Catching the
colossal squid

The catch

In February 2007, the longlining vessel San Aspiring was fishing for
Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni Norman) in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. A live colossal squid was brought up on a longline, still holding on to a toothfish. It was later weighed and found to weigh 495 kilogrammes. Fisheries observers on board the vessel recognized the value of the specimen. The huge colossal squid was hauled on board in a landing net and frozen.

At the time, the vessel was being filmed for a documentary on fishing in Antarctic waters. Video footage of the squid alongside the vessel was broadcast widely on television news. This raised considerable public interest in the specimen, and what was going to happen to it.

Under the conditions imposed on exploratory fishing in New Zealand and Antarctic waters by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries, the specimen legally belonged to them. In May 2007 the Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton, formally gifted the specimen to Te Papa in a ceremony held at the Tory Street laboratories in Wellington.

After the ceremony, the colossal squid was placed in a freezer at Te Papa. The process of planning how to study the specimen and put it on public display began.

Images
Image 01
The recently-caught colossal squid on the deck of the fishing vessel San Aspiring, with captain John Bennett.

Courtesy of the Ministry of Fisheries
Image 02
One of the only pictures of the live colossal squid alongside the San Aspiring, as the crew hauls it onto the boat.

Courtesy of the Ministry of Fisheries
Image 03
Sanford New Zealand's vessel San Aspiring in the Southern Ocean.

Photograph by John Bennett
Courtesy of John Bennett
Image 04
Crew members of the San Aspiring bring up a toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) on a long-line.

Photograph by John Bennett
Courtesy of John Bennett
Image 05
The colossal squid is presented to Te Papa by the Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton (centre left). Captain John Bennett (left) and The Papa CEO Dr Seddon Bennington (right) look on.
Videos
Video 01
Travelling south down the 180-degree line into the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Courtesy of Graeme Sinclair, Frontier Television (NZ) Ltd
Video 02
The crew of the San Aspiring haul up the colossal squid on a longline while fishing
for toothfish in the Ross Sea

Courtesy of Graeme Sinclair, Frontier Television (NZ) Ltd
Video 03
The observers on the San Aspiring agree to keep the squid as a research specimen

Courtesy of Graeme Sinclair, Frontier Television (NZ) Ltd
Video 04
The colossal squid is lifted on board the San Aspiring

Courtesy of Graeme Sinclair, Frontier Television (NZ) Ltd
Video 05
The colossal squid is lowered into the ship's freezer

Courtesy of Graeme Sinclair, Frontier Television (NZ) Ltd

Resources