The Argentine shortfin squid is a common species off the coasts of Brazil and Argentina and is the target of one of the largest fisheries in the world. This species is relatively small, with a mantle (= body) length of only about one foot (30 cm) or less and tentacle length of another 9 inches (22 cm). It forms extremely dense aggregations, however, and is captured in fisheries by the ton.
Argentine squid have a large depth range, living from the sea surface to as deep as 2600 feet (800 m). They reproduce via internal fertilization and lay egg cases full of thousands of eggs on the sea floor. During mating, a female may lay as many as 750 thousand eggs. Like many squids, Argentine shortfin squid have a very fast life cycle and only live for about one year. During that time, they grow from tiny (one millimeter) juveniles to their maximum size, reproduce once, and die. The eggs develop at varying rates so that all individuals do not hatch at the same time.
This species actively feeds on pelagic crustaceans, other squids, and small bony fishes. Throughout their short lifetime, individuals eat a variety of prey of different sizes.
As mentioned above, the Argentine squid is the target of an extremely large fishery, throughout its range. In some recent years, as many as one million metric tonnes (2.2 billion pounds) of this species have been captured in a single fishing season. It is the second largest (by weight) squid fishery in the world. Fishers use large, bright lights to bring the species closer to the surface at night and capture them with large nets or individually using hand lines and jigs. There are so many fishers participating in this fishery on any given night during the fishing season that the lights from the aggregation of boats can be seen from outer space. Catch levels have varied significantly in recent years, with some years being much lower than the million tonne maximums, but populations seem to consistently bounce back (likely a result of the very fast life cycle and high number of eggs produced by each female). In a recent analysis of this species, scientists determined it to be of least concern.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.