Squid, Argentine short fin

Illex argentinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic Trawl
Capture area — South West Atlantic (FAO 41)
Stock area — Argentine and Falkland Is EEZs & adjacent high seas
Stock detail — All Areas
Picture of Squid, Argentine short fin

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Argentine shortfin squid is a short-lived and fast growing species and is classed as having low vulnerability, yet it is a very valuable predator and prey species. The fishery is the second largest squid fishery in the world. It operates in Argentinean, the Falkland Island seas and on the High Seas. For effective management, there is a need for cooperation between all main participating countries. However, since 2005, no multilateral management has existed, leading to overfishing of some stocks. Squid populations fluctuate dramatically with environmental variability so it is difficult calculate their population size. There is a growing popularity to forecast the stock status of Argentine shortfin squid so that management can be more planned.

Jigging is a selective method of fishing yet the vessels employ approx 150 intense lights to attract the squid at night (visible from space) and there is potential for this to impact on endangered and threatened seabird species in the region. The Faulkland Islands caught record highs of over 300,000t in 2015 due to optimal oceanographic conditions which is reportedly worth 45m to the Faulkland Island’s economy. Though, more recently, stocks have plummeted.

Biology

llex argentinus is a short lived species (between 1 and 2 years) of squid that is primarily found around the slope of the continental shelf in the southwest Atlantic Ocean. It can be found in the open ocean (epipelagic to mesopelagic), from the surface to about 800m depth off the coasts of Brazil, Argentina and the Falkland Islands (approximately 30 degrees S to 50 degrees S). In autumn and winter (April to September) it is abundant on the lower shelf (50 to 200m depth). The species is fast growing and short-lived, reaching sexual maturity within one year. The species reproduces once in its lifetime via internal fertilisation (spawning between December and March), laying egg cases on the sea floor. Maximum mantle length is 33 cm; sexual maturity is reached at a total length of about 24 cm and total length averages about 40cm in the summer following spawning. The species forms extremely dense aggregations, and is captured in fisheries by the tonne . I. argentinus are active predators of fishes such as juvenile hakes, pelagic crabs and shrimps; and themselves form important prey for a wide range of marine life including fin fishes, seabirds (including locally endangered and vulnerable albatross and petrels), sharks and cetaceans .

Stock information

Stock Area

Argentine and Falkland Is EEZs & adjacent high seas

Stock information

The Falkland Islands have recently been landing very low catches of Illex squid: by April 2016, catches only reached the 2,000 tons mark compared to 170,000 tons at this time in the year previously. Landings of Illex off the South American coast in 2015 were 126,500 tonnes, about 25% down on 2014 landings. However, Argentinian stocks are reportedly doing better.

There are four tentative Argentine shortfin squid stocks in this region: they travel of vast areas throughout their lifespan, and through various jurisdictions. The status of the main stocks of I. argentinus are assessed by the Argentina National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP) using real-time (weekly) observer sampling throughout the fishing season. This is a common approach employed for species which are fast growing and short-lived and can have large fluctuations in abundance from year to year. The stock is assessed and managed in terms of the squid that is left behind each season, as opposed to a total allowable catch. A biomass reference point (called Bescapement) has been developed and is set at 40% escapement i.e. where 40% of the population is not fished so that it can spawn and create next year’s stock.

Historically, the fishery has gone through boom and bust cycles as a result of either overfishing or environmental factors . In the early 1990s I. argentinus was mainly taken as bycatch of the otter trawl fishery for hake, or alternating with the hake fishery off Argentina and Uruguay on the continental shelf in depths between 30 and 200m. Exploitation of the stock rose rapidly following the collapse of the Illex illecebrosus fishery in the 1970s. I. argentinus take increased to over 1,000,000 tonnes in 1999, and then stocks crashed in 2004. Another steady increase to nearly 1,000,000 tonnes in 2007 was followed by a second crash in 2009 although environmental conditions are also believed to have played a significant role.

The 2014 squid fishery final report produced by INIDEP indicates that the two major stocks were overfished that year. For the major stock, escapement after the last week’s sampling was 35.8% suggesting moderate overfishing. Another stock had its escapement rate down to 14.6%, suggesting considerable overfishing in 2014.

There are opportunities to forecast squid populations. Forecasting relies on understanding variables such as the previous year’s stock abundance and oceanographic variables such as sea surface temperature (SST). This information will help managers inform their decisions on quotas in forthcoming fishing seasons.

Management

I. argentinus is the second largest (by weight) squid fishery in the world and occurs across multiple jurisdictions of Argentina EEZ, Falkland Islands EEZ and on the high seas - and is accessed by several countries. In 2013, 98% of capture was by five countries: Argentina, Taiwan, China, Republic of Korea and Spain. In recent years, approximately 25 to 35% of the catch has come from within the Falkland Islands territorial zones with the remaining catches coming from both within and just outside the Argentinean EEZ. Roughly a third of catches historically comes from the high seas, beyond the jurisdiction of Argentina and the Falkland Islands and therefore, the Argentinian shortfin squid is considered to be a ‘stradling stock’ as it is fished over multiple jurisdictions.

Joint management is generally acknowledged to be necessary for an ecologically and economically productive I. argentinus fishery, and concerns have been raised about the current lack of joint management.

In both Argentina and Falkland Islands the fishery is supposed to be closed when the escapement threshold (40%escapement) is reached.

Argentina does implement closures based on this threshold, yet this has only been for the smaller component of the fishery North of 44 degrees and does not include the bulk of the fishery which occurs south of this. This has resulted in the biomass being fished beyond the 40% escapement target, as observed in recent years. Additionally, the Argentina National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP) note that there is a high degree of uncertainty regarding catches from foreign fleets operating both within and outside the Argentinean EEZ and there have been numerous claims of significant IUU fishing.

Between 1990 and 2005 there was a constructive bilateral arrangement between the Falkland Islands (UK) and Argentina. This was the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SAFC). The SAFC facilitated the exchange of fisheries data, joint research cruises, joint scientific analyses, and recommended co-ordinated conservation advice to respective governments. In 2004 the Commission raised concerns about the crash in I. argentinus stocks and agreed to recommend that a very precautionary approach should be taken to the conservation of this species. In 2005 Argentina withdrew from the commission following a Falklands decision to grant fishing licences in its waters over a 25-year period, rather than by an annual renewal. As a result, there is no joint management in place and weak political relationships, this has created what is known as the ‘squid wars’.

Joint management and co-operation is essential between nations to ensure populations remain sustainable. A regional fisheries management organisation has been recommended.

The Falkland Islands have recently been landing very low catches of Illex squid: by April 2016, catches only reached the 2,000 tons mark compared to 170,000 tons at this time in the year previously. Landings of Illex off the South American coast in 2015 were 126,500 tonnes, about 25% down on 2014 landings. However, Argentinian stocks are reportedly doing better. El Nino and overfishing are thought to be responsible for subsequent dramatic declines in catches during 2016. Recent studies suggest that an average of 550,000t is recommended for the annual catch for the region.

Capture Information

Most international squid fisheries fish in the mid-water or surface due as the squid aggregate in these areas of the water column. Therefore, there is minimal interaction with the seabed. However, due to the scale of fishing occurring in the high seas, it is likely that the sheer removal of squid from the fishery could cause ecosystem shifts. Overfishing is not only likely to impact the marine ecosystem for current and future years but also negatively impact socio-economic landscape of the nation’s relying upon it. Therefore, it is crucial that stocks and ecosystems are managed adequately.

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