Humboldt, or Jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas)

Jumbo squid wash up on Southern California beaches
Thursday, January 20, 2005 Posted: 8:17 AM EST (1317 GMT)

Hundreds of squid washed up along Newport Beach, California.

NEWPORT BEACH, California (AP) -- Hundreds of giant squid are washing up on Orange County beaches, creating a scene more akin to "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" than "The O.C."

The bug-eyed sea creatures, believed to be Humboldt squid, normally reside in deep water and only come to the surface at night. Why approximately 500 of them began washing up on the sands of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach on Tuesday isn't clear.

Authorities said the squid -- the biggest weighing 17 pounds -- might have been pursuing bait fish and gotten too close to shore, or the tides might simply have carried them in.

"I have heard of this happening before, but it's not a common occurrence," lifeguard Capt. Eric Bauer of the Newport Beach Fire Department said Wednesday.

Authorities plan to remove the squid in the next couple of days and will give at least a couple to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for research.

In the meantime, beachgoers were advised not to eat or even touch them. "They probably have bacteria on them at this point," Bauer said

Sunday, October 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Notebook: Humboldt squid make rare appearance here
By Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times staff reporter

George Pepper of Lynnwood holds a giant Humboldt squid he caught off La Push this month while salmon fishing.

A rarely seen school of jumbo-sized squid has been lurking off the Pacific Northwest coast.

The mysterious Humboldt squid, unlike their tiny cousins who flood into Elliott Bay every winter, have appeared in sport-fishing catches this summer from Ilwaco to Vancouver Island.

"It is really a fluke thing to see them, and it's the first time I know of in about 40 years that they've been seen off the coast," said Greg Bargmann, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "They are typically found off Mexico and southern California, and rarely come up as far as southern Oregon."

The strong and voracious squid are named for their habitat in the warm Humboldt current along the South American coast. They have of diet of small fish like anchovies, herring, sardines and even salmon, and are also known to prey on their own.

Bargmann said most being found along Washington's coast weighed 5 to 15 pounds, and he has heard word of a 20-pounder. Some caught off the Mexican and South American coast have weighed in excess of 80 pounds.

"They started showing up in late August about 30 miles offshore mixed in with schools of albacore, and the water out there was 67 degrees and some say they could have come up north with a cell of warm water," Bargmann said.

The giant squids then started moving closer into the coastal shorelines in early September, and sport anglers were hooking them off the docks at Westport, and some were showing up dead on beaches.

"They have disappeared lately though, and the ones we've seen in the shallow (water areas) have been lethargic," Bargmann said.

During the La Push Last Chance Fishing Derby held Oct. 2-3, George Pepper of Lynnwood had a hands-on encounter with a giant Humboldt. While fishing just south of La Push on northern Olympic coast near the Rock Needles in about 100 feet of water, Pepper hooked what he thought was the trophy king salmon of a lifetime.

"I thought I got my trophy salmon when it took my herring," Pepper said. "You can't believe how strong it fights, and it almost spooled all my line."

In fact, Pepper and another fishing companion had hooked two Humboldt squids at the same time.

This summer, state Fish and Wildlife enacted a new ruling that allows anglers to keep one single squid daily in excess of 10 pounds in all marine waters or, as before, 10 pounds (or five quarts) of smaller squid in the round.

By James A. Cosgrove(1) and Kelly A. Sendall(2)

This account details the influx of large numbers (Muldoon, 2004) of D. gigas into the waters of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. The account also provides data on four specimens deposited with the Royal British Columbia Museum. These specimens represent the first documented occurrence of D. gigas in the near shore waters of British Columbia.

Dosidicus gigas (Orbigny, 1835) commonly known as the Humboldt squid or jumbo flying squid has a range extending from 35° N (California) south to Tierra del Fuego in South America (Norman, 2000; Roper et. al., 1984). It has been documented as far north as Oregon (Hochberg, pers. comm.) and extends west into the central Pacific but has not been documented near shore north of Oregon. In late August of 2004, albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) fishers off the coast of Washington State reported catching unknown squids on the surface and that the school of squid were interspersed with the school of tuna (Anderson, pers. comm. from Bargmann). The squids were found 48 to 160 km (30 to 100 miles) from shore and were caught on both bait and jig. The squids were reported to be strong fighters between 1 and 1.5 m (3 to 5 ft) in length. At one site off Westport, Washington the squids were found in water of 19° C (67° F).

At approximately the same time, a Canadian boat fishing for albacore tuna off the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait on the border between Washington State and British Columbia also encountered D. gigas squids. T. Kallstrom (pers. comm.) reported that some evenings for 3 to 4 weeks from late July to mid-August his vessel encountered large numbers of live squids and that there were as many as several hundred lying on the surface. Mr. Kallstrom also reported catching a pacific yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) and a bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), both of which are not common in British Columbia. Mr. Kallstom’s identifications are supported by videotape. One evening at approximately 2200 PDT Mr. Kallstrom was sport fishing in 62 ft (~ 19 m) of water using a squid jig. He hooked and landed a D. gigas estimated at 1 to 1.5 m in total length and weighing approximately 7 kg. The squid was videotaped and then butchered and eaten by the crew of the KAL-ANNE.

Researchers Shed Light on Mysterious Jumbo Squid

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News

July 18, 2003
Ultimate Explorer: Devils of the Deep
Sunday, July 20, 2003 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MSNBC

Elusive and cannibalistic, the Humboldt, or jumbo, squid (Dosidicus gigas) has a reputation so fearsome that it has earned the nickname "red devil." But to William Gilly, a biology professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, the mysterious squid, which can reach six feet (1.8 meters) long, is a beautiful sea creature that provides important ecological clues.

Gilly has studied the behavior and biology of the Humboldt squid for more than two decades, tagging them in the Gulf of California as part of a larger study of their movements in the Pacific Ocean.

"This species is an important part of the ecosystems, both as a major predator and prey for even larger pelagic predators such as sperm whales," said Gilly.

"It's also the target of major commercial fisheries, not only in the Gulf but also off Central and South America. With so much unknown about the biology of this squid, it is impossible to intelligently manage such fisheries."

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer television correspondent Mireya Mayor recently followed Gilly and cameraman Bob Cranston on one of their expeditions to Guaymas, Mexico, for the documentary Devils of the Deep, which airs this Sunday on MSNBC.

Tearing Through Flesh

Known as aggressive predators, Humboldt squid have powerful arms and tentacles, excellent underwater vision and a razor-sharp beak that easily tears through the flesh of their prey. They can also rapidly change their skin color in what appears to be a complex communication system.

"I was impressed by their sheer size," said Mayor. "They're absolutely beautiful. When they light up and change colors, it's like a spectacular underwater light show."

The color-changing behavior is controlled by the squid's brain and provides visual signals, but the purpose of those signals is still unknown. Indeed the creatures' habits are mostly a mystery to scientists.

Humboldt squid don't survive more than a few days in captivity, and studying their behavior in the field is hard without interfering with them.

"We know so little because they spend 95 percent of their lives at depths well beyond those safely observed with scuba," said Gilly. "We don't know where they spawn, and their eggs have never been found in the wild."

The squid are believed to live at depths of 660 to 2,300 feet (200 to 700 meters). They may be elusive in some parts, but they're not rare. Gilly estimates that 10 million squid may be living in a 25-square-mile (65-square-kilometer) area outside Santa Rosalia, Mexico.

"There is probably an almost unimaginable number of Humboldt squid if you consider their entire range—Chile to California and over halfway to Hawaii on the Equator," he said.

Japanese Delicacies

Every night, hundreds of Mexican fishermen head out to the rough seas in pangas, small skiffs, to fish for jumbo squid. It's no easy task. The catch is heavy, and every squid must be caught on a hand line.

But the harvest is lucrative. Humboldt squid are considered a delicacy in Japan. Each boat, manned by two or three fisherman, typically brings back a metric ton (2,200 pounds) of squid every night.

Scientists believe the Humboldt squid, like most predators, focus their diet on the most easily captured prey, in their case lantern fish and sardines. In turn, the squid is preyed upon by large fish such as marlin and swordfish, and it's a main staple of sperm whales.

The jumbo squid are also known to eat each other, at least when one squid is impaired on a fishing line. Such cannibalistic behavior has fueled the squid's reputation as a bloodthirsty sea creature.

Many fishermen are terrified of the squid. There are numerous stories floating around of fishermen falling overboard and being dragged down by jumbo squid.

During the filming of Devils of the Deep, cameraman Bob Cranston found himself entangled in several squid. The incident luckily ended without injuries, and provided for some extraordinary footage.

Gilly says the squid's ruthless reputation is unwarranted.

"I've been snorkeling with them at night in just shorts and T-shirt," he said. "The squid would swim up to the surface, reach out with their arms and gently touch my extended hand. To meet them like this and shake hands was truly amazing, like meeting an extraterrestrial being."

Tag and Recapture

A greater knowledge of the Humboldt squid may bring economic benefits. The entire economy of fishing towns like Santa Rosalia depends on squid, with fishing and packing operations providing local jobs.

"This issue of commercial relevance has international as well as local implications," said Gilly. "Where do the squid that are being caught in the Gulf spawn? Are there more than one breeding population? We don't know, and such questions underlie some thorny issues in other fisheries—such as salmon or tuna."

From his tag-and-recapture studies, Gilly has learned that the squid carry out a seasonal migration of more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) across the Gulf of California, between Santa Rosalia on the Baja peninsula and Guaymas on the Mexican mainland. They spend the day about 800 feet (250 meters) deep, rising at dusk toward the surface where they feed at night.

"We don't know what they are doing during the day," said Gilly. "This is especially interesting because the water at these depths in the Gulf has almost no dissolved oxygen in it. From what we know about squid respiratory physiology, they should not be able to survive the conditions there."

Scientists also don't know why the squid inhabits an area for some time, then disappears only to emerge somewhere else in huge numbers. Some experts believe that ocean-going squid like the Humboldt are increasing in numbers as fin-fish populations around the world decline.

Like other scientists, Gilly believes we have only skimmed the surface of what the oceans really hold, and that many other sea creatures are still waiting to be found.

"Many of the so-called discovered species are so mysterious that they are little more than exotic Latin names," he said.

Can you find these parts on the specimen in the tank?


Point Reyes Light- October 1, 1998

Enigmatic squid captured alive north of Point Reyes

By Stephen Barrett

A Humboldt squid, one of the ocean's most enigmatic creatures, was captured alive this week by a Bodega Bay fisherman and taken for observation at Bodega Marine Lab, where it appears to be struggling for survival.

The powerful, 25-pound squid is among the first healthy specimens to be taken into captivity. It has been feeding since its capture on Monday, but it appears to be withering in the tank, said Will Borgeson at the marine laboratory.

With commercial fishermen recently catching jumbo squids for seafood, the live capture was arranged by John Grissim of Point Reyes Station, publisher of the journal Marine Watch. Grissim undertook the project on behalf of Dr. Clyde Roper of the Smithsonian Institution.

Named for its habitat in the Humboldt current along the South American coast, the jumbo squid began appearing off the northern California coast last winter, Borgeson of the Marine Lab said.

Usually off South America

"They're typical of South America, and it's just the El Niño conditions that won't seem to go away that brought them up here," he said. "Prior to last fall, the Channel Islands were the most northern sighting."

On Monday, skipper Jim Hie found a shoal of squid about 20 miles offshore and with a jig line snagged a 20 pounder swimming about 500 feet below the surface, Grissim said. While pulling that squid to the surface, a second one rose up and attacked it.

Unharmed by fishermen's hooks and unexhausted from any fight, the second squid was landed with a net and tossed into the live bait well of Hie's 28-foot sportfishing boat. It was met onshore by Grissim and biologists from the Bodega Marine lab.

Among the peculiarities of the species are its tremendous central nervous system, which gives it acute control over its 10 muscular tentacles and the ability to change colors instantaneously or produce dazzling patterns on its skin.

Whether the squid uses those colors for camouflage or to communicate with other members of its shoal remains a mystery, Grissim said.

Aggressive feeders

Despite their social nature, however, Humboldt squid are aggressive feeders that will prey on their own kind and have even attacked divers when confronted, he added.

"They seem quite fearless," Grissim said. "They'll eat anything."

Since the five-foot squid was placed in the Marine Lab tank, it has been offered anchovies, sardines, and salmon. Although the squid has eaten some of the larger fish, it still seems be languishing, said Borgeson, who is working with two other scientists to keep it alive.

Borgeson said the team is videotaping the squid's behavior and will send the footage to Dr. Roper in Washington, DC. Although none of the Marine Lab scientists are squid specialists, he said, they are doing their best to keep it healthy.

"[The squid] seem to be very intelligent," he said. "I find them very charismatic."