Dead Humboldt Squid Wash Up on Oregon, Washington Beaches

October 23, 2008 07:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Some wonder if global warming is the cause of the creatures’ abnormal northern migration.

Humboldt Squid in Northern Waters

The Oregonian reports that beaches along Oregon’s northern coast have seen an influx of dead Humboldt squid washing ashore  over the past few days. The squid are typically about 3 1/2 feet long, and thrive in the warmer waters of Southern California and Mexico. However, these squid swam north in search of food. 

The Daily World notes that some squid swam even further, to Westport Boat Basin in Washington, clogging the water and prompting “state wildlife officials to remove the daily harvest limit in the area.”

According to The Oregonian, the last Humboldt die-off of this magnitude in Oregon happened in 2004. The rare occurrence has local biologists and wildlife officials searching for answers.

In April 2008, when Humboldt squid were noticed “lurking off the Pacific Northwest coast,” The Bellingham Herald said the occurrence signaled “another change in the oceans brought on by global warming.”

John Field, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said, “The fact this is happening in both hemispheres could be a sign it is tied in with global warming,” but noted that pieces of the puzzle were still missing.

There are possible explanations other than global warming. Some biologists suggest that overfishing of the squid’s “natural predators, including tuna, sharks and swordfish” has allowed Humboldt squid to swim further.

Background: Jumbo squid invade central California waters

Humboldt squid, also known as Jumbo squid, are large sea creatures that can grow up to seven feet long and weigh more than 110 pounds, writes The Associated Press. The species has proven to be an “aggressive predator,” capable of altering its diet to compete with tuna and sharks.

In July 2007, the squid invaded waters off the coast of central California, wreaking havoc on anchovy, hake and other local fish populations.

Related Topic: Penguins and climate change

In July, AP reported that more than 400 baby penguins washed up dead on the tropical beaches of Rio de Janeiro, having likely been swept away from their Antarctic home by ocean currents. Some biologists attributed the problem to pollution and overfishing, which forces penguins out of their comfort zone and leaves them more vulnerable to currents. But others, including Erli Costa of Rio’s Federal University, blamed weather patterns.

“I think instead we're seeing more young and sick penguins because of global warming, which affects ocean currents and creates more cyclones, making the seas rougher,” Costa said.

The situation repeated itself in late September when temperate Patagonian penguins from the southern tip of Argentina began washing up on Rio de Janeiro beaches, “many emaciated or deceased,” according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The influence of climate change “is unclear” with regard to the penguins’ movement, but “some scientists have speculated that changes in ocean currents or temperatures, which may be related to climate change, could be responsible.”

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