Market Squid

The Science

The egg cases released by the female are made up of several layers of protein between which bacteria grow and serve as protection against fungal infection.

The Fishery

Southern California, mainly around the Channel Islands, comprises 90% of squid landings!

The Seafood

If overcooked, market squid has been said to taste "like a rubber band." If cooked properly, the meat is nutty, sweet, and delicate.

The Science

Market Squid
NOAA FishWatch

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 ""