Media Release Fisheries

Australians likely contributing to declining global squid stocks

March 22, 2023
  • Study shows unregulated squid fishing has increased 68% in the high seas
  • Australian Government needs to tighten up controls on squid imports
  • Squid fishing largely unregulated, linked to questionable labour practices

Australians are likely contributing to the decline of global squid stocks, but we would not even know about it because our import and labelling laws don’t tell us where our squid comes from, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said after the release of a new report on the global unregulated squid fishing industry.

Australians eat a huge amount of squid – in dishes such as salt and pepper squid and calamari and chips – and much of it is imported. Squid is one of Australia’s top-10 seafood imports, and we imported almost 7,000 tonnes of squid last year, a 28% increase from the year before, according to data from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. We know that squid from unregulated fisheries is being imported to Australia, but we don’t know how much.

A new international study shows that squid fishing in the unregulated waters of the high seas has increased 68% in just three years. The study, published in Science Advances this month, shows that the fishing conducted by this globalised light-luring squid fishery was extensive, fishing between 149,000 to 251,000 vessel days annually from 2017-2020. That was an average of 687 vessels fishing every moment of the day in 2020. They fish in multiple regions and spend 86% of their time in unregulated waters.

While there are few stock assessments available, there are already signs that squid stocks could be in trouble. One important commercial squid species, the Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus) in the north-west Pacific, is considered overfished. Unregulated fishing has little to no oversight or reporting, which puts squid stocks at high risk of overfishing. Squids are both predators and prey in the marine food web, so overfishing them can cause a knock-on effect throughout the ecosystem.

Unregulated fishing is not technically illegal, but these high seas fishing fleets have been associated with illegal activities, such as incursions into national waters and targeting species such as tuna that they are not registered to fish, as well as questionable labour practices.

AMCS Fair Catch Campaign Manager Dr Cat Dorey said: “This study provides further evidence of the need for the Australian Government to tighten up import controls to ensure we are eating seafood that comes from regulated fisheries, not cowboys on the high seas plundering the world’s seafood stocks.

“Australians need better seafood labelling, traceability and import standards so we can choose seafood from sustainable and ethical sources.

“The government’s election commitment to consider a framework that addresses the importation of seafood from fisheries that involve illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices will be critical to help ensure Australians aren’t eating squid or any other seafood from unregulated fisheries that damage marine ecosystems, threaten global food security, and complete unfairly with our local seafood industry.”