Japanese boats began fishing for squid in New Zealand waters in 1969. New Zealand fishermen took up squid fishing a decade or so later, employing, at first, jigging techniques learnt from the Japanese. Jigging happens at night, when squid are lured to surface waters by powerful lights hung from boats, and are caught on spinning multi-barbed hooks attached to long lines. Most squid are now caught by trawling.
The New Zealand squid fishery is based on two closely related species of arrow squid (Nototodarus gouldi and Nototodarus sloanii). Both live for a year, growing rapidly to about 30 centimetres in length and just over 1 kilogram in weight. The fishery is concentrated around the South Island and the subantarctic Auckland Islands, and runs from February to May. The catch is highly variable, depending upon the survival rate of juvenile squid. Most of the squid is frozen and exported worldwide. Earnings were $86 million in 2002.
Squid on the plate
Few New Zealanders ate squid before the 1980s, and those who did were likely to have come from Italy or Greece, where calamari (squid) are part of a long culinary history. The tentacles, mantle or tube and fins are all edible, and may be cooked in a variety of ways. Whole tubes can be stuffed and baked, or cut into rings, which are then crumbed and fried. Tentacles and fins are suitable for stir fries. Squid flesh takes only a few minutes to cook, changing from translucent ivory to opaque, milky white. It has a delicate shellfish taste, but becomes rubbery and unpalatable if overcooked.