it turns out. So much, that the effort of being a mom can put her own life at risk.
That’s the conclusion of a long-term research study just published by scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz; and the Aquarium. It’s based on extensive observations of tagged sea otters in the wild, and others we rescued and raised through our Sea Otter Research and Conservation program.
It’s another vital piece of information about the lives of sea otters—data that’s critical to the recovery of California’s threatened sea otter population.
Learn more about the latest sea otter research.
Learn how you can support our sea otter work.

The High Cost of a Mother’s Love

How much energy does it take a mother sea otter to care for her pup? Quite a lot, it turns out. So much, that the effort of being a mom can put her own life at risk.

That’s the conclusion of a long-term research study just published by scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz; and the Aquarium. It’s based on extensive observations of tagged sea otters in the wild, and others we rescued and raised through our Sea Otter Research and Conservation program.

It’s another vital piece of information about the lives of sea otters—data that’s critical to the recovery of California’s threatened sea otter population.

Learn more about the latest sea otter research.

Learn how you can support our sea otter work.

About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.