In a California Calamari Heaven, Jumbo Humboldt Squid Swarm Off Coast

Monday, 07 Jan 2013 02:36 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Two boats full of eager anglers hooked an estimated 800 jumbo squid in the Pacific Ocean off Orange County in Southern California in just 45 minutes on Saturday, an unusual event that signals the big predators are expanding their territory.

The next night, 16 anglers caught 340 of the squid during a storm off Newport Beach.

Not to be confused with even larger giant squid, the jumbo Humboldt squid, also known as diablo rojo (red devil), are large predatory squid that can reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh more than 100 pounds. Their most defining features are their parrot-like beaks and tooth-lined arms that can tear away flesh.

Despite their size, Humboldt are often reduced to some kind of calamari dish, which has Italian origins and is any batter-coated, deep fried squid.

Primarily occupying ocean depths of 600 feet or more throughout the Eastern Pacific, Humboldt squid have been expanding their habitat over the past decade to include the waters off California, Mexico and Alaska.

What's behind the territorial expansion has yet to be determined, though some observers believe a gradual warming of the ocean, pollution, and over-fishing of large predators could be contributing factors.

Saturday's squid bonanza, which was captured on film, shows mostly juvenile squid being caught, measuring in at about three feet in length. Due to the number of squid captured over such a short amount of time, observers believe the number of Humboldt squid now in California waters could be in the thousands, if not millions.

For reasons unknown at this point, throughout late 2012 Humboldt squid have been washing up on beaches throughout California. As in the case in last weekend's catch, almost all of the squid found littering California beacheswere juveniles measuring between 18 and 36 inches in length.

Considering the Humboldt's primary prey are small fish and krill, the effect of their apparently rapid population growth on West Coast fisheries is not yet known.

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