Friday Squid Blogging: Humboldt Squid Invasion


Thousands of jumbo flying squid, aggressive 5-foot-long sea monsters with razor-sharp beaks and toothy tentacles, have invaded the shallow waters off San Diego, spooking scuba divers and washing up dead on beaches.

They’re aggressive:

One diver described how one of the rust-coloured creatures ripped the buoyancy aid and light from her chest, and grabbed her with its tentacles.

Very aggressive:

…a powerful, outsize squid that features eight snakelike arms lined with suckers full of nasty little teeth, a razor-sharp beak that can rapidly rip flesh into bite-size chunks, and an unrelenting hunger. It’s called the Humboldt, or jumbo, squid, and it’s not the sort of calamari you’re used to forking off your dinner plate. This squid grows to seven feet or more and perhaps a couple hundred pounds. It has a rep as the outlaw biker of the marine world: intelligent and opportunistic, a stone-cold cannibal willing to attack divers with a seemingly deliberate hostility.


Humboldts—mostly five-footers—swarmed around him. As Cassell tells it, one attacked his camera, which smashed into his face, while another wrapped itself around his head and yanked hard on his right arm, dislocating his shoulder. A third bit into his chest, and as he tried to protect himself he was gang-dragged so quickly from 30 to 70 feet that he didn’t have time to equalize properly, and his right eardrum ruptured. “I was in the water five minutes and I already had my first injury,” Cassell recalls, shaking his head. “It was like being in a barroom brawl.” Somehow he managed to push the squid-pile off and make his way to the surface, battered and exhilarated. “I was in love with the animal,” he says.

That article is a really fun read.

This isn’t the first time they’ve invaded the waters of Southern California, and they’ve been spotted as North as Seattle.

Info on cooking them.

More articles.

Posted on July 24, 2009 at 4:51 PM28 Comments


moo July 24, 2009 5:44 PM

How serious is a ruptured ear drum? Is that something that will heal itself over time?

Phil July 24, 2009 5:52 PM

MonsterQuest, an otherwise fairly worthless series on The History Channel, did a very cool episode on the Humboldt squid, where they caught a medium sized one, attached a camera to it, and let it go. At depth they filmed something that looked a lot like a giant squid.

Davi Ottenheimer July 24, 2009 6:49 PM

Maybe it’s something in those waters.

Southern California surfers like gang fighting too, such as the Silver Strand Locals (SSL), the Oxnard Shores Locals (OSL) Bird Rock Bandits and the Pierpoint Rats.

RIP Emery Kauanui

“…some already knew that beneath the “Hey dude” camaraderie darker undercurrents have long lurked. Usually it has been about protecting surfing territory. Outsiders and novices hoping to try their luck in spots where the big waves come in can sometimes be repelled by local regulars, with punches if necessary.”

Dom De Vitto July 24, 2009 6:59 PM

Humbolts are mean.

You don’t grow 2,000 times your birth size in two years through being either shy, or choosy.

They’re also called ‘Red Devils’, because – basically – they eat fishermen.

shayne July 25, 2009 1:35 AM

Humbolt squids are about the best argument there is for why you should not fish for shark.

The humbolts basically are native to south america, and are nasty nasty evil sea monsters.

Unlike dumb old sharks, they are highly intelligent, and unlike sharks they are highly agressive. Even white pointers will rarely attack humans unless they are frightened or sick. Sharks just don’t dig long-pork.

Sharks DO however occupy top predator status , and they DO like them some good nibbling on tasty tasty squid. The only thing that eats more squid is whales.

So by removing the top predator , you leave a huge opening for humbolts to come in to replace them.

The worry is humbolts are highly violent and capable of making large swathes of coastal shore unswimable, but more worrying is they are closely associated with fisheries collapsing. Pretty much every infestation outside their native waters usually ends up with local fish stocks collapsing.

And apparently they are pretty good eating, which I guess is something, because if these keep spreading, squid will be about the only thing there will be an abundance of.

The solution however is to stop fishing sharks and try and get shark and whale numbers up.

Anonymous coward July 25, 2009 3:46 AM

Funny, though, how most people would consider cooking and killing THEM perfectly acceptable behaviour while if they cause any injury whatsoever, they’re immediately stone-cold cannibal sea monsters.

vader July 25, 2009 5:48 AM

After reading everything, “Info on cooking them” felt out of place and humorous.

No, it’s just the only retaliation that is in style: They try to eat us – we eat them back. Or is it the other way round? Never mind: Nobody remembers how it all began.

bethan July 25, 2009 8:24 AM

it’s cool to read about a squid that i would ::want:: to eat.

the last time i ordered a dish involving squid, i received a bowl of seafood stew including tiny, whole little squid. how can you eat something that’s almost cute? much better to eat a sea monster that’s tasty and in pieces.

Particular Random Guy July 25, 2009 12:20 PM

I’ll bet they will use this to spice up the movie adaption of “the swarm”.

Clive Robinson July 25, 2009 4:29 PM

@ Bruce,

Nasty or otherwise,

Where on earth do you get a pot big enough to cook a five foot squid?

I’ve heard of “over the top” “clam bakes” but that would make one heck of a party center piece.

Clive Robinson July 25, 2009 5:02 PM

@ Anonymous coward,

“they’re immediately stone-cold cannibal sea monsters.”

They are cannibal, that is they do eat each other.

They are about the same temprature as the ambient water around them so would be “stone-cold”

As for being “sea monsters” they have had a “rep” for several hundred years as rapacious killers.

But hey they supposadly cook down nicley so they are not all bad 😉

As for,

“how most people would consider cooking and killing THEM perfectly acceptable behaviour”

I think you have that the wrong way around they would kill them first then cook them.

There is no way I would want to wrestel one of those into a pot that’s for sure…

Look at it this way we have plagues of pests such as “rats”, “town pigeons”, “grey squirals” and “Canadian geese” in the UK causing all kinds of problems.

Why are they a “plague” unlike other pests? Well one reason is they are not very tasty therefor they do not get predated by humans to keep their numbers under control.

A clasic example of this is the number of “rooks” once upon a time they ended up in the cooking pot (remember “four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” they where actually rooks) and their numbers where kept in check by being “fair game” for the pot. Now they are off the menu their numbers have risen pushing other species to the brink.

Oxnard Surf Bum July 25, 2009 6:11 PM


Southern California surfers like gang fighting too,
such as the Silver Strand Locals (SSL),
the Oxnard Shores Locals (OSL)

I should probably grow a sense of humor, but I’d like to straighten the record. This has little to do with California water/surf culture, and much to do with local problems. Oxnard is a racially turbulent city where gang dynamics are at play in many areas. Land or water, the characters and plots are the same.

As to the La Jolla incident, your article continues:
“One former surfer-buddy of Kauanui has his doubts. “No one is dying for their gang colours here,” Henry Jones said. “They were more like a bunch of kids who grew up together and thought they were bad and called themselves the Bird Rock Bandits. A couple of them have violent tendencies, and if there is a fight, they will jump into it. Alcohol aggravates that. But I’m sure nobody meant to kill anyone.””

ed July 26, 2009 12:45 PM


If pigeons are anything like doves, then they ARE tasty eating. Small, but good.

And the Canadian geese ought to be tasty. I’ve known hunters that shoot them every year, and no one does it simply to cull the population.

I think the bigger problem is the general distaste amongst the citizenry to know that the fowl on their table this week was a nuisance in the public square last week.

Clive Robinson July 26, 2009 3:02 PM

@ ed,

“If pigeons are anything like doves, then they ARE tasty eating.”

If we where talking racing or wood pigeons or the sort of doves people keep to look nice I’d agree with you.

However “town pigeons” are closely related to the “rock dove” they are riddled with parisites and various other unplesentness, they are far from healthy and infect more people with nasty unsightly and life threatening illnesses than your common or garden brown rat that lives in the sewers…

I’ve tried eating Canadian Geese and due I suspect their diet in the UK they do not taste that nice and you would not want to make a habit of it if you could avoid it. Also they tend to be unlike other geese dry and stringy (rather like Swan in that respect).

Other geese however are very nice eating so I suspect it is just down to their diet in the UK.

Both town pigeons and Canadian Geese are regarded as pests in and around London and the South East of England (and probably other parts of the UK as well) and cost many many thousands of pounds to deal with.

Oddly though some bloke in the midlands has started a business catching/killing grey squirels and selling them to high class eateries…

mcb July 27, 2009 10:21 AM

Bruce, see what your mollycoddling of this alien presence has led to! Disturbing the peace, gang activity, destruction of property, assault, battery, unwanted touching, robbery, mayhem, and attempted murder by intelligent, cold-blooded, well-armed, scary-looking, non-Christian, cannibalistic invaders from south of the border attacking Americans in our very own territorial waters?!! Why I’m shocked that the Coast Guard, DHS, U.S. Navy, the U.N. and NATO aren’t already involved. We should be fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here!

bf skinner July 27, 2009 5:35 PM

“There’s enough fried calamari out there to feed the whole of italy”

Small batches if you don’t have a limpet mine.

bf skinner July 27, 2009 5:42 PM

okay…missed this on the first read through…we missed the threat…these are FLYING squids.

Get you AA guns outta the barn.

Clive Robinson July 28, 2009 6:01 AM

@ bf skinner,

“Small batches if you don’t have a limpet mine.”


“Get you AA guns outta the barn.”

Sometimes real life is stranger than you imagine…

What feels like eons ago I used to work in the offshore petro chem industry (Oil Rigs etc).

Well the company I worked for had a job in Nigeria not to far from Port Harcourt.

Due to the locals discovering that fish like to hang around the jacket (legs of the platform) they had developed a simple fishing technique as nets would not work. A 1/2 kilo block of C4 with a short time fuse dropped in the water.

The resulting explosion would bring a lot of dead and stuned fish to the surface which could be quickly scoped up.

Unfortunatly this also did a lot of damage to the jacket and on atleast one occasion killed a diver sent down to do repairs (they cannot come to the surface quickly due to the bends).

Well the Nigerian Gov came up with a solution, any unautherised vessal within about 3Km of a platform was regarded as “hostile” when seen an alarm would sound and a representative of the army would appear with a heavy machine gun loaded with tracer and just start shooting at the vessel.

Now the problem with this is the representative of the army was not always as bright as they might otherwise be, and would usually go to the nearest conveniant point to fire from.

On a platform the area around the Christmass trees (well heads) is usually “zone zero” which means that explosive/flamable vapour is expected to be present at any time.

I’ll let you imagine the gut losening sensation of actually working on a tree when an army representative plonks down his heavy armarment just one or two feet away and lets lose with several hundred rounds of tracer (so they can see if they are getting shots close to the boat…)

And all the company gave it’s personnel was 10GBP “off shore” alowance no danger money etc. Suffice it to say I made it fairly clear that Nigeria was off my journy list permanently.

neil July 28, 2009 6:26 AM

I just love the bit about one of them fiddling with the latch on the squid cage after the diver closed it behind him… they’re learning all our tricks people!

mcb July 28, 2009 8:59 AM

@ neil

“I just love the bit about one of them fiddling with the latch on the squid cage after the diver closed it behind him… they’re learning all our tricks people!”

Given that this alien intelligence has been around a lot longer than us perhaps it’s we who learned their tricks.

So, who gets to explain “calimari” when their rescue armada arrives?

BF Skinner July 28, 2009 10:28 AM


Reminds me of a story in the LA Olympics maritime security zone. A Coast Guard cutter was patrolling when some simple minded boater started driving right for them.

The seaman on the bow lookout who had spent the last two weeks painting, scraping, polish’n and mending, saw nothing but weeks of re-painting ahead.

He locked and loaded his M16, while his chief was screaming at him and he was screaming at the clueless boater with a full auto aimed at the deck house.

The american boating public can be a bag of rocks but to shoot one for scraping your boat?

Though, I do feel some sympathy with the sailor.

BW July 29, 2009 5:29 AM

Ohhhh I know.

This is a test of the new North Korean trained attack squid, soon they will be massing an assault to disrupt the port of San Diego, throwing it into disarray. And as soon as they perfect the inverse scuba gear there will be full scale beach landings and all along the west cost. Do your part today, eat calamari.

This message paid for by the SFAA (Squid Fishermen Association of America)

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.