Tuesday 17 October 2017

Elusive giant 19ft squid caught off the Irish coast

Biologist Kevin Flannery; Louise Overy and Amanda Watters Dingle with the Squid at work in Dingle Oceanworld; Dingle Co Kerry Photo By: Domnick Walsh
Biologist Kevin Flannery; Louise Overy and Amanda Watters Dingle with the Squid at work in Dingle Oceanworld; Dingle Co Kerry Photo By: Domnick Walsh
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

A giant squid caught off the southwest coast on Monday is only the sixth documented Irish sighting of the elusive marine creature on record.

The squid, measuring 5.8m (19 feet), was the first one seen in Irish waters in 22 years.

The first known recording of a giant squid was in 1673 near the Aran Islands.

The latest find was caught in a trawling net by fisherman Pete Flannery, skipper of the Cú na Mara, near the Porcupine Basin, 120 miles off the Kerry coast.

Mr Flannery’s father, Michael, was the fisherman who caught two giant squids off the Kerry coast in 1995, the last time one was caught in Irish waters.

The squid was brought to Dingle’s Oceanworld Aquarium and from there will be sent to the Natural History Museum.

Aquarium director, Kevin Flannery, says there were three giant squids caught by trawlers in 1995 but the one that turned up off the Kerry coast on Monday was the first since.

“The total records from Ireland show there was one caught west of the Aran Islands and two in Kerry in 1995,” Mr Flannery said.

“Records show the first sighting of a giant squid was on October 3, 1673. The next wasn’t until 1875 in Inisbofin and then there were three in 1995.”

The latest finding on May 15 will now be included in the records.

“The giant squid is the one the sperm whales have to dive deep down for, they go extremely deep, down 40 or 50 feet,” Mr Flannery added.

“They’re so elusive, hardly anyone has ever seen one. National Geographic has only filmed them recently for the first time ever off the coast of New Zealand.”

Also known as Kraken, the giant squid was feared by fishermen and sailors.

“If found inside in a net, they were known to grab sailors and spread their tentacles around them.

“They will cut and they’ll bore into you, once they grab you,” he said.

The Porcupine bank is just at the end of a shelf that drops down 3,000 metres to the ocean’s bed.

“Obviously, this one, which is male, came up to feed and was chasing fish when it got caught in the net,” Mr Flannery said.

Giant squid dwarfs the common type of squid that only grows to about 20cm.

Like its distant cousin, the giant squid also contains ink that it uses as a defence against predictors like the sperm whale, releasing a dark cloud.

It also has a distinctive beak, like a parrot, that bites and injects venom.

Its eyes are over 12cm in diameter.

They were first discovered when the sperm whale was being hunted. When the whales’ stomachs were opened, the squids’ internal shell and beaks were found.

“Their life span is very short and they only survive to around two years, once they complete one spawning, we think, but we’re not sure because they are such elusive creatures.

“We know it was a male, a young male, and it would have grown much bigger,” Mr Flannery added.

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