Bad news has come for Illex argentinus, a cousin of my own dear Dosidicus gigas (they're both in the squid family Ommastrephidae). As the scientific name suggests, I. argentinus is found and fished off the coast of Argentina--and the 2009 season has ended with the national catch in precipitous decline from years past.

Just a few days ago, I was talking about sustainable seafood and squid. I. argentinus, sometimes called the Argentine shortfin squid, is one of the many squid for which we simply lack enough scientific information to know whether they're being fished sustainably. This summer's news indicates that may be more than an academic problem.

The typical squid life history--live fast, spawn lots, die young--is both a blessing and a curse. With ample reproduction and fast turnover comes great potential for sustainability, much greater than, say, the long-living and slow-reproducing orange roughy. But short lifespans can also bring wild fluctuations and quick collapse. News articles nod to this problem as they mention the "delicate biological state of the resource" and "the squid's major susceptibility to oceanographic changes."

I hope the Argentine shortfin can recover, but as Analia Murias wrote in Fish Information and Services, "the future forecast is also worrisome because scientists lack sufficient data to project the evolution of the resource."

It'll never happen this way, but wouldn't it be brilliant if someday we just didn't start using a resource until we had gathered sufficient data to know if it would be sustainable?