What Is Calamari?

Calamari is a seafood often deep fried and served as an appetizer. It commonly served in restaurants throughout the United States, and various parts of the world.

It is a delicacy in many countries throughout the world and is a highly profitable catch for global fisheries.

But with the environmental impacts of the seafood industry coming to light in recent years, it is becoming more important to know what it is we are eating.

So what exactly is calamari? And what goes behind it?

Newsweek spoke to Carmen Gonzalez-Valles—markets engagement director and squid expert at nonprofit organization, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership—to find out.

Calamari
Calamari is made from squid, primarily, however it can also include octopus and cuttlefish. I_rinka left) SEMA HELVACI (right

Is Calamari Squid or Octopus?

Gonzales-Valles told Newsweek that the name "calamari" comes from the Italian word for squid, and is just a marketing name for the seafood.

When most people think of calamari, their mind usually goes to squid. However, Gonzales-Valles said the word calamari can actually include other species, too.

"When we use the name of calamari, we can be mixing different kinds of cephalopods. So sometimes we just have a final product that is done from several cephalopods, which could be octopus, squid or cuttlefish. And they can call it calamari," she said.

Calamari, however, is supposed to be squid alone, she said.

Where Does Calamari Come From?

Squid can be caught in oceans across the world. Fisheries may target certain areas of the globe, depending on the species.

"It can be harvested and fished with small vessels, or in the high seas with big industrial vessels," Gonzales-Valles said.

In the U.S., there are three common types of squid caught to be sold commercially.

There is the shortfin squid, which is found in the shelf waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, at depths between 150 to 275 meters. Another type of squid caught commonly is the longfin squid, which is common between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank in North Carolina.

Then there is the California market squid, which are abundant in the seas off Baja and Monterey Bay, in California.

In the U.S, when combined these three squids accounted for $86.7 million total commercial landings, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.

Trawl fishing
A stock photo shows a fishing trawler. Some types of squid are caught using this method. taylanibrahim

How Is Squid Caught?

There are a few different methods of catching squid.

The main one used to catch Shortfin squid is a process called jigging. Fishing boats will drop jig lures into the water which lures the squid in.

This method works by entrapping the squid's tentacles and then heaving them aboard. However, to catch longfin squid, fishing boats may use a trawl method, which is when a large net gets pulled behind the boat, catching any sea creatures in its path.

Gonzales-Valles said fisheries must be careful of the impacts each method has on the environment, and it is also important that the fisheries implement sustainable ways of managing the operations.

"The sustainability doesn't belong always directly to the method of catch, it belongs to the way the fishery is managed," she said.

Is Catching Squid Sustainable?

Like other types of seafood, fisheries have a responsibility to make sure they are being sustainable when they catch it. Sadly, it does not always happen.

"Traditionally, squid fisheries have not been assessed," Gonzales-Valles said. "So there is not enough information about the viability of this species, especially in international waters."

This differs to the fishing operations of other species such as tuna, where different fisheries all agree on how many are left in the oceans, meaning they can all cooperate in fishing sustainably.

Gonzales-Valles said one of the main problems with squid fishing in particular, is that countries currently do not have one common agreement on squid populations in the oceans.

"To have a sustainable fishery, you must know how many are in the water and how many fish there are for the next generations. This is a really basic concept," Gonzales-Valles said.

"The data that comes from the fishing fleet is important because the fishing fleets can give us information on how many fish are in the sea. Fisheries have to know, when does reproduction happen, the biology of the species, and when the spawning season is. Scientists and regulators must agree on management plans."

As there is still work to be done, with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership working toward making the seafood more sustainable to catch, and eat.

What Is the Biggest Squid on Earth?

Not all squid are caught for seafood purposes. The largest squid species in the world, such as the colossal squid and the giant squid, are generally left alone by fisheries. Scientists believe these squids contain too much ammonia to eat.

These sea monsters can reach incredible sizes.

Giant squids can reach 66 feet, while colossal squid grow to about 45 feet. As these huge squids are deep-sea creatures, it is hard to know how many of them there are. However, when they are spotted, it becomes clear that they would be difficult to catch with a net.