Shortfin Squid

Illex illecebrosus

shortfin squid

Also Known As

  • Illex squid
  • Summer squid

U.S. wild-caught shortfin squid is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.


The population level is unknown. The species has a lifespan of less than one year.

Fishing Rate

At recommended level.

Habitat Impacts

Fishing gears used to harvest shortfin squid have minimal impacts on habitat.


Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Summer and fall.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Maine to North Carolina.

  • Taste

    Mild, and subtly sweet.


  • Texture

    Firm and meaty.

  • Color

    Raw squid is ivory colored with orange speckling and a brown stripe that runs down the mantle. Cooked squid is opaque white.

  • Health Benefits

    Squid are an excellent source of selenium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management



  • Commercial fishery
    • In 2019, commercial landings of shortfin squid totaled approximately 58 million pounds, and were valued at approximately $27.3 million according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database. These figures may not match other agency sources of data due to confidential information.
    • Fisheries for shortfin squid reflect the species’ seasonal migrations.
    • The majority of landings come from Rhode Island and New Jersey.
    • Harvested for bait domestically, and exported for bait and food.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • The majority of shortfin squid is harvested June 1 through October 31 using small-mesh bottom trawls. The fishery is open year round, but the squid aren’t available in commercial quantities year round.
    • Sandy or muddy habitat, where squid are fished, is less sensitive to the impacts of trawling.
    • Small-mesh bottom trawls can incidentally catch marine mammals and large pelagic species, including pilot whales, common dolphin, swordfish, and a variety of sharks, ray, and tuna species. Finfish such as butterfish, hakes, longfin squid, summer flounder, herring, spiny dogfish, and Atlantic mackerel are also incidentally caught in this fishery.
    • Measures to prevent or minimize bycatch include:
      • Fishing must occur seaward of the 50-fathom depth line to reduce finfish and longfin inshore squid bycatch.
      • Outreach to fishermen to educate them on actions to take in the event of a marine mammal interaction.
      • Real-time communication to vessels regarding hotspots of marine mammal interactions.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the latest assessment, shortfin squid is not subject to overfishing. There is currently not enough information to determine the population size, so it is unknown. Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.


  • Shortfin squid inhabits the continental shelf and slope waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, from Newfoundland to the central east coast of Florida.
  • In the northwest Atlantic Ocean, shortfin squid are most often caught along the continental shelf break in depths between 150 to 275 meters.


  • Shortfin squid live in deep and shallow waters on the continental shelf, continental slope, and open ocean depending on the season.
  • They are found in nearshore waters of the Gulf of Maine during summer and fall.
  • During spring, shortfin squid migrate onto the continental shelf, and during late fall, they migrate off the continental shelf.
  • Their egg masses float in mid-water.
  • Spawning occurs in the waters off Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Physical Description

  • Female shortfin squid range from 7 to 12 inches in mantle length, while males are 7 to 10.6 inches in mantle length.
  • They can regulate their body color, but are primarily orange-colored with a brown stripe that extends along the top side of the mantle.


  • Shortfin squid live for less than one year. They have a high natural mortality rate, and a long spawning season.
  • Females can release multiple egg masses during a single spawning season, but die after they spawn. Spawning can occur year round with seasonal peaks from October to June.
  • Shortfin squid have extremely variable birth, growth, and maturity rates. This makes them extremely sensitive to climate-driven changes. 
  • They grow about one millimeter a day.
  • Shortfin squid are visual predators that eat crustaceans, fish, and other squid, including their own species.
  • They are food for many fish, including bluefin tuna, silver hake, red hake, bluefish, goosefish, fourspot flounder, Atlantic cod, sea raven, spiny dogfish, and swordfish. Seabird predators include shearwaters, gannets, and fulmars.
  • Shortfin squid undergo daily vertical migrations between cooler deep water and warmer surface water. They are nearest the seabed during the day, and higher in the water column during the night.

Last updated: 09/30/2020