Squid hunting: Catch quotas increase drastically

Squid hunting: Catch quotas increase drastically

In coastal regions there are catch quotas for squid to protect them. But on the high seas, where there were previously no regulations, more and more cephalopods have been taken out of the sea in recent years. This is the result of a study by a research team led by Katherine Seto from the University of California at Santa Cruz in the journal “Science Advances“.

The group had evaluated the lights on satellite images that ships use to attract squid at night. The animals caught in this way are deep-frozen and sold as “calamares” in Central European supermarkets. In the four regions of the world oceans examined, squid were hunted on around a quarter of a million ship days in 2020 alone, the study found.


Ship Days was hunted for squid in 2020 alone.

In 2017, this value was still 149,000 ship days, an increase of 68 percent in just four years. The activity of the squid fleets off the coasts of Argentina, Brazil and Japan has hardly changed according to the satellite data and even decreased slightly, but it increased rapidly off Peru and Ecuador and in the north-west of the Indian Ocean.

exploitation at sea

86 percent of the squid fishing fleets were sighted in ocean regions where squid fishing is not controlled, i.e. outside the 200-nautical-mile zones in which the respective riparian states are allowed to control the exploitation of economic resources. These international waters can therefore easily be overexploited, damage to ecosystems is possible. However, many coastal countries also have problems because many squid migrate long distances and can thus be caught outside their own economic zone.

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With the help of the satellite-based Automatic Identification System AIS, which commercial ships on international routes must be equipped with from 300 gross registered tons, Katherine Seto’s group was able to identify less than half of the squid fishing vessels, because more than 60 percent of the Ships had turned off their AIS. More than 90 percent of them were registered in China.

“This dramatic development shows that we need to control this unregulated fishing better than before,” says marine biologist Henning von Nordheim from the University of Rostock and former department head at the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. “The agreement that has just been reached by the United Nations on the global protection of biodiversity in the high and deep seas not only gives us tailwind, but also the mandate”.

Cuttlefish not yet included in the High Seas Agreement

This could also prevent coastal fishermen from being caught by the large fleets or the regions next to existing marine protected areas from being fished empty and being affected.

The brand new UN Convention for the Protection of the High Seas could even be based on an existing set of rules. Since 1995, the United Nations has had an agreement that aims to keep fish stocks stable in international waters and protect the marine ecosystems there. Under this umbrella, 17 regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO) have already been set up worldwide, in which all those involved work together.

These RFMOs work very differently, some exist almost entirely on paper. “Things are working particularly well in the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission NEAFC, which coordinates all fisheries in the high seas between the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the European Atlantic coasts from southern Spain to the North Pole,” explains Henning von Nordheim. The fishing industry works very well there to secure the stocks and thus the catches in this area.

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However, the vast majority of these RFMOs only focus on fish and not on cephalopods. “In addition to expanding to include squid, other molluscs and crabs, the RFMOs should therefore generally be put to the test in order to optimize their work,” says Henning von Nordheim. “In the areas where no RFMOs exist yet, they should be established very soon.”

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