The Falkland Islands are set to have another bumper year of Illex squid catches with 150,000 tons already caught this season. Last year the fishery had a record catch of over 306,000 tons. It is, “a record catch at this point in the season, at least in the last 25 years of the fishery” Senior Scientist at the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department Dr Sasha Arkhipkin, told Penguin News.
This year Illex is in such abundance that during the last few days captains in the Loligo fishery have been astonished to find themselves catching 40-70 tons of Illex instead of Loligo. (On the downside such a large migration of Illex into Loligo fishing grounds may impact on the amount of Falklands calamari both during this and especially second seasons, as Illex predates on small Loligo.)
Back in the Illex fishery captains and crew are delighted with mean daily catches varying between 30 tons and 47 tons per night. Dr. Arkhipkin said: “Some jiggers had as much as 130 tons of squid per night.”
On Wednesday the daily catch hit a new record with 7,934 tons of squid taken by jiggers and trawlers. Dr. Arkhipkin said this was quite unusual for this period of time.
“Dense aggregations of Illex appeared early from the Argentinean EEZ in the western part of FICZ. For the first time in the fishery’s history, Illex aggregations spread to the south of the Falkland Islands.”
But what’s the cause? “After three cold years in a row, this year the sea water temperatures are back to normal”.
“The warm water inflow (9- 11ºC) had already formed in the northern part of Falkland Zones at the end of January and spread from the north to southeast in February, attaining its southernmost expansion down to the northern part of the Loligo Box in March,” said Dr Arkipkin
He said: “Illex squid migrated in large numbers within these waters, providing an excellent opportunity for the squid fishery.”
Virtually all 105 licensed jigging vessels (mainly Taiwanese and Korean) have fished in Falkland waters since the official opening of the Illex fishery on February 15. The vessels gradually moved from the northern part of FOCZ in the beginning of March down to the north-eastern part of FICZ in April, together with the spread of the warm-water inflow.