British Columbia

Giant squid wash up on Vancouver Island

Dozens of so-called jumbo squid have washed ashore along Vancouver Island beaches in recent weeks, although a local biologist believes their deaths were likely natural.

Dozens of so-called jumbo squid have washed ashore along Vancouver Island beaches in recent weeks, although a local biologist believes their deaths were likely natural.

The Humboldt squid have been washing up in the Tofino area, on the west coast of the island.

Josie Osborne of the Raincoast Education Society says the squid were probably immature juvenile animals that may have been hunting before the water carried them to land.

"What likely happened is that they came closer to the water's surface during the night (when they hunt) as they were chasing their prey, and they may have encountered colder water or stronger currents and washed ashore on the beach," Osborne wrote in a mass email this week.

The Humboldt, also referred to as jumbo flying squid, can grow up to two metres in length and weigh 45 kilograms.

The species is native to the deep waters off Mexico, but have moved north as waters have warmed.

Osborne suggested the especially warm waters caused by the El Nino phenomenon brought the squid into Canadian waters.

"The presence of the squid and their prey is a reminder that we are experiencing an El Nino event this year — a climatic oscillation that occurs every three to eight years and which results in warmer waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island," wrote Osborne.

Osborne said there was a similar mass stranding in La Jolla, Calif., just three weeks ago.

Nikki Laine, who owns a bed and breakfast on Chesterman Beach near Tofino, was out walking with a friend when they came across 38 squid.

Laine said all but one appeared to be dead, and while the animals didn't smell, there were lots of flies about.

"I've never seen a squid around on any beach in 30 years," she said. "It was really sad. I sort of wondered why they washed up on the beach."

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