The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has closed the commercial fishery for market (opalescent) squid, effective at noon November 21, 2012. Based on landings information and projections, the DFG has determined that the season’s harvest limit of 118,000 short tons of market squid will be reached by that date.
The good news for anglers is that recreational fishing for squid -- used widely in Southern California as live bait -- remains open. In addition, live-bait operators can continue to catch and sell live squid to anglers, according to Lt. Rebecca Hartman, a warden with the DFG. "The closure affects only squid caught for market, but not squid caught for live bait," she told Sport Fishing.
The squid fishing season is year-around -- April through March. Therefore, the commercial fishery will remain closed until the current season ends March 31, 2013. Market squid remains the state’s largest and most lucrative commercial fishery, valued at over $69 million last season. The DFG has been tracking catches daily in anticipation of reaching the harvest limit, which was established to ensure squid are not overharvested.
Domestically, market squid, is sold as calamari for food, as well as bait. Much of the market squid catch is also frozen and exported overseas. The squid fishery has been managed under the state’s Market Squid Fishery Management Plan since 2005. The goals of the plan are to ensure long-term conservation and sustainability of market squid, reduce the potential for overfishing and provide a framework for management.
In addition to the harvest limit, only a limited number of commercial squid fishing permits are issued. The fishery is closed on weekends to allow for periods of uninterrupted spawning each week, though live-bait fishing for squid can legally take place on weekends. The plan was developed under the provisions set forth by California’s Marine Life Management Act (MLMA), which became law in 1999. The MLMA created state policies, goals and objectives to govern the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of California’s living marine resources.