Introducing the Market Squid Fishery

Fast Facts

  • Seasonal catch limit: 118,000 short tons (107,048 metric tons)
  • So far this year, there have been only 540.0tons landed (as of June 3)


There are two major fishing areas in California: northern and southern. The northern fishery is located primarily in Monterey Bay. The southern fishery has a larger range, spanning the coast from Point Conception to southern La Jolla, including the Channel Islands.

Fishing Season

Fishermen target adult market squid during the spawning season. Since squid are terminal spawners (link to background post), this means they are only caught at the end of their natural lifecycle. Spawning events occur from April to October in the northern range, and from October to April or May in the southern range, making fishing a year-round opportunity (until the quota is reached).  

Rules and Regulations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) have jurisdiction over the market squid fishery. A Market Squid Fishery Management Plan (MSFMP) is used to regulate and manage D. opalescens, which CDFW is in charge of implementing. It has been in effect since 2005. This plan provides a framework for the long-term conservation and sustainability of squid as a species and as a resource. It also allows for flexibility regarding environmental and socioeconomic changes, which is particularly important since market squid are so sensitive to changing environmental conditions and since it has been a lucrative fishery in the recent past. 

Fishing is prohibited over the weekends, from noon Friday through noon Sunday. This closure was established to give squid an uninterrupted period of spawning - a good idea, except the squid probably don’t know it’s the weekend!

The most recent MSFMP (2014) has a seasonal catch limit of 107,048 metric tons or 118,000 short tons. It requires monitoring programs, weekend closures, and gear regulations. 

The market squid fishery is a restricted access fishery, which means permits are required. In 2013, there were 75 vessel permits (though only 67 vessels made any commercial landings), 34 light boat permits, and 44 brail (or netted scoop, which are large dip nets) permits. The majority of landings (90%) came from just 43 vessels.

Gear Type

 Barbara H hauling in the purse seine. Photo credit: David Haworth.

Barbara H hauling in the purse seine. Photo credit: David Haworth.

Purse seines are the most common gear type used in the commercial market squid fishery. The purse seiner works with a smaller vessel called a light boat. Market squid are targeted at night when the light boat uses (you guessed it!) lights that are known to attract squid to the vessel. These purse seines don’t hang as low as other nets, so there is minimal damage done to the sea floor.

A very brief history

The market squid fishery is over 150 years old. It started with Chinese immigrants who caught small amounts, dried it, and sent it to China. Instead of fancy light boats, they used torches to attract squid to the surface.

The earliest commercial fishery landed less than 1,000 tons per year from 1916 - 1923 in Monterey Bay.