Market squid swim backwards by pumping water through valves near their heads.
Established in 1863, California’s market squid fishery expanded rapidly during the 1980s when international demand for squid increased due to declining squid fisheries in other parts of the world. Today, the fishery supplies the majority of market squid on the global market.
California’s market squid fishery is unique for several reasons. 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.
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, but ensuring that fishermen capture squid that have already spawned is key to the production of the next generation and future health of the population.