CORVALLIS – Scientists tracking the northward migration of Humboldt squid into Oregon’s offshore waters are enlisting commercial fishermen to help them keep count of the tentacled predators – and what they’re eating.
Led by marine fisheries ecologist Selina Heppell, a professor in Oregon State University’s department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and graduate student Sarikka Attoe, the team is attempting to learn more about the squid, whose historic range has followed the Humboldt current in the eastern Pacific waters from the southernmost tip of South America to California.
Since 2002, the squid – Dosidicus gigas, also known as the jumbo squid – have been found in increasing numbers in the waters off Oregon, Washington and as far north as Alaska. Normally deep-diving, the animals are turning up in shallower coastal waters, sometimes in very large numbers. Aggressive feeders, they are known for swarming feeding frenzies when they come upon prey (usually small fish, crustaceans and other squid).
With funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through Oregon Sea Grant, Heppell is attempting to map the distribution of catches of jumbo squid off the Oregon coast, identify correlations between squid catch and oceanographic variables, and determine what the squid are eating as they pass through Oregon’s offshore waters – particularly whether they’re dining on such commercially fished species as hake and salmon.