It’s chargrilled whole by Jamie Oliver, fried with salt and pepper by Nigella, and probably spiralised by the Hemsley sisters. There are 300 different types in the oceans, ranging from the colossal squid, who has the biggest eyes of any creature on the planet, to the vampire squid, whose eight arms flow like a black cape. Despite a growth in popularity, squid is classified as an unprotected species and is not currently subject to quota restrictions – but the methods used to catch it can have an impact on other species. New ratings produced by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide suggest that some species should be eaten either rarely or not at all. So which squid is the most sustainable? Here is our guide to the calamari to consume …
Atlantic or European squid
Loligo vulgaris, Loligo forbesi
The most common species eaten in the UK, landed mainly in Scotland and caught in the north-east Atlantic by demersal otter trawl, a large cone-shaped net towed across the sea bed; or jig, a grappling hook on a line jerked in the water to snag the squid, usually at night. According to the Good Fish Guide, it’s “not a good choice of sustainable fish to eat and should be only eaten very occasionally”. If you do, “go for squid from smaller-scale fisheries taking Atlantic and European squid as bycatch, or targeted fisheries using low-impact jigging such as Sennen Cove in Cornwall,” says MCS Good Fish Guide manager Bernadette Clarke, who updated the latest ratings.
Japanese flying squid
The most sustainable squid of all, caught in the north-west Pacific and considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be a species of least concern. “The jig fishing is low impact,” explains Clarke. “A stock assessment is carried out, and it is more regulated.” Go forth and eat Japanese flying squid!
Humboldt or jumbo squid
The most heavily fished squid species in the world, along with the Argentine short fin. Mainly caught in the east-central Pacific by large-scale industrial jigging using light lures that can be seen from space. “It should be eaten only very, very occasionally,” says Clarke.
Argentine short fin
“It’s caught by purse seine [big nets] or jig in the waters off Argentina and the Falklands,” says Clarke of the squid that is the target of one of the largest fisheries in the world. “Fishing occurs on the high seas where it’s more difficult to regulate huge fleets from Argentina, Taiwan, China, Republic of Korea and Spain.” In other words, avoid.
Distributed throughout the Red and Arabian Seas and constituting up to 90% of squid catches off Thailand, the Indian squid is still to be assessed by the Good Fish Guide with ratings expected at the start of 2017. “Indian squid caught in the western Indian Ocean by hook and line is slightly more sustainable than jig,” Clarke notes. “But there is no current stock assessment available.”