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September 3, 2013

Warming seen as reason for squid boom

Fishermen and boaters of Cape Ann and other parts of the North Shore are seeing a marked increase in long fin squid, a species normally more common south of Cape Cod.

It’s the second summer of a squid population explosion, from the Cape to Southern Maine, said Michael Armstrong, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries’ Gloucester field station.

“We’ve always had them (long fin squid), but in less numbers,” said Armstrong. “Their abundance is through the roof ... It’s even more pronounced this year.”

Armstrong said the word “boom” would be an accurate description, with long fin squid numbers increasing tenfold, at least.

The inky invertebrates are so plentiful that it’s become popular to catch them, both to eat and to use a bait. The increase in squid fishing has caused friction recently at some North Shore docks — between authorities, boaters and other fishermen.

Earlier this summer, Marblehead town officials banned fishing from town-owned docks and floats, after overcrowding by squid anglers became a problem.

Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh said his team patrols the waters near the city’s power plant every night, to remind squid fisherman they must stay at least 100 feet away from the plant. Squid fishing is also popular on the Salem Willows pier and off the rocks near Fort Pickering on Winter Island, he said.

“Usually the squid fishermen work at night. They use bright lights so we do get (complaint) calls,” McHugh said. “We go over (to the power plant) nightly to remind them to stay out of the restricted area ... We’ve had a couple of issues in the Salem Willows with lights, but nothing major.”

“(The squid fishermen) are mostly respectful and comply right away,” he said.

The squid pose no hazard to boaters, McHugh said, but they can make an inky mess.

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