Step 2.5: The Journey Overseas

Fast Facts

  • Most market squid is exported to China
  • Shipping market squid from California to China takes about 14 days
  • The one-way trip is more than 6,000 miles

Why is so much squid exported to China?

Chinese cargo ship in California. Photo credit: Peter Potrowl, CC BY-SA 3.0. 

Chinese cargo ship in California. Photo credit: Peter Potrowl, CC BY-SA 3.0. 

Shipping a product that’s consumed in the U.S. to another country for processing may seem a little absurd, but there are several reasons it’s done this way. 

The first reason has to do with our preference for seafood that’s already been cleaned and cut. When market squid is sold whole at markets, only people who are comfortable working with the whole animal (or the ones who are feeling adventurous) will buy it. Let’s face it, cleaning squid can be intimidating to those who prefer easy fish fillets. 

Additionally, American consumers tend to prefer larger, meatier squid, according to head of the California Wetfish Producers, D.B. Pleschner. In a 2014 article for Fishing News, Pleschner explains that market squid are among the smallest squid species, making them less desirable local consumers.

Another reason is that there just aren’t enough places to process squid in the U.S. This is due in part to the fact that seafood processing plants are built near the shore so the fish can be processed right where they are landed, which also happens to be right where people like to build houses and waterfront towns. Slowly but surely, the seafood production infrastructure in the United States has been phased out. The third and most important reason for the journey is that it is cheaper to process squid in China than it is in the United States.

According to Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, labor in China costs about $0.20 per pound. It costs much more than that to process squid in the U.S., with estimates averaging about $1.70 per pound. Considering that (on a good season) market squid is landed by the ton, this adds up to a lot of money. Even if we had the ability to process everything, it would still be more economically efficient to process it in China. 

The next step

After the market squid arrives at it’s destination, it’s processed for consumption. We’ll have the scoop on processing market squid next so stay tuned!