PETA is Not Happy

Paula Moore is quite unhappy about the colossal squid capture.

None of this is necessary. Leaving fish (and other animals) off our plates is the most humane choice–and the best way to help replenish the world’s fragile oceans. It is the only way to ensure that spectacular animals like the colossal squid, surely one of the most mysterious beings of the deep ocean, are spared the indignity of being violently hauled out of their watery homes and turned into the butt of cheap jokes.

The dialogue on vegetarianism and reducing fishing does not really bother me. My wife and I were vegetarian for several years and even now minimize our meat consumption.  However, Moore seems to not comprehend the importance of capture. We know nothing of the basic physiology, anatomy, and ecology of the species that would ultimately lead to better conservation decisions.

“We know relatively nothing about them,” admits Steve O’Shea, director of the Earth and Oceanic Sciences Research Institute at the Auckland University of Technology and one of the world’s leading squid experts…”The scientific value is enormous. It’ll more than double our knowledge,” says O’Shea, who hopes the research will shed light on the species’ hunting and mating behavior, its age and its intelligence. From MSNBC.

Moore also fails to mention another very important point.

International law [Antarctic Treaty] requires that anything caught in Antarctic waters must be kept onboard and documented to guard against overfishing.

Moore goes on rail against the jokes made about the individual as calamari.  First let me say that they are not likely to be edible.  Giant squid have urea, which is lighter than water, in their circulatory systems to help maintain buoyancy.  Second, the only mention of calamari was Steve O’Sheas comment.

If calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires, he added.

I actually thought this was a brilliant analogy.  Most people during the course of their life have encountered fried calamari…it is usually about the size of quarter in diameter.  To allow people to envision how large this individual was (even I cannot visualize a 1/2 ton), Steve made this comment.   It works and it works really well!  And thus you have all the calamari comments to follow. 

 Moore also quotes several media outlets that stated global warming would increase squid sizes and the joking about it. 

…there is growing evidence to suggest that even normal squid are becoming gradually larger thanks to rising sea temperatures.  It may well be one of the few positive effects of global warming: for those who enjoy meaty calamari, recent research suggests that while rising sea temperatures can have a catastrophic effect on many species of fish, squid and octopuses become bigger in warmer waters.  Scientists in Australia discovered five years ago that the breeding cycle and growth rate of squid is directly related to the temperature of the sea. A 1 per cent increase in the temperature of the water where they reproduce and feed can cause juvenile squid to double their size. The reason for such colossal growth, scientists believe, is because the animals’ digestive enzymes work faster in warmer waters. “The good news is they taste great,” says John Forsythe, an expert on Cephalopods, the biological family to which squid belong. “They’re pure protein and they have no bones.”

First, evidence also shows that cooler temperature can cause increases in body size and thus aptly name phenomena of polar gigantisism so I am not exactly sure this will be the case for all species.  Second it doesn’t appear that John is making a joke.  Thousands of people do think calamari taste great and they are pure protein.  I personally am not one of them. 

So overall I am not quite sure what Paula Moore is trying to say. The use of the colossal squid capture to rail against the fishing industry is contrived at best.  Moreover, it appears to be a tirade on scientists and what supposedly they said.  The press always get quotes wrong or place them in the wrong context.  Paula never contacted either Steve or John for the accuracy or context of these statements.  Indeed, it may not be best to turn allies into enemies.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


6 Replies to “PETA is Not Happy”

  1. Hmm– While I dont have much trouble with PETA in the Midwest (beef/pork country), Ive never gotten the impression PETA had a problem with turning allies (scientists) into enemies.

    (I thought the calamari/tractor tire analogy was helpful too)

  2. You know, whenever I hear about lefties with no sense of humor, I’m reminded of the hippies during Vietnam who busted into the Cambridge Booksmith near Harvard University (now a candy store) and ordered the management to remove the humor section because they didn’t think it was an appropriate time for laughter. (I’m also reminded of Don Henley… between grouchy and hyperserious Don, frat boy Glenn Frey, and all-around oddball Joe Walsh, how do the Eagles ever manage to stand each other?)

    The fun part is that the PeTA drone here shows exactly the same attitude towards “inappropriate” knowledge as a fundie. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  3. PETA and scientists, allies? Given their opposition to all animal testing, I’ve seen no love to lose between them and biologists working with mice, etc.

  4. I’m of the idea that communication means “Getting the picture over to your audience”
    so the Squid-tractor tire example is good, from my point of view.
    For me it would not directly imply that now we have to fish for giant squids in order to have maxi-calamari-rings .. or any kind of “joke” …
    Many people did never come closer to a squid than having them on a plate … actually:
    knowing what they had on the plate … might make them think twice about what they are eating … that it’s a “meaty version” of onion-rings … but an animal, a very, very fascinating animal!

  5. I also found the tractor-tyre analogy useful in visualising the enormous size of the squid. I certainly didn’t think it implied anything about trying to fish the squids for food, and am astonished anyone would think (or even imply) so…

    And I say that as a enthusiastic calamari eater (who is also fully aware the tractor, er squid, is presumably full of ammonia and thus inedible–unless you are a sperm whale).

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