Giant squid invades coastal waters, threatens fishing

Giant squid invades coastal waters, threatens fishing »Play Video
Grizzled veteran deckhand Gary Christensen shows the parrot-like beak on a Humboldt squid.

NEWPORT, Ore. - Coastal fishermen are sweating over this summer’s return of giant squid that has been migrating to the Oregon Coast the past few years, because its eating habits could disrupt the fishing industry.

South Americans call the Humboldt squid the “Red Devil” because it is an aggressive eating machine and is known to cannibalize its own kind. There are also stories of them killing divers.

The creatures have claws on each tentacle and a parrot-like beak they use to tear into their food.

Bill Olivera, who owns the largest Pacific whiting processing plant on the Oregon Coast, worries that the squid’s return to Oregon’s waters will devastate the whiting fishery.

“Whiting numbers are impacted because these things are eating machines,” he says. Olivera thinks the squid began migrating to northern waters after eating everything in South American waters.

Bob Emmett, a fishery biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service says Humboldt squid first showed up in Oregon five years ago. He says fishermen should be concerned because it is not clear how the squid will impact the area when they return.

“I’m not sure they would kill them off, but they sure as heck could affect how much harvest you could expect from these other fisheries,” Emmett says.

He calls them “scary critters” and says he’s seen them come up at night to feed.

“They’re just all around the boat and it looks like the fish are trying to get out of the water to escape the predation,” he says. “It’s a feeding frenzy. I would imagine it would be like jumping into a pool of sharks.”

If there is a market for the Humboldt squid it isn’t expected to be very lucrative because there are so many of them running off the coast of South America to Canada.

Scientists say the squid are believed to be moving north because of changing ocean temperatures and oxygen levels. Additionally, they have very few predators.