Hundreds of what appear to be Humboldt squid washed up on Seacliff beach early Sunday morning. This event is not unprecedented; several beaches along the west coast have experienced the same phenomenon in recent years.
Humboldt squid populations used to frequent locations off the coast of Mexico until very recently. The first sightings of this species in the Monterey Bay were in 1997-1998. Since then, these squid have been spotted as far north as British Columbia. It is believed that this migration coincided with El Niño, a periodic climate pattern that affects the Pacific ocean.
Humboldt squid are also known as jumbo flying squid, and, indeed, they are huge. They can reach five feet in length and can weigh up to 100 lbs. One look at the beak could make one swear off diving for good.
This species is known to attack divers fairly regularly, and seems to respond aggressively to unfamiliar or shiny objects introduced to its environment.
The cause of this die-off is still unknown but it is not an isolated or alarming event. Sometimes if a shoal of squid gets cornered by a group of predators they will run aground. It is also possible that this wash-up was a result of a “red tide” algal bloom. They are also thought to die off en masse after spawning.
While the cause of this event remains to be determined, one thing is certain: On Sunday, the seagulls feasted like kings.