21 January 2005

Jumbo squid washes up on Californian beach

Hundreds of jumbo squid washed up dead over the past two days in one of southern California's most popular beach communities, authorities said on Thursday.

The Newport Beach fire department said about 500 squid, measuring roughly 1,5m and weighing about 4,5kg to 7kg each, added to the tons of debris already littering local beaches after recent heavy rains.

"I think that they were probably chasing some bait or some prey at high tide and just swam too close to the beach," said Eric Bauer, a lifeguard captain with the fire department in the coastal city 72,5km south-east of Los Angeles.

Southern California was battered by heavy storms in late December and early January, dumping more rain in the space of a few days than the area usually gets in a year. City officials said the water locally was dirtier than usual at the moment, in part because of the storms.

Bauer said regular squid sightings were not uncommon but added the jumbos looked "extra-terrestrial".

Newport Beach's squid problem is the latest in a string of cases of the sea creatures washing up dead on Pacific beaches. More than 1 000 were found in south-west Washington state in October 2004 and they inundated the San Diego area in mid-2002.


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