Jumbo squid hit Oregon beaches.
FLORENCE - Dozens of deep-sea-living Humboldt squid washed up along the central coast on Tuesday morning between Florence and Newport, providing a puzzle for scientists and a spectacle for beachcombers.
The creatures take their name from the South American Humboldt Current, where they're typically found. Their arrival in the Northwest in recent years has been a cause for some concern among salmon fishermen.
Humboldt squid, also known as jumbo squid or red devils, are voracious predators that can reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh as much as 100 pounds.
The ones that washed up in Oregon on Tuesday were mostly about 2 feet long, with characteristic purplish red and white skin and two diamond-shaped fins that they use to swim and glide. Many were still alive when they rolled onto shore, said Bill Hanshumaker, a marine education specialist with the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
"They're not dying offshore," Hanshumaker said. "They're coming to the beach in major distress, and then they die."
Why that's happening is something of a mystery, he added, though it was about this time last year that a group of squid were reported stranded on Oregon beaches along with about two dozen salmon sharks. A similar number of dead sharks has reappeared on Oregon beaches in recent weeks, Hanshumaker said, so it's possible that the demise of these two types of creatures is somehow linked.
One possibility with the squid involves whether they are "terminal spawners," a question Hanshumaker said he was researching, which could indicate that the creatures happened to spawn nearby and then came ashore and died.
What's unclear is why the cephalopods are in Oregon and potentially close to shore, because it's an area they aren't typically found.
According to a 2007 study by squid researchers Louis Zeidberg and Bruce Robison, Humboldt squid have substantially expanded their range in the northern Pacific Ocean by invading the waters off central California, a phe-nomenon linked to climate change and its effect on oceanographic conditions that have led to a reduction in competing top predators.
Zeidberg, who researches squid at the University of California, Los Angeles, said there are as many as 10 different theories about why the squid are beaching themselves, but climate change is the likely cause of their growing numbers.
Global warming is causing a zone of low-oxygen deep water to move closer to the surface.
Humboldt squid like to hunt in that zone, Zeidberg said, because prey such as lantern fish often hibernate there during the day but don't have enough oxygen to escape the squid, which can travel at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
"It cuts down on their commute time, so their life is getting easier," Zeidberg said.
"There are still a lot of them in their traditional areas but they've spread into Southern California and as far north as Sitka, Alaska."
The squid's expansion in this part of the world also coincides with a decline in Pacific hake, a valuable commercial groundfish species and a favorite food of the Humboldt.
In July, dozens of Humboldt squid washed up on a beach in La Jolla, Calif., perhaps the result of a 4.0 earthquake that had taken place that day 19 miles out to sea.
In 2004, between 1,000 and 1,500 Humboldt squid washed up on the Long Beach Peninsula in Southwest Washington.
At the Driftwood Shores resort, where most of the squid turned up Tuesday, Florence resident Chuck Getchell showed up with his camera, acting on a tip.
"My wife heard about it at work this morning," Getchell said.
Other sightings came from Heceta Head, to the north, and Nye Beach in Newport.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Sep 23, 2009|
|Previous Article:||Federal stimulus funds to improve Siuslaw facilities.|
|Pick of the day.|
|Pick of the day.|
|From the deep: squid signs.|