Butterfish, a depleted stock that shares the same habitat as longfin squid, is incidentally caught in the longfin squid fishery. To reduce the impact of the squid fishery on this species and help it rebuild, managers recently put a cap on the amount of butterfish that can be incidentally caught by squid fishermen. This cap is divided among the three fishing periods for squid. NOAA Fisheries monitors butterfish bycatch by placing observers on selected squid vessels when they go out to fish. If fishermen reach the cap, managers must close the squid fishery for the remainder of the fishing period.
- Gray triggerfish
- Greater amberjack
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Loligo Squid, Winter Squid, Boston Squid, Longfin Inshore Squid
U.S. wild-caught from Massachusetts to Virginia
- FISHING RATE
- HABITAT IMPACTS
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Photo credit: National Undersea Research Center – University of Connecticut.LAUNCH GALLERY
Harvested for bait since the late 1800s, longfin squid are now harvested for their mild, sweet meat and support an important fishery on the East Coast. The majority of the world’s catch of longfin squid comes from the waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean, and U.S. fisheries supply the majority of longfin squid in both domestic and foreign markets.
Longfin squid are sensitive to changing environmental conditions, especially in terms of growth and development. For example, longfin squid hatched in the summer grow faster than those hatched in the winter, which can cause great fluctuations in their abundance from year to year. Scientists monitor squid abundance annually and provide the latest estimates to managers. If there are significant fluctuations in abundance, managers can adjust the amount of squid that fishermen are allowed to harvest in the next season.
Longfin squid also grow fast and have a short natural life span—they reproduce right before they die, at 6 to 8 months old. Even without fishing, the entire population replaces itself every 6 months or so. As a result, longfin squid can handle relatively high fishing pressure. However, it’s important to keep harvests at a level that leave enough squid to spawn because successful reproduction and survival are necessary to ensure the future abundance of the resource and sustainable operation of the fishery. Heavily fished by foreign fleets operating in U.S. waters in the late 1960s through the early 1980s, today longfin squid can only be fished by permitted domestic vessels. Regulations limit the amount of squid that can be harvested each year, and this catch quota is divided in three periods throughout the fishing year. Spacing the allowed harvest throughout the year ensures fishing pressure isn’t concentrated too heavily at one time and allows the fishery to operate year-round.
LOCATION & HABITAT
Longfin squid is found from Newfoundland to the Gulf of Venezuela. In the northwest Atlantic Ocean, longfin squid are most abundant between Georges Bank and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Squid eggs are attached to rocks and small boulders or aquatic vegetation on sandy or muddy bottoms. Larvae are found in surface waters. Juveniles also live in the upper water column in water 165 to 1,650 feet deep. Adults live over mud or sand/mud substrates of the continental shelf and upper continental slope in waters up to 1,300 feet deep. Adults and juveniles migrate vertically during the day—they’re found near the seabed during day and move up into the water column at night. North of Cape Hatteras, squid also migrate seasonally—offshore during late autumn to spend the winter in warmer waters along the shelf edge and slope, and back inshore during the spring where they remain until late autumn.
Longfin squid grow fast, up to 1.6 feet mantle length (large part of the squid in front of the head), but usually less than 1 foot. Longfin have a short life span—they reproduce right before they die, at around 6 to 8 months old. They spawn year-round, with peak production in winter and summer. When they mate, the male cements bundles of spermatophores into the mantle cavity of the female and/or deposits them in a pouch located near her mouth. The spermatophores penetrate the egg capsules, which contain about 150 to 200 eggs each, as the female releases them. Females can also store sperm for later use. The female lays the fertilized egg capsules on the ocean bottom in clusters 1.6 to 2 feet wide. The clusters can contain hundreds of capsules. Each female lays 20 to 30 capsules, and females typically spawn an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 eggs. Eggs hatch between 11 and 26 days later, depending on water temperature. Longfin squid die after they spawn.
Small immature longfin squid feed on plankton; larger squid feed on crustaceans and small fish. Squid are aggressive hunters and can consume fish larger than they are. A school of squid can decimate an entire school of herring, leaving only heads and tails in their wake. Squid are also cannibalistic.
Longfin squid are an important part of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean ecosystem. They are a key prey species for a variety of marine mammals, diving birds, and finfish species.
Squids are part of the Mollusca phylum, along with species such as clams, oysters, and octopi. Most mollusks are protected by an outer shell, but squids have an internal shell called a “pen.” Longfin squid are pink or orange and mottled with brown or purple. Although they are likely color blind, they are able to use special pigment cells in their skin known as chromatophores to change their color and patterns to escape predators or disguise themselves from prey. Their fins are long, at least half the length of the mantle. The head has large eyes that are covered by a cornea.
NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center researchers conduct bottom trawl surveys every year during the fall and spring between the Gulf of Maine and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to assess the abundance of longfin squid and other species.
Like most squid, longfin squid have a short lifespan and die after they spawn. They’re sensitive to changing environmental conditions and their abundance is highly variable year to year. These characteristics present some unique challenges to assessing the status of the stock, and most traditional assessment approaches used for finfish species have not been successfully applied to squid stocks.
According to the latest assessment (2011), scientists estimate longfin squid is currently above target population levels. There is currently no basis for determining the overfishing status for longfin squid. Scientists have not determined the overfishing limit, so there is no reference point to compare with current fishing rates. Squid grow fast and have a short natural life span—they reproduce right before they die, at 6 to 8 months old. Even without fishing, the entire population replaces itself every 6 months or so. As a result, longfin squid can handle relatively high fishing pressure.
The squid fishery management plan allows managers to set aside a small percentage of the annual catch for research. Proceeds from the sale of this set-aside catch are used to fund research on the longfin squid resource and fishery. This research set-aside program encourages cooperative research between commercial fishing vessels and researchers to further the understanding of our nation’s fisheries.
Harvesting longfin squid
Fisheries for longfin squid reflect the species’ seasonal migrations. They’re harvested inshore during the spring through early fall and offshore the rest of the year. Scientists have found that squid caught in the offshore, winter fishery (October–March) were hatched about 6 months prior during the previous summer, and squid caught in the inshore, summer fishery (April–September) were hatched about 6 months prior during the previous winter.
Small-mesh bottom trawlers harvest squid throughout the year. Fishermen also occasionally use pound nets and fish traps during spring and summer when the squid migrate inshore to spawn.
While the squid’s sandy or muddy habitat is not very sensitive to impacts of trawling, small-mesh bottom trawlers can incidentally catch marine mammals and large pelagic species, including pilot whales, common dolphin, swordfish, and a variety of shark, ray, and tuna species. Finfish such as butterfish, hakes, Illex squid, fluke, herring, spiny dogfish, and Atlantic mackerel are also incidentally caught in this fishery. Fishermen follow a number of regulations to minimize bycatch. The mesh on their trawl nets must be larger than a specified size to reduce bycatch of other species. There is also a cap on the amount of butterfish they can incidentally catch to help rebuild the butterfish resource. Efforts to reduce marine mammal bycatch include outreach to educate fisherman about actions to take in the event of a marine mammal interaction, and real-time communication to fishermen regarding hotspots of marine mammal interactions.
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
Current management: Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan:
- An annual coastwide catch quota is used to manage squid fishing fleets. The annual quota is divided into trimester allocations spaced throughout the fishing year. Managers can adjust the quota annually, or can set the quota for up to 3 years.
- Limited access permit program—only qualifying squid vessels can fish for unlimited amounts of longfin squid while the fishery is open. Vessels that do not qualify for limited access permits can be issued an incidental catch permit, which has a lower possession limit.
- The mesh on trawl nets must be larger than a specified size to decrease bycatch of other species.
- Managers recently established a cap on the amount of butterfish that can be incidentally caught in the longfin squid fishery to help rebuild the butterfish stock.
Harvests are highest in the offshore winter fishery and lowest in the inshore summer fishery. Commercial harvests totaled more than 28.1 million pounds in 2012, with the majority landed in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
The majority of the world’s catch of longfin squid comes from the waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean, and U.S. fisheries supply the majority of longfin squid in both domestic and foreign markets. The 2012 commercial harvest was valued at more than $31.1 million.
Squid tastes mild and slightly sweet. Raw squid is ivory covered with a speckled membrane; cooked squid is opaque white and firm. Edible parts of the squid include the arms (tentacles), the mantle (tube) and the fins (wings). The membrane that covers the squid may be removed before cooking. (Seafood Business, 2011)
Squid are an excellent source of selenium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
|Serving Weight||100 g|
|Fat, total||1.38 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||0.358 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
Longfin Squid Table of Nutrition