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The Hunt for Humboldts

The Hunt for Humboldt Squid from Conner Jay on Vimeo.

Giant squid lurk in the deep. A thousand feet down, large Humbodlt squid jet around black waters. They are ravenous cephalopods, ripping and eating through everything. Even each other. But they are also beautiful creatures, tantalizingly graceful as they change colors from a deep red to pale white. They dance through the water like rockets.

This story started as a rumor I heard while teaching at North Monterey High School. Journalism teacher Jan Goodspeed convinced me that fisherman were catching “monster squid” just beyond the Monterey Bay, a tip she had acquired from another teacher.

Now, anytime you use the word ‘monster’ followed by some type of marine animal, you are going to have my full attention. After a few phone calls, I found out that local boat captains were leading expeditions out to the Monterey Canyon, an the underwater ledge that drops down over 11,000 ft. And they were having no trouble catching boat loads of the Humboldts. Captain Harry Neece with Chris’s Fishing Trips invited me on a few 6 a.m. trips out in January and February.

Fisherman threaded thick lines with squid jigs as the sun rose over the hills in the east. But the fresh air and chilly breeze quickly changed to bright sun and squid guts, as everyone with a fishing pole heaved 30 to 50 pound Humboldts into the boat. Their bodies wreathed all over the deck, spitting ink and blood everywhere. I think we all would have gotten very sea sick if we weren’t so excited.

There is a real novelty to this kind of fishing. It’s not like catching a Salmon, where most people know how to prepare and eat the fish. These ‘calamari’ were alien, something from the deep that had little reference to what we knew. Most of us didn’t even know how to cook them, despite all carrying coolers filled with 50 pounds of meat. One man morbidly claimed that killing a giant squid was on his bucket list.

William Gilly, a biology professor at Stanford University and Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove provided some interesting insight into the story.
“They’re doing really well at a time when things that we’re use to buying in seafood stores are not doing so well,” said Gilly. There will be a time that if you have a choice between paying $3 for squid versus $300 for salmon, most people are going to buy squid. Humboldt squid is already the largest invertebrate fishery in the world.”

He went on to encourage buying stocks in squid industries.

Why are they here? What are they doing? How many of them are there? and What impact are they having on our fisheries? Find the answers in Kimber Solana‘s story on the Humboldts here.

And to play a lower resolution video (in case the above video gives you any trouble) click here.

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