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Envisat fishes up facts behind Chilean giant squid invasion

These jumbo flying squid Dosidicus gigas is their Latin name are some of the largest known squids on the planet: the ones here measure between 70 to 150 centimetres in length, although specimens have been known to reach more than three metres. Making their home in the open ocean, they rise to the surface at night to aggressively feed on small fish using barbed suckers.

In the final days of February more than 200 of the squid were washed up on the beaches around Ancud, on the northern coast of the island of Chilo in southern Chile. Further incursions have since taken place towards Calbuco, on the inner side of the Chacao channel and towards the southern part of the island along the coast, up to Castro in the middle of the big island of 'Los Lagos' region of the country. Strandings have also been reported in more northerly areas such as Chile's VIII region.

Wondering why these deepwater animals unexpectedly made it to coastal waters is a matter of more than just scientific interest. Thousands of Chileans earn their livelihood from fishing in this part of the country, and these voracious cephalopods are known to prey on commercial fish including hake, sardines and anchovies. The squid themselves are a delicacy in some parts of the world but there is no local tradition of catching or consuming them.

But an explanation for the incursions was available from 800 km away in space. Envisat's Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) instrument works like a space-based thermometer, taking the temperature of land and sea as it orbits the Earth. It can measure sea surface temperature (SST) to an accuracy of 0.3 degrees centigrade at a spatial resolution of one square km.

A Chilean team is currently working with AATSR SST results in combination with ocean colour data from another Envisat instrument, the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). Chile's national fish farming association Salmon Chile has co-founded a pilot scheme wi
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Contact: Frdric Le Gall
frederic.le.gall@esa.int
39-06-941-80757
European Space Agency
22-Mar-2004


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