Meet the market squid

Meet the market squid

Introducing the market squid, a very common cephalopod along California’s coast. And little did you know that market squid have mating orgies sometimes right along the coast in public! According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website, market squid swarm into shallow waters, mate like crazy, then females lay delicate rod-shaped capsules each containing 180 to 300 eggs and then all the adults die. This is high comedy and tragedy all at once, better than Shakespeare.

The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service’s website describes more mating details: “Males deposit spermatophores into the mantle cavity of females. Eggs are fertilized as they are extruded. Females produce 20 to 30 egg capsules…Females attach each egg capsule to the substrate.” On the NOAA website market squid are labeled “terminal spawners” because they “spawn at the end of their lifespan.” This is a much more politically correct way of saying market squid spawn and then die.

Several market squid were caught in the traps set by Cabrillo Aquarium on the Catalina Above and Below trip and within hours of being in the holding tank they had already mated without anyone noticing until one of the biologists spotted the white rod-shaped egg capsules. But since market squid only live 12 to 14 months, it makes sense that they have a one track mind for mating, their biggest accomplishment before an early demise.

Delicate market squid eggs

And of course market squid are fished. In fact, the NOAA website states: “In the last decade, increases in catch and price have combined to make market squid the most valuable fishery in California.” But this is followed by some uplifting information regarding fishing practices: “The market squid fishery is unique – fishing activity occurs directly above the spawning grounds where the females lay their eggs. Because of this, escapement of eggs before the squid are captured is key to the production of the next generation.” This is one of the few times I’ve read about a fishing practice that actually makes sense…because you might as well catch squid right after they mate and lay eggs, soon they will die anyway.

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