Squid surveillance, in several ways

Scientists are tagging humboldt squid to figure out what they're doing in the North Pacific. (Submitted by Nikki Laine to CBC)

Scientists are tagging humboldt squid to figure out what they\’re doing in the North Pacific. (Submitted by Nikki Lane to CBC)

I find squid pretty inherently interesting. They’re believed to be smart, and I’d call them beautiful, but they’re also so alien to our terrestrial, vertebrate selves.

Even more interesting, or perhaps alarming, is what’s happening with the Humboldt squid in B.C. waters.

First, why are they here? They’re native to northern Mexico, but in the past ten years have spread northward, first to California, and now all the way to southeast Alaska. That is a big change in such a short time.

Secondly, they’re washing up dead on beaches in large numbers.

Given this, I was pretty curious when I learned about a new study tagging two dozen Humboldt squid and trying to trace their movements around the North Pacific, as part of the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking project. The goal is to figure out what the jumbo squid are doing up here. That’s important to know for fisheries because these squid prey on commercially valuable species like hake. It also matters because their rapid change of range could tell us something about our changing oceans.

You can watch my CBC TV story (vid link) from last week to see the squid, and hear from the scientist leading the research. There’s an online text version here.

Eyes on the ground

If you look at the TV story, or even the photo above, you’ll see that CBC didn’t capture the images of the squid. The video came from a Tofino-based group called the Raincoast Education Society.

I found some of it on YouTube, then called up Josie Osborne and asked if we could use it. She said yes, and ended up being part of the story, talking about the wonder and concern people felt as squid washed on shore — squid that aren’t supposed to be up here.

What I said to her then (besides “thank you”) was how important it is for groups like hers to capture video like this, and post it online. They can be the eyes and ears of a changing coastline that many of us don’t get to visit. (Pacific Wild on the central coast is another great example.) And while, as a reporter, I have to be cautious of second-hand video, it can also help me tell a story that otherwise wouldn’t get told.

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  1. Pingback: The Naked Truth on Friday, May 13, 2011 « FrogHeart

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