Better catches and prices for squid recorded on US West Coast

Published on
September 7, 2021
A squid swimming underwater

The squid fleet in the U.S. state of California found favorable ocean conditions as the 2021 season kicked off this spring. Last year’s ocean water temperatures left an air of optimism that the effects from El Niño conditions in 2018 and 2019 had swung through more normal temperatures, and that this year’s harvest would increase.

Thus far, those hopes have largely come true. Landings for 2020 came in at 55.27 million short tons, according to converted data from PacFIN. As of July in 2021, the fleet had landed 48.77 million short tons.

“We’re having a better year,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele , executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, in Buellton, California. “We saw the shift last summer, and we’re back into La Niña.”

Though the fishery has been conducted at night in years past, Pleschner-Steele said boats had been fishing during the days and that some good catches had been coming from the waters near Monterey.

Another optimistic uptick for this year has been that ex-vessel offers are hitting around USD 1,200 (EUR 1,010) per ton. That’s up from last year’s USD 1,000 (EUR 844) per ton average. In recent years the bulk of West Coast squid has been exported to China. Trade wars between the United States and China entered full swing in 2018, and since then tariffs from both sides have hobbled product movement between the two countries.

In 2019, China imposed a 35 percent tariff on many U.S. seafood products, including squid. Combined with domestic retaliatory tariffs, the total tax to importers reached 52 percent.

In September 2020, the USDA agreed to provide USD 530 million (EUR 447.6 million) to sectors of the seafood industry impacted by those stiff retaliatory tariffs imposed by the United States. Squid was among the species listed to receive the aid.

In an 8 July review of the harmonized tariff rate schedule for U.S. squid, it appears that the retaliatory rates have gone back to zero.

According to foreign trade data with NOAA, U.S. exports of West Coast squid to China added up to 12.58 million kilograms for a value of USD 48.6 million (EUR 41 million) in 2019, then dropped to 11.93 million kilograms and a value of USD 35 million (EUR 29.6 million) in 2020. As of July, West Coast squid exports stood at 6.86 million kilograms for a value of USD 19.1 million (EUR 16.1 million).

Reporting by Charlie Ess

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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