HALF MOON BAY — California’s market squid fishermen have hauled in record numbers as ocean conditions for the third-straight year helped them net their quota earlier in the season than normal.
The small squid often called calamari were caught in record numbers over the past two years, and 2012 appears to have been nearly as robust.
The state recorded a record-breaking 133,642 tons in the 2010-2011 season; that was beat in 2011-2012 with 134,910 tons, which translated into more than $69 million.
The squid fishery is the state’s largest, and is managed to prevent overfishing.
The California Department of Fish and Game shut the fishery down Nov. 21 after determining the state’s annual cap of 118,000 tons had been caught.
The state limits the number of commercial licenses it grants in addition to closely monitoring the catch. Fishing squid is also prohibited on weekends to allow for periods of uninterrupted spawning.
If the haul stays under the 118,000-ton limit — like most years — then squid season can extend through March.
Despite the bounty, prices remained stable, with most of the squid being frozen and shipped to China. Fishermen and processors typically agree on a price before boats hit the water.
Squid tend to thrive in cooler conditions brought by La Nina conditions over the past two winters. The conditions help krill and plankton, the tiny organisms fed on by squid, thrive.
"For 8 out of each ten years the fishery doesn’t get close to the state’s cap, but every once in a while we have these anomalous good ocean conditions and squid take advantage of that,” Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, said.
While most squid is caught off the Southern California coast, squid boats came as far north as Half Moon Bay because of the large numbers.