The Raincoast Education Society has received about 20 e-mails from people all over the BC coast who have seen Humboldt Squid between September 21 and 30. We've had reports from as far south as San Juan Bay, all along the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and as far north as Hakai Pass and Rivers Inlet on the BC Central Coast. Just like here in Tofino, many squid have been seen alive as they washed ashore, and in obvious distress. All appear to be about the same size (2.5 to 4 feet long - juveniles). In this latest mass stranding (Sept 21-23) they have also been seen as far south as Florence, Oregon
When sampling squid stomachs for student Heather Braid of Guelph, Ontario, I found some squid stomachs containing isopods, eelgrass, kelp, and even a feather (in the intertidal at north Frank Island where it meets the sandy spit). Humboldt squid are carnivores, but it's likely that they snatched at anything as they sloshed around in the intertidal - and there was a fair bit of debris in the water, including bull kelp, eelgrass, and other plant matter. I also found squid with squid in their stomachs - they are known cannibals!
Tofino Photography was at Thornton Creek on September 30th and saw a black bear take a Humboldt squid that had washed ashore (still alive). This may be the first documented case of these two species interacting. It is a provocative reminder that we live in a time of change - the expansion in range of one species means that new predators and prey are being introduced to one another. See some of Wayne's photos.
Following are some interesting links for those of you keen to read more:
September 13, 2009 Seattle Times
WA state lets fishermen sell salmon-eating squid
Keep your feedback, comments, photos and stories coming.
Josie, Lisa and Kim at the
Raincoast Education Society
It's happened again - more Humboldt Squid have washed ashore on local Tofino beaches. In the late afternoon, on the incoming tide, Humboldt Squid were seen actively chasing prey very near to shore at Chesterman Beach. Perhaps they got caught in strong surface currents and waves and at least 2-3 dozen washed ashore at Chesterman Beach. The birds and amphipods have already been feeding on them.
Humboldt Squid washed ashore, Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC.
Photo by Josie Osborne.
Thanks to those of you who have reported in - one washed ashore in Pachena Bay near Bamfield earlier this week. Six were seen at Mackenzie Beach yesterday evening. One on Long Beach.
One fellow on the beach this morning related how last night he tried to get one back in the water, using a shovel. He said the squid squirted ink at him, and tried to wrap its arms around the shovel. Remember, if you see one still alive, its suckers and arms are very strong and its beak is Extremely Sharp and can definitely break skin and cut you.
Please let us know about your stories and what you see!
All the best, Raincoast Education Society, 250.725.2560
Have you been wondering about the squids that have been washing up on our Tofino beaches? Lucky for us, we have Josie Osborne of the Raincoast Education Society to help us out and let us know what's what.
Greetings from the ever-curious team at the Raincoast Education Society
You may have seen or heard of the the dozens of Humboldt Squid that washed ashore on Chesterman Beach last night (and were there this morning and all day in the wrack line at the high tide mark).
This voracious species of squid usually lives at depths of 200 to 700 meters and is typically found in the warmer areas of the Pacific Ocean. In recent years, it has expanded its geographic range and has been sighted regularly in the Pacific Northwest since 2004. In 2004, there was a mass stranding in Long Beach, Washington. Just three weeks ago, there was another mass stranding in La Jolla, California. In both cases, as with the squid at Chesterman Beach right now, the squid appear to be immature juveniles. Adults can reach 6-7 feet and 110 to 110 pounds!
What likely happened is that they came closer to the water's surface during the night (when they hunt) as they were chasing their prey (in this case herring and mackerel, which were also found in the wrack line), and they may have encountered colder water or stronger currents and washed ashore on the beach.
The presence of the squid and their prey is a reminder that we are experiencing an El Niño event this year - a climatic oscillation that occurs every 3-8 years and which results in warmer waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Interestingly, this species of squid is expanding its range southward off the coast of Peru and Chile at about the same rate as it is expanding northward. Some biologists report that this expansion in range may be linked to climate change.
These animals are voracious predators and hunt in packs using the tooth edged suckers on their eight tentacles to grab and hold prey, which they repeatedly stab with their very sharp beak. Indeed, the stomach we dissected on the beach contained herring scales and small chunks of herring flesh. They are very curious animals and have been reported to "attack" underwater cameras as well as SCUBA divers. If you find a Humboldt Squid still alive on the beach, it is best NOT to touch it as the beak can inflict a lot of harm.
Please take a look at some photos I captured while looking at these magnificent creatures. Mary Bewick, who has lived on Chesterman Beach for 30 years, told me that she has never heard of Humboldt squid washing ashore like this before. Please let me know if you have seen them before!
All the best,
Raincoast Education Society
Update to Josie Osborne's Squid Report
We are now confirming the exact species and will keep everyone posted!
2009 August 5
Josie Osborne's Latest Squid Report
I can confirm they are Humboldt squid - Heather Holmes from Parks Canada helped out. They're distinguished by the pattern of small teeth that ring each sucker. I am sending samples of the squid and the herring and anchovies that are also washing up to the fish pathology lab at the DFO's Pacific Biological Station in Naniamo. It will probably take some time to get the results, but when we hear back, I'll let you know!
They are continuing to wash up, but many less - so the beaches are now covered with old ones (stinky) and fresh ones (not stinky). Heather Holmes also wondered whether these squid came up on a warm water eddy which "spun out" and left the squid in colder waters.
2009 August 6
Photo of a Humboldt Squid washed ashore onto Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC.
Photo by Josie Osborne.