CAPE MAY — For a long time, American fishermen really didn't really want to catch squid.
They caught some, as far back as the 1800s, and sold it as bait, but for centuries it was never a target species because Americans didn't want to eat it.
In 1976, when America passed the 200-Mile Limit Law, kicking foreign fishermen 200 miles off the U.S coast for most fisheries, two exceptions were squid and mackerel. For several years, foreign boats continued catching them here, and later, in an enterprise perfected by Lund's Fisheries in the Port of Cape May, American fishermen did the harvest and transferred the product at sea to the foreign boats to take back to countries where squid was a popular entree.
Then something happened: Squid caught on. In the 1990s, loligo, or long-finned squid, suddenly became trendy in U.S. restaurants. The East Coast loligo harvest that brought in just $5.9 million in 1984 generated a whopping $29.6 million in 1993. And in fishing, the product generally rises six-fold in value by the time it makes its way to consumers, so $1 million is more like $6 million.
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