Jumbo flying squid found off Alaska is first of the species recovered from British Columbia waters

Friday, October 15th 2004, 7:43 pm
By: News On 6

SITKA, Alaska (AP) _ A large Humboldt squid caught offshore from Sitka is among numerous sightings of a species seen for the first time in waters of the Far North, and the first of the species recovered from British Columbia waters.

The 5-foot Dosidicus gigas, or jumbo flying squid, was shipped this week to California to be kept for research at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

The squid was one of a number caught with a dip net by fisherman Alan Otness and his crew on Sept. 18 as they baited longline gear at night. They brought back some of the creatures for examination by experts.

Eric Hochberg, curator of the Santa Barbara museum, said the species is usually found off Baja California and farther south.

The farthest north the species has been reported until this year was off the coast of Oregon in 1997, said James A. Cosgrove, manager of natural history at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Before that year, the farthest north it was seen was near San Francisco, he said.

Until this summer, there have been no other sightings in the north, Cosgrove said.

``It's unprecedented,'' he said. ``It speaks of a fundamental change in the ocean along the coast.''

The museum is keeping a 6 1/2-foot, 44-pound Dosidicus gigas in a formaldehyde tank. The purple-bodied cephalopod with eight sucker-covered arms and two curly tentacles was caught Oct. 2.

Since news of that discovery was made public, Cosgrove has received seven reports of sightings since late July of jumbo squid in northwest waters from Oregon to Alaska. Beside the Sitka catch, the squid were spotted near Yakutat and Kodiak Island.

``We'll try to get a handle on are they moving north with warmer waters, and then do they die out as they head north, or does the cold water constrain their northward movement?'' Hochberg said.