Market Squid

Oligo opalescns

South Coast (Point Dume to Mexico border) Wild caught

David Andrew,

The Science

Taxonomic description

  • A small open ocean mollusk possessing eight arms and two longer tentacles used for mating and prey capture [1]
  • A mix of iridescent white and purple, but can change colors in response to the environment [1]
  • Swims backwards through the water,  propelled by valves near the head [1]
  • Produce “ink,” a dark pigment released into the water to divert the attention of predators  [2]
  • Adults reach lengths of 30cm (12in) [2]


  • Ranges from southeastern Alaska to Bahia Asunción in Baja California, Mexico [2]
  • Most abundant through Punta Eugenia in Baja California, and Monterey Bay, California [1]

Life history

  • After mating, females release egg cases which are attached to the seafloor
  • Each case contains 200 to 300 eggs [2]
  • Larval squid hatch after 3-5 weeks [2]
  • Spawning occurs April – November in Northern California, and October – May in Southern California [3]
  • Reaches maturity six months after hatching [4]
  • Short life span, living an average of 188 days, 300 at most, and dying shortly after spawning [4]


  • Found offshore, except during spawning which occurs in the near shore coastal waters [2]
  • In the water column from the surface to 792m (2,600ft) depths [1]
  • Migratory, forms massive schools [1]
  • Feeds on small crustaceans, fish and other squid [2]
  • Preys on many species including marine mammals and large pelagic fish  [2]

The Fishery


Seasonal availability

  • Available in San Diego from Sept-March [5]

Managing authority

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife, with NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council, adhere to a sustainable monitoring and management plan
  • Establishes seasonal catch limits, monitors fishery for environmental impacts, and designates temporary closures to allow for uninterrupted spawning [5]

Status of the fishery

  • Sensitive to water temperatures – catch decreases with warming in El Niño years, increases with cooler waters of La Niña [7]
  • Largest California commercial fishery by volume in1993 with 47,100 tons landed [7]
  • Became most valuable California fishery resource by 1996 at $33.3 million [7]
  • Demand largely dictated by overseas markets
  • Entire stock replaces itself semi-annually even in the absence of fishing, and is able to recover from drastic decreases in the population [7]

Gear type

  • Purse seine nets are laid out by seiner vessels to encircle and haul spawning schools
  • Brail vessels use hydraulic dip nets
  • Use of lights to attract squid to the surface is legal throughout California

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Attractant lights can disturb nesting seabirds; to circumvent this, wattage is limited and lights are shielded [7]
  • Haul chains and bottoms of purse-seines can scrape and drag against the seafloor, damaging the benthic ecosystem [5,8]
  • Bycatch is minimal, mostly composed of sardine, anchovy, or mackerel, but can occasionally include squid egg cases from the seafloor if nets are drawn in shallower waters [6,8]
  • Observed decrease in average length and weight of market squid (1999-2007) could affect population resilience as female fecundity increases with size [7]

The Seafood

Edible portions

  • Arms (tentacles), mantle (tube), and fins (wings) are all edible [9]

Description of meat

  • Raw squid should be moist, shiny, and ivory colored [9]
  • Clean the squid as much as possible before cooking, making sure to cut away the cartilage inside the mantle
  • Gently rubbing the body of the squid with your thumbs will remove the thin layer of skin [10]
  • Once cooked, the meat turns white and has a mild, slightly sweet taste [9]

Culinary uses

  • Can be thawed and then refrozen without damaging the meat [10]
  • Common recipes feature the squid in pasta dishes, soups and stews
  • To make calamari: cut squid into 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick rings, dip into flour, and fry in oil until golden brown

Nutritional information  

Toxicity report

  • No known toxins [9]

Seasonal availability

  • Available Sept — March, unless catch limit is reached before end of season [9]


[1] NOAA FishWatch. Fish Watch and Seafood Profiles.  California Market Squid:  HYPERLINK ""

[2] Recksiek, C.W., H. W. Frey. Biological, Oceanographic, and Acoustic Aspects of the Market Squid, Loligo Opalescens Berry. Fish Bulletin 169.

[3] Leet, W.S. California Market Squid. 2001. California's Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. Sacramento: California Dept. of Fish and Game. 295-298.

[4] Butler, et al.1999. Age and Growth of Market Squid Off California. CalCOFl Rep.: 40. [5] HYPERLINK ""

[5] California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. 2014.

[6] FishWatch. 2014. California Market Squid. NOAA FishWatch U.S. Seafood Facts

[7]California Living Marine Resources. 2006.

[8]Voices of the Bay: Fishery Basics - California Fisheries. Market Squid (Doryteuthis opalescens). 2011.""

[9] “California Market Squid.” FishWatch: U.S. Seafood Facts. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

[10] Tin, K. Cooking: How to clean and prepare raw squid for cooking.” 25 Oct 2010.

[11] Market squid, wild-caught. New England Aquarium. HYPERLINK ""