The three creatures which have tentacles – squid, octopus and cuttlefish – are known as cephalopods. Squid is significantly more abundant than cuttlefish and octopus.Shop all Squid
- Energy 92kcal / 385kj
- Fat 1.4g
- Saturates 0.4g
- Carbohydrate 3.1g
- Sugars 0g
- Protein 16g
- Salt 0.4g
Record Size Squid is strangely absent from record catch websites, but a 450kgs Colossal squid (this is the species name) taken by surprised commercial fishermen in the Antarctic in 2007 is definitely the biggest squid on record (and one of only three ever caught).
Typical Market Size500g
Main Sources Various species are found in all seas
Global Production (est) 4m Tonnes
Price & sustainability Rating £0.00 & Fair to good
Which way is it going?
Cephalopods’ syphons are inside their mantle pointing out past the head. They propel themselves by taking water into the mantle and squirting it through the syphon. Thus they usually travel “backwards”. But their fins can propel them “forwards” if something tasty is in sight.
Normal direction of travel (fast - up to 20 mph)
Stuff of nightmares?
Giant squid which attack ships are not entirely creatures of legend. In 1978, a squid attacked the sonar pod under the hull of a naval destroyer, USS Stein. The squid was not seen during the episode, but it was later deduced that it was larger than any squid known to science. The largest squid which has been captured was from a rare species called the colossal squid – it’s in the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand. Uncaptured specimens are believed to reach up to 13 metres to the tips of their tentacles or 6 metres for the main body section and weigh over 600 kgs. (Claims about large squid are normally a bit tongue-in-cheek: the big numbers almost always refer to tail to tentacle tip, which is like measuring a human from tippy-toe to the long finger at the top of upstretched arm. Ask ”How long was the mantle?”) The average squid reaches about half a metre and the pygmy squid is doing well at one inch.
The vampire squid is a small very deep sea species with a cloak joining its arms. It’s pretty terrifying to small creatures deep in the sea but harmless to man. The likening of Goldman Sachs to a giant vampire squid rested heavily on the false premise “giant”.
The line is then reeled back jerkily to excite the jigs, causing the shoal of squid to attack them. The squid are impaled on the jigs. Jigging is considered a good fishing method because it does not damage the sea bed and the by-catch (unwanted species) is modest. As with all fishing methods, modern technology has resulted in fantastically sophisticated automatic jigging machines with built-in data systems which sense what’s happening to the jigs and improve catch rates dramatically. Other techniques with nets are also used.
Individual squid fisheries – eg off Japan, Peru or Scotland – experience huge variations in catch from year to year, but this is believed to be caused more by changes in natural conditions than by overfishing. Squid have been likened to weeds in terms of their capacity to prosper everywhere and to locusts due to their appearance in plague proportions from time to time. Thus the fact that the global squid catch has almost quadrupled from one million tonnes in 1980 has generated relatively little concern over sustainability -there were plenty of unexploited resources. Indeed, often, fishermen turned to squid when they had emptied their seas of other fish. However, the warning bells are beginning to sound.
A 2015 review of squid fisheries by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership contains catch figures for 2014 which suggest the global catch had risen to 3.7m tonnes. China’s catch (not only in Chinese waters) is around a third of this total, with Peru at one sixth followed by S Korea, Taiwan and Japan, all at around 300,000 tonnes. Another dozen countries including Argentina, the USA and India caught around 100,000 tonnes each in 2014. This report indicates a deeper concern for squid overfishing than the sustainability comments cited in the table.
Tubes, Tentacles, Rings...and More
Squid meat is a very high quality and convenient protein. Whole squid is marketed widely but most squid is processed into clean meat. The mantle is cleaned of the intestines and is sold as “tubes”, which make ideal pouches for stuffings of every kind. Alternatively, the tube can be sliced into rings, and then often coated in batter to deliver the classic Mediterranean recipe, Calamares a la Romana.
Tentacles, possibly thanks to their suckers, have less – but increasing - appeal to northern appetites either stuffed back into the cleaned tubes, or if from larger species, marketed as a solo item. Some Asian markets value various parts of the squid’s innards – in Japan the digestive gland is fermented into “shiokara”, said to be an excellent hangover cure which I suspect most readers will want to miss. The same material is increasingly popular as a raw material for nutraceutical preparations.
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