In recent years scientists have gained a deeper understanding of sardines’ value as “forage fish,” small but nutrition-packed species such as herring and market squid that form the core of the ocean food web, funneling energy upward by eating tiny plankton and being preyed on by big fish, seabirds, seals and whales. — Los Angeles Times, Jan. 5, 2014 
The core of the ocean’s food web is vanishing.
The Monterey Herald writer says, “Not to panic.” Translation: “Tourists, don’t worry and please keep coming; this is natural.”
“Pristine waters of Monterey Bay” is laughable; agricultural chemical runoff from the Salinas Valley is just one of the long-standing toxic inputs into Monterey Bay, in addition to Fukushima’s new and devastating impact.
But no one mentions Fukushima. El Niño is the excuse and cover story, but it just added additional stress to an already broken and dying marine environment. Below are article excerpts
From Monterey Herald
Monterey Bay squid season basically a bust
May 11, 2016
by Mike Hale
Monterey >> …“Once El Niño showed up things started to look different in the bay,” said Sal Tringali, president of Monterey Fish Company, who oversees a five-boat fleet that provides local restaurants with most of their fresh seafood, including squid.
Not to panic; our shared “Serengeti of the Sea” is still a pristine habitat. But warming waters along the West Coast have changed the waterscape — at least for now. For example, local squid fishermen have turned out their bright boat lights because the season is basically a bust.
“There’s no squid,” said Tringali. “No anchovies either. We’ve seen this before during El Niño.”
It’s quite typical for squid to move on during an El Niño period, according to professor William Gilly, squid expert for Pacific Grove’s Hopkins Marine Station, run by Stanford University. [“Experts” at Hopkins Marine Station, MBARI, Moss Landing Marine Lab, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, and NOAA have been silent about Fukushima impacts from the beginning as have public officials.]
“We saw a crash in landings in 1997-98 and again in 2009-10 (both El Niño years),” he said. Each time the fishery recovered with the return of the more familiar La Niña.
Gilly points to an anomalous offshore “blob” of warmer water (about 3 degrees above normal) that scientists actually began charting two years ago. This caused squid to move north (in this case), with fishermen landing schools as far away as Sitka, Alaska.
Surging demand in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe has boosted prices and launched a fishing frenzy worth more than $70 million a year. The vanishing act is a concern to fishermen, to wholesalers such as Tringali and to restaurant owners such as Kevin Phillips, who serves more than 1,000 pounds of fresh squid each week out of Abalonetti Bar and Grill on Fisherman’s Wharf…
Phillips tries hard to maintain the quality of the squid served at Abalonetti, and isn’t shy about revealing the industry’s dirty little secret: “Many local restaurants, along with most of the country, are using Monterey Bay squid processed in Asia ,” he said. “It comes ready to use.”
Much of the local catch — 90 percent of the 230 million pounds landed each season along the California coast — is frozen, shipped to China, unfrozen, processed, refrozen, packaged and sent back to the United States as part of a 12,000-mile journey that leaves one giant carbon footprint. It is genuine California squid, and cheaper and convenient, but the process doesn’t score high in the categories of freshness and sustainability
…“My first choice is local squid caught and cleaned here,” said Sam Mercurio of Domenico’s on the Wharf. “When squid are running strong Monterey Fish will put aside some tonnage and freeze it for slower years. We also look to the East Coast, but the squid there is bigger, tougher and not as sweet…
A fisherman himself, [Sam] Mercurio [of Domenico’s on the Wharf] relies on his relationship with his comrades to supply his restaurant with seafood.
“We know exactly where to source everything,” he said.
But these days that’s a challenge. It hasn’t been a good run for the entire Monterey Bay fishing industry. Once known as the Sardine Capital of the World, that fishery is currently closed due to low numbers (sardines are known for their wide-ranging “boom-and-bust” population cycles). Warm waters and a resulting neurotoxin undermined most of the Dungeness crab season. And the commercial California king salmon season started slowly May 1, with Monterey Bay boats reporting meager results.
But it’s the elusive squid that has everyone the most concerned.
“We’ve seen this before and have come close to running out,” Phillips said. “Sometimes it’s better to specialize in chicken wings.”
Mike Hale writes about the food and wine scene in Monterey County. Listen to his weekly radio show “Food Fodder” at noon Wednesdays on KRML, 102.1 FM. Reach the author at email@example.com
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