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Squid Invasion Grows on Oregon and Washington
|Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium
(Warrenton, Oregon) - It went from a small invasion from
California to a large invasion, with hundreds now washing up in parts
of the coastlines of Washington and Oregon.
It started last week, when a couple dozen of dead Humboldt
Squid showed up in the stretch of beaches between Warrenton and Cannon
Beach. By the weekend, the numbers were huge in the Westport area of Washington
- so much so that state authorities issued a kind of emergency open season
on the creatures, allowing fishermen and the public to scoop as many of
them out of the water as they wanted. These make great crab bait, and
some were even found alive, which makes for good eating.
Sometime during the weekend, the big influx started happening
on the north Oregon coast, with hundreds hitting those beaches. Now, it's
hard to walk on many parts of the northern coast without stepping on one.
|Squid ready to be seagull dinner near the wreck of the Iredale (photo
The Humboldt Squid are all around three to four feet in
length, and quickly get picked on by seagulls. When the Seaside Aquarium
crew first arrived at Fort Stevens, at the Wreck of the Peter Iredale,
manager Keith Chandler and education specialist Tiffany Boothe their bodies
were already well picked upon by seagulls.
“It was the aftermath of them washing onshore, what
was left,” Chandler said. “It was the best thing to happen
to the seagulls since McDonald’s. They attack the eyes first. That’s
apparently the best part.”
Not native to this area, Humboldt squid reside in the warmer
waters off of the California coast. “Every once in a while, a warm
water current that runs off shore will bring these squid up north,”
Boothe said. “Eventually the warm water current will dissipate,
leaving the squid in water far too cold for them. The squid then get hypothermia
and start to wash ashore.”
Over the course of the weekend, many more started floating
up on the beaches of the lower Columbia River, and less came ashore on
the coastal beaches. “There was a huge group of them on the Columbia,”
Chandler said. “Every little cove and nook and cranny had some in
|Photo Seaside Aquarium
Chandler said it’s not unusual for the currents to
dump these creatures in random spots: first on this coast in small numbers,
then on the Washington side in bigger numbers, and then here again in
a massive flood of them.
So, what happens next to these masses of sea life bodies?
Do they just start stinking up the beaches?
Nope – says Chandler. “I’ve never seen
an icky, smelly one,” he said. “The seagulls get them all.”
Seagulls are essentially nature’s great recycler
for the coastal beaches.
“Once the squid hit the beach, the birds go crazy
leaving very little evidence that the squid were even here. Most of the
squid that we saw had already been preyed upon, however, we were able
to collect two whole specimens, which will go up to Seattle.”
The tentacles were often detached from the main body, which includes the
cylindrical area that’s attached to what often looks like a squid’s
head. That part contains the organs, the eyes and the mouth. The tentacles
were usually quite a ways away from the squid’s body – or
what was left of it.
Chandler said humans were picking at the carcasses too.
He saw one woman with two garbage cans full of them.
But eating them is another matter. Unless you find them
alive – don’t eat them. You don’t know how long they’ve
been dead and decaying, and the results of consuming them could be near
“Eating something dead off the beach is never a healthy
thing to do,” Chandler said. “If you found a dead possum on
the road, would you eat it? I’ve only heard of one person who found
a squid alive this time around.”
In 2004, hundreds of Humboldt squid washed ashore
on the Oregon coast, some still alive. It was a record year, Chandler
said, and quite unusual.
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