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First Records of Dosidicus gigas, the Humboldt Squid in the Temperate North-eastern Pacific

Figure 1:  Senior Collection Manager Kelly Sendall

and RBCM specimen 004-050-001


James A. Cosgrove 1 and Kelly A. Sendall 2

1. Manager, Natural History Section; Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 9W2, CANADA

2.  Senior Collection Manager; Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 9W2, CANADA



This account details the influx of large numbers (Muldoon, 2004) of D. gigas into the waters of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.  The account also provides data on four specimens deposited with the Royal British Columbia Museum.  These specimens represent the first documented occurrence of D. gigas in the near shore waters of British Columbia.



Dosidicus gigas (Orbigny, 1835) commonly known as the Humboldt squid or jumbo flying squid has a range extending from 35° N (California) south to Tierra del Fuego in South America (Norman, 2000; Roper et. al., 1984).  It has been documented as far north as Oregon (Hochberg, pers. comm.) and extends west into the central Pacific but has not been documented near shore north of Oregon.  In late August of 2004, albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) fishers off the coast of Washington State reported catching unknown squids on the surface and that the school of squid were interspersed with the school of tuna (Anderson, pers. comm. from Bargmann).  The squids were found 48 to 160 km (30 to 100 miles) from shore and were caught on both bait and jig.  The squids were reported to be strong fighters between 1 and 1.5 m (3 to 5 ft) in length.  At one site off Westport, Washington the squids were found in water of 19° C (67° F).

At approximately the same time, a Canadian boat fishing for albacore tuna off the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait on the border between Washington State and British Columbia also encountered D. gigas squids.  T. Kallstrom (pers. comm.) reported that some evenings for 3 to 4 weeks from late July to mid-August his vessel encountered large numbers of live squids and that there were as many as several hundred lying on the surface.  Mr. Kallstrom also reported catching a pacific yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) and a bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), both of which are not common in British Columbia.  Mr. Kallstom’s identifications are supported by videotape.  One evening at approximately 2200 PDT Mr. Kallstrom was sport fishing in 62 ft (~ 19 m) of water using a squid jig.  He hooked and landed a D. gigas estimated at 1 to 1.5 m in total length and weighing approximately 7 kg.  The squid was videotaped and then butchered and eaten by the crew of the KAL-ANNE.


The first specimen retained in British Columbia was captured in the afternoon of October 2, 2004 at approximately 1500 PDT when a sport fisher hooked and landed a D. gigas (Gudmundseth, pers. comm.).  The capture depth was 50 m below the surface.  The collection location was “about 20 km southwest of Carmanah Point and 7 km south of Swiftsure Bank” near Vancouver Island.  Mr. Gudmundseth was sport fishing for salmon using a trolled herring and one hook was in the beak of the squid while a second hook had become embedded in the left eye.  Due to the squid having lost an eye and suffering other cuts from the line the specimen was retained and kept on ice until being turned over to the Royal British Columbia Museum on October 4, 2004.

The specimen (Figure 1) was fixed in buffered formalin for 8 days and then transferred to 60% isopropanol for permanent preservation.  On October 15, 2004 the specimen was removed from the alcohol and measurements taken.  Table 1 shows the data for specimen 004-050-001.

Table 1:  Records for D. gigas in RBCM collection

RBCM Catalogue #






Gudmund Gudmundseth

R. Westcott (Fisheries Observer)

Jody Riley (Fisheries Observer)

Jody Riley (Fisheries Observer)

Vessel Name





Date of Collection

October 2, 2004

August 16, 2004

October 5, 2004

October 5, 2004

Time of Collection

~ 1500 PDT

~ 0900 PDT

Collection Location

~ 11 nm SW of Carmanah Point and 4 nm south of Swiftsure Bank

52° 34.3’ N, 130° 19.2’W

48° 35.3’ N, 125° 35.1’W

48° 35.3’ N, 125° 35.1’W

Depth (m)


215 - 236

Gear used

Herring bait

Specimen sex


Female (immature)



Total Weight (g)





Dorsal Mantle Length (mm)





Mantle Width (mm)





Head Width (mm)





Fin Length (mm)





Fin Width (mm)





Eye Diameter (mm)





Length of Dorsal Right Arm (mm)





Length of Right Tentacle (mm)





Length of Right Tentacle Club (mm)





Nedimental Gland Length (mm)




Left eye missing

Damaged, arms missing



Media interest in the occurrence of D. gigas near the shore of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska resulted in other specimens being retained and a number of reports being submitted, some that suggested that D. gigas had been in near-shore northern waters previously.

An Alaskan commercial fisher (Schultz, pers. comm.) reported, “While you may think that it is unprecedented to find Humboldt squid in Alaskan water, this is precisely the species that I had tentatively identified in 1997 off Yakutat. Further, I have heard reports from friends and acquaintances in the fishing industry of similar sightings off Yakutat over nearly twenty years.  While I greatly doubt that there is anything unusual about Humboldt squid off Yakutat, it should be noted that surface temps were also quite warm in that area in 1997. I haven't been on the eastern side of the Gulf this year, but in past years we've found temperate water species regularly appearing in a tongue of warm water that some times reaches 65° F (18.3° C). This summer I saw the warmest temps I've ever witnessed on the western side of the Gulf, up to 61.7° F (16.5° C) near the Shumagin Islands and 58° F (14.4° C) on the east side of Kodiak Island. I fully expected to see some of the more temperate species from S.E. Alaska reaching the east side of Kodiak, but I left the boat before we worked in that area.”

The authors did not see any photographs to confirm the identification of the 1997 specimens but reports from crew of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship W.E. RICKER (Gillespie, pers. comm.) confirm, “The squid we caught on Line P trips (Figure 2) were between 1994 and 1998 and were caught between P18 and P22. The squid we caught back then were the same size and colours as these recent ones caught off the RICKER. We have also caught neon flying squid Ommastrephes bartrami (Lesueur, 1821) on line P but these were half the size or less than the large Humboldts.” Reports such as this tend to confirm the 1997 Alaska sighting.

Figure 2:  Stations on Line P from Juan de Fuca Strait entrance to Ocean Station Papa

Chart courtesy of the Institute of Ocean Science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Another report (Kollen, pers. comm.) stated that “One morning during August of 2003 at Mitchell Inlet (located 50 km southwest of Sandspit, B.C.), I awoke to find that the tide had washed ashore approximately 200 -300 of these same creatures.  Most all were dead and the remainder succumbed within a few hours.  They ranged in length from 60cm to 2m.”  Photographs were taken but the authors have not seen the photos so the identification cannot be confirmed.  However, the size indicates the specimens are too large to be O. bartrami, the neon flying squid.

On August 16, 2004 a D. gigas was taken as incidental catch by a foreign vessel operating in Canadian waters.  The specimen was frozen and retained and then deposited with the Royal British Columbia Museum.  Tissue samples were taken and sent for DNA analysis.  See Table 1 for data on specimen 004-079-001.

D. Hubbard, a professional oceanographer working in Alaskan waters aboard the Research Vessel MAURICE EWING, reported encountering approximately 100 individuals of D. gigas.  D. Hubbard reported the encounter occurred either September 14 or 16, 2004.  The location was either 59° 56.5729’N, 143° 43.6805’W in 166 m of water or 59° 33.3044’N, 144° 09.1555’W in 682 m of water.  Dr. Hubbard stated “While recovering sediment cores at night we attracted an enormous school of baitfish, likely candlefish, with our ship's deck lights.  About 0200 we observed pairs or trios of squid passing through intermittently and harassing the baitfish.  They would disappear for 10 – 15 minutes and then return.  This kept up for approximately an hour.  As we recovered the core, a school of large squid suddenly appeared, perhaps a hundred in number and each 1-1.5 m in length, and initiated a feeding frenzy upon the baitfish.  The water was literally churning as the squid chased the baitfish, their tentacles reaching up above the surface of the water.  Some of the crewmembers managed to spear a couple of the squid and bring them aboard.  I participated in cleaning them; the dressed capes (sic. mantles) from these squid weighed an average of 5 kg apiece.  We observed them for about an hour before we finished our work at that station and steamed away.  Additionally, after our cruise was over, while strolling on the beach at Fort Abercrombie on Kodiak Island, I observed a dead squid of similar size that had washed up along the high tide line.”

During the night of September 17, 2004 aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship W.E. RICKER, two D. gigas were caught in a mid-water trawl (Cooke, pers. comm.).  The cruise is recorded in the GFBio database as #2004-31, W.E. RICKER WCVI acoustic-trawl survey, September 14 – 20, 2004.  The capture depth was 225 to 250 m in water of > 300 m near the head of Barkley Canyon off La Perouse Bank (48° 25.115’ N, 125° 55.504’ W).  The squids were approximately1.0 m and 0.7 m dorsal mantle length and had a combined wet weight of 12.16 kg.  The stomach contents were “well digested” and determined to be “exclusively euphausid”.  Photographs were taken but the specimens were not retained.

The following night (September 18, 2004) Captain Alan Otness of the vessel F/V COMMANDER captured a D. gigas by hand with a dip net (E. Coonradt, pers. comm.).  The specimen was taken from the surface under the vessels night lights over water 640 m (350 fathoms) in depth.  The collection site was southeast Alaska due west of Sitka off Cape Edgecumbe (56° 49.7’ N, 136° 05.2’W).  The captain reported “Hundreds, if not thousands of these squid were hunting small pelagic fishes in the lights around the F/V COMMANDER, fortunately we had a couple of dip nets aboard and were able to catch two.”  The specimen taken was photographed and the specimen deposited with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, California.  The specimen was found to be an immature female. (Coonradt, pers. comm.).

Captain Otness also related a story about another vessel (F/V VIKING SPIRIT) having a similar experience further to the north.  In talking to Peder Thorstenson, Captain of the F/V VIKING SPIRIT he stated, “we were fishing off of Cape Spencer and candlefish began showing up in the roller light, more and more fish began showing up in the lights and then squid began to appear. One squid actually trapped a fish against the hull of the boat.” As described the squid hood (sic. mantle) was approximately 18 inches to 30 inches in length (~ 0.5 to 0.8 m), no pictures or other supporting information is available. Approximate location of this encounter is 58° 10’ N, 136° 53’ W.  The date of this encounter could not be remembered (sometime in September of 2004).

 It is unknown if this encounter is the same school or even the same species of squid encountered by the F/V COMMANDER.

Friday October 1, 2004 at approximately 1400 PDT, a professional biologist was sport fishing for lingcod (Ophidion elongates) about 10 miles (16 km) WNW of La Push, Washington State (47° 56.798’ N, 124° 50.802’ W) (Aubry, pers. comm.).  The weather conditions were fair and pleasant.  Overcast skies with occasional sun breaks.  It was not raining.  Dr. Aubry reports the water depth to be 160 to 170 ft (48.8 to 51.8 m) and he was fishing on the bottom.  The squid took an 8 in candlefish jig about 1 ft (0.3 m) above the bottom and became hooked near the base of the arms.  When he arrived back at the dock the state fish-checker told him that he had seen quite a few large squid come in over the past few weeks (prior to October 1).  The specimen was photographed and then eaten.

During a fisheries opening for spring (chinook, silver) salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) the days of October 1 – 2, 2004, several trollers caught D. gigas (Martin, pers. comm.).  Mr. Martin reported his specimen was captured in 25 fathoms (~ 46 m) in water of 47 fathoms (~86 m) depth.  The collection site was off Esperanza Inlet on the north west coast of Vancouver Island (49° 44’ N, 127° 17’ W).  The fishing gear being used were spoons and the squid took the spoon.  The squid was a total of 48 inches (1.2 m) in length.  The squid was retained and eaten.  Mr. Martin reported that he has fished the area for 30 years and this was the first time he had encountered this species of squid.

On Saturday October 2, 2004 at approximately 1000 PDT a commercial fisher foul hooked and landed a D. gigas (Shopland, pers. comm.).  The capture depth was 15 ft (4.5 m) below the surface in water of 650 ft (200 m) depth.  The collection location was “off the coast of Camper Creek, north of Owen Point along the West Coast Trail” on Vancouver Island.  The boat was approximately 5 – 7 km off shore and was fishing for coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) using a trolled 6-inch plug cut herring. Estimated dorsal mantle length was 1 m and estimated wet weight was 7 to 10 kg.  As the squid appeared to be in good condition it was photographed and released.

On October 5, 2004 a foreign fishing vessel operating in Canadian waters captured 2 D. gigas.  The specimens were frozen and retained and then deposited with the Royal British Columbia Museum.  Tissue samples were taken and sent for DNA analysis.  See Table 1 for data on specimens 004-080-001 and 004-080-002.

On October 9, 2004 the F/V ROSE-LYNN also reported seeing squid at 56° 20.26’ N, 135° 37.77’ W in 300 fathoms (~ 549 m). More squid were observed at this location than on October 14 (Coonradt, pers. comm.).

On October 12, 2004 the F/V SHEARWATER (Captain Ernie Matteson) while setting his troll gear out at the winter troll line near Cape Edgecumbe,
Alaska (56° 56.8’ N, 135° 45.0’ W), caught one D. gigas. The squid attacked the flasher and was subsequently hooked by the mantle, was retained, and turned into Fish and Game. Once aboard the squid spit out what appeared to be small chunks of salmon all over the vessels deck (Coonradt, pers. comm.).  The specimen taken was deposited with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, California.

On October 14, 2004 the F/V ROSE-LYNN (Captain Eric Peterson) caught two D. gigas at 56° 37.63’ N, 135° 49.16’ W. in170 fathoms (~ 311 m) while drifting south of Sitka. One specimen was turned in to Fish and Game; the Captain retained the other however both were confirmed D. gigas. Once aboard the squid spit water onto Captain and crew, began hissing and changing colour rapidly. The Captain also described an odd behaviour of the remaining squid in the water: “Once the first squid was thrown onto the hatch, the remaining squid in the water appeared to back to the edge of the light and watch in the direction of the boat. After a period of time they began feeding again, we caught a second squid and once again the squid in the water appeared to back to the edge of the light and look in the direction of the boat.” Squid appeared to be feeding on Pacific saury (Cololabis saira); the Captain found one on deck while steaming for town (Coonradt, pers. comm.). One specimen taken was deposited with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, California.

On October 24, 2004 the F/V SUGAR, while trolling out at the winter troll line near Cape Edgecumbe, Alaska (56° 56.8’ N, 135° 45.0’ W), caught one D. gigas (Coonradt, pers. comm.).  The specimen taken was deposited with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, California.


While the reason for this dramatic influx of D. gigas into the northeastern Pacific waters is unproven there does appear, superficially at least, to be a relationship between increased water temperatures and the presence of the squid.  Several of the personal communications noted increased water temperatures in the 1996 – 1998 period as well as in 2004.  Data from the Ocean Chemistry Branch of the Institute of Ocean Sciences (Figure 3:  Line P Survey, August 2004) documents the temperatures for those periods.  Surface temperature is compared to the 3 previously warmest years (late summer 1994, 1997 and 1998).  Warmest waters ever observed along Line P were seen this August between 127° and 134° W. (Whitney, pers. comm.).  Maximum temperature recorded this August was 18.9° C at station P12.

Figure 3:  Line P Survey, August 2004

Graph courtesy of Frank Whitney, Institute of Ocean Science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada



We greatly appreciate the interest of all those who have supplied reports, data and specimens to the Royal British Columbia Museum.

Reports and additional specimens continue to come in at the date of this writing (November 9, 2004).  Tissue samples have been sent for DNA analysis and stable isotope analysis.  Specimens are being fixed and preserved.  Data from future specimens can be obtained from the authors.



Anderson, R., 2004.  Personal Communication

Aubry, K., 2004.  Personal Communication

Cooke, K., 2004.  Personal Communication

Coonradt, E., 2004.  Personal Communication

Gillespie, G., 2004.  Personal Communication

Gudmundseth, G., 2004.  Personal Communication

Hochberg, F. G., 2004.  Personal Communication

Hubbard, D., 2004.  Personal Communication

Kallstrom, T., 2004.  Personal Communication.

Kollen, S., 2004.  Personal Communication

Martin, E., 2004.  Personal Communication

Muldoon, K., 2004.  in OREGONIAN

Norman, M., 2000.  Cephalopods a World Guide.  ConchBooks, Hackenhiem Germany.  318pp.

Roper, C.F.E., M.J. Sweeney and C.E. Nauen, 1984.  Cephalopods of the world.  Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy.  Vol. 3:277pp.

Schultz, A., 2004.  Personal Communication

Shopland, I., 2004.  Personal Communication

Whitney, F., 2004.  Personal Communication



Please cite these pages as:

Author, date, page title. In:   Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Date Accessed]

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