Step 4: Back to the U.S.

Fast Facts:

  • The United States imports an average of about 370,000 pounds (worth nearly $450,000) of California market squid every year
  • That’s about 1% of what the U.S. exports
  • Market squid processed in China doesn’t necessarily have to have a “made in China” label

Exports vs Imports

From 2010 to 2015, the United States exported an average of about 26 million pounds (worth more than $77 million) of D. opalescens every year. During that same time period, the U.S. imported an average of about 370,000 pounds (worth nearly $450,000) every year. That’s an average of about one percent (1.4%) a year.

In 2015, we exported 58,277,701 pounds ($37,988,095) of market squid and imported 269,122 pounds ($246,848). That means we only imported less than one percent (0.46%) of the same squid that we exported that year.


Seafood that’s processed in China isn’t necessarily required to be labeled that way. Country of Origin Labeling laws require the product to be labeled with the country where where the product was manufactured, produced, or grown. In order for the product to be labeled with the country where it was processed, a “substantial transformation” must take place there. A “substantial transformation” could be something like smoking, breading, or mixing with other ingredients. Since this isn’t the case, market squid still gets a “product of the USA” label, leaving consumers unaware of the journey from boat to plate. 

Why doesn’t that 1% stay here?

The biggest reason is that market squid has very little shelf life, so it has to be frozen pretty quickly and therefore isn't often sold fresh off the boat. Additionally, processing market squid isn’t easy and it’s much cheaper to do in China. There are several efforts underway to sell more market squid directly to consumers, but in most cases, it’s still frozen at least once.

Can you buy local California market squid in California?

Yes! But only sometimes. Find out more in the next post!