Found primarily in the waters off the coast of Mexico, Humboldt squid have been migrating steadily northward in recent decades, first appearing off the coast of northern California and Oregon in the 1990s. Unheard of in Canadian waters before 2003, the voracious predators arrived in unprecedented numbers last summer, an invasion that was highlighted by the bizarre beaching of several Humboldt squid near Tofino in early August.
According to the DFO’s State of the Oceans report for 2009, released last month, there were “10 significant stranding events between August and October” on B.C.’s West Coast.
DFO officials, alarmed at the implications for B.C.’s marine ecosystem, handed Mr. Gillespie the task of determining why the creatures are migrating northward and assessing the potential impact on local fish populations.
“Humboldt squid are known to feed on Pacific hake,” the report notes. “Their impact on hake numbers (and perhaps other marine species in summer) in future years could be extensive.”
DFO scientists will be out next month sampling for squid, trying to get at the bottom of this mystery.