Market squid have eight arms and two tentacles, as well as a milky and purple iridescent coloring that can change depending on environmental factors. Squid available year-round frozen, whole, or cleaned. It is also sold as frozen tubes, tentacles, and the rings are marketed breaded or unbreaded. Some buyers suggest looking for tender squid that’s ivory colored with white skin, which indicates higher quality. Improperly frozen squid will have a reddish tinge and poor quality squid will smell like iodine or ammonia. California market squid is a good substitution for expensive shellfish like clams and shrimp.
Key sustainability sourcing notes for California market squid based on global production from 2012-2015 and the most recent 2012 Seafood Watch assessment:
~85% of global landings and ~100% of U.S. landings for California market squid meet a Seafood Watch "Good Alternative (yellow)" rating (purse seine-caught from California)
~15% of global landings and 100% of Mexico landings for California market squid are unrated
U.S. landings for the years 2015 & 2016 decreased ~60% from landings for the years 2012-2014
Mexico landings of California market squid from 2012 to 2015 were almost entirely in 2013 and 2014
In 2016, ~3 million lbs. of California market squid were landed in Oregon
California market squid is a fast-growing species that reproduces at a young age, making it resilient to fishing pressure. According to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, the entire market squid population can replace itself annually.
This type of squid’s survival hinges on factors such as ocean temperature and the availability of prey so abundance varies widely and is sometimes unknown, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Some institutions report that there are no statistically sound population estimates of this squid, but say that the species is not being overfished.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
California market squid are caught with purse seine nets. This type of gear can cause some habitat damage as the purse seines may come into contact with the seafloor, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. However, some institutions suggest that generally squid fishermen avoid fishing over rocky bottoms and shallow waters to prevent damaging their nets so contact with the seafloor is limited. Squid are drawn to light, so fishing vessels work with "light boats" that are equipped with high-powered lights to attract squid. The high light levels were thought to have a negative effect on nesting seabirds in the Channel Islands.
Squid fishing entails the use of powerful lights to attract squid to the fishing boats, which then encircle schools of fish with nets so bycatch in this fishery is minimal, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The lights alone prevent accidental captures. The bycatch level in this fishery as unknown. Observed bycatch include sardines, mackerel, and anchovies. The Monterey Bay Aquarium notes that squid squid egg capsules are a bycatch issue and could have an effect on the population, making it a source of concern.
The California market squid fishery is managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Monitoring and scientific research is conducted in cooperation with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. Maximum sustainable yield is determined by monitoring landings and abundance indices. Management measures include a seasonal catch limit, time and seasonal closures, as well as a permit system, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. However, a continuing lack of accurate stock estimates are cause for concerns about the fishery’s sustainability.