Ecology and Trophic Interactions of Jumbo Squid (Dosidicus gigas) in the California Current Ecosystem

R/OPCFISH-06

The original goal of this project was to assemble a picture of the jumbo squid’s life history in the California Current. At the time, huge numbers of Dosidicus gigas had taken up residence off California, and there were concerns that the squid might be reproducing locally and competing with fishermen and marine predators for species such as sardine, hake and salmon. In 2010, the jumbo squid off California suddenly and mysteriously vanished, and the scientists’ field work, supported by NSF, has subsequently relocated to the Gulf of California, where jumbo squid are still present but are much smaller than usual and are spawning at ages as young as 6 months. Biologists believe the changes are temporary and related to the brief and weak 2009–2010 El Niño event, which was expressed in the gulf but not off California. Although that El Niño ended more than a year ago, and at least two generations of squid have come and gone, the squid’s life history characteristics remain perturbed in the gulf. In the last year of the project, biologists hope to learn exactly how and why warmer-than-normal water affects the squid’s migration patterns and other life history traits. The collaborating groups, which include NOAA Fisheries, will attempt to identify parallels between the situation in the gulf and California Current, in an effort to understand why the squid vanished off California, and to predict when the species might return.