Squid traps in the gulf of Thailand

Squid traps seem to be at first sight a quite natural way of catching these cephalopods throughout South-East Asia in shallow sea waters. Such traps are used in waters about 6 – 15 meters deep and held in between a sinker and a flagged buoy either on the sea floor or in mid-water levels.

They consist of a bamboo frame, capsuled by nylon netting with a non-return entry valve at one end. The entry valve is flagged with two white plastic bags, acting as an optical enticer to seek out either a mate or at least arousing the squid’s curiosity. Around the netting, four coconut stalks are draped, which act as a preferred substrate for female squids to attach their egg capsules.

Drawbacks of squid traps

Such devices are used for many years now and no drop of squid numbers have been recorded. They therefore seem to be a sustainable way of harvesting squids.

There are nevertheless some concerns associated. Firstly, due to the way of its working principle, in shallow waters at least 80% of catch are female squid, which were looking for an egg capsule attaching substrate. Male squid on the other hand are mainly caught in deeper waters below about 12 meters, where the red colors (natural light) are already filtering out and the white plastic bags act as an attractant. Therefore, depending on the trap location depth, always the same quid gender type will be caught.

Secondly, a significant part of ALDFG traps (Abandoned, Lost & Discarded Fishing Gear) in Thailand are such kind of traps. They shift through stormy weather; getting lost; ropes or knots break, and they end up as traps, which are indiscriminately attracting a variety of reef fish and crustaceans. And never getting pulled up again but just act as a death trap. When scuba diving, the author himself saw such ALDFG traps full of fish and no chance to get released or consumed again.

As however it is an easy and efficient way of catching squid, environmental concerns are for the local fishermen and -women of secondary importance.

Lessons learned about squid traps

  • Don’t use these traps yourself. There are more environmentally friendly ways of catching squid. And on a tropical seashore you never will stay hungry.
  • If an abandoned non-marked squid trap is found, acquire the help of a local fisherman, who often will happily help you lifting the trap.