Off of California's coast, bobbing beneath the waves of the Pacific, there is a huge, seething mass of squid.
Squid come and go in cycles, slinking toward our shores when the water is cold; skedaddling when warm El Niño periods prevail. But for the last 16 or so years, the squid spikes have been something spectacular. The California Report detailed one fascinating aspect of it back in 2005, and a few years later, KQED's Quest team dropped into the story.
Scooting right along, I was reminded of the squidtastic situation today by a lovely feature on squid fishing in the Los Angeles Times. Yes, squidtastic is a word; coined, I believe, by SpongeBob SquarePants. (Unfortunately, the only way to see it in good quality requires money, but if you're so inclined...)
Where was I? Right. The Times tells us Californians aren't eating most of the squid the fishermen pull up. "All but a fraction is shipped overseas to be served as calamari."
Squid fishing exploded in the 1990s, along with the explosion in the squid population. The California Department of Fish and Game does enforce rules, but just the same, the squid fishing frenzy is worth more than $70 million a year. Squid has become California's most valuable catch.
Conservationists fear fishermen are overdoing it. Oceana, Audubon California and the like are pushing for new protections for squid, sardines, anchovies, herring and other "forage fish." You know, to leave something for the seabirds, whales, and dolphins to snack on.