Showing posts tagged as "Monterey Bay"
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
What’s going on? Learn what’s behind the amazing whale and wildlife show we’ve been seeing in Monterey Bay, in our latest podcast!
Wait for it, wait for it…watch to the end of this amazing video and you’ll see a pod of orcas going after a blue whale—a rarely seen interaction, courtesy of Daniel Bianchetta, Monterey Bay Whale Watch, and Pete Thomas Outdoors.
Have you seen them? A pod of Risso’s dolphins has been circulating in the bay this week. In this amazing photo from Giancarlo Thomae, a mother pushes a newborn to the surface to take a breath.
Could this be the loneliest humpback? Our expert whale spotters are still seeing a solitary humpback whale circulating in the bay, while most of its brethren have moved through, heading south to their winter calving grounds!
(Dan Albro photo)
Gray whale traffic jam? It’s a nice problem to have! Our expert spotters say it’s that special time of year when the first gray whales are returning from their southern calving grounds, heading north; while others are still heading south. Thankfully, no collisions reported!
(Laura Francis NOAA)
We like to say that our best exhibit is actually right off our decks: Monterey Bay! And this has never been more true than today—we have reports of gray whales and a mom and pup sea otter pair visible with binoculars.
Thank you Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!
How does a harbor seal scratch an itchy back? This one found a way, as you can see in this great video from Aquarium volunteer and Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary researcher Chad King.
A sun-worshipping whale in the bay? Hope you are greeting the weekend with equal enthusiasm! Thanks to Giancarlo Thomae at Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watching.
When is a whale like a mountain? When you’re in a kayak! The bay is still teeming with humpbacks. Have you been out to see them? Thanks to Sue Adams and kayaker Cameron Logan for the great shot.