Framework

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Squid slide into the hold aboard Cape Blanco as Capt. Nick Jurlin and his crew make the round trip from San Pedro to the western side of Santa Catalina Island in search of squid.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Capt. Nick Jurlin scans the horizon aboard Cape Blanco.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Fog shrouds a tip of Santa Catalina Island as Cape Blanco joins other fishing boats where they know they can catch squid.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Deckhand Seth Adler gathers net as another squid fishing boat passes in the fog.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Deckhands Seth Adler, left, and Moses Godoi reel in squid.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Some of the 70 tons of squid in the hold of Capt. Nick Jurlin's Cape Blanco.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Engineer Mick McNabb has a smoke after reeling out the net.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Capt. Nick Jurlin and his five-man crew in search of squid.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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As the sun sets over the ocean, the six crewmen on the Cape Blanco are starting a long night’s work off Santa Catalina Island, putting on orange slickers and hard hats to fish for the milky white cephalopods that have become California’s most valuable catch — squid.

Squid fishing exploded in the 1990s when worldwide demand jumped. Over the last decade, the California Department of Fish and Game has kept the fishery in check with catch limits, a ban on weekend fishing and a cap on the number of squid boats.

But squid come and go in cycles, streaming to shore when waters are cold and vanishing during warm El Niño periods. And they live just a year, making it difficult for scientists to assess the health of their population. Conservation groups, in saying current limits are too permissive, point to studies suggesting those huge fluctuations make small creatures like squid even more vulnerable to collapse.

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