After sunset If you look offshore from any of the beaches on the West Coast of Koh Chang you will see scores of bright and mysterious lights scattered across the sea. These aren’t ghost lights from a lost island that has mysteriously broken the surface of the water after dark, they are the lights from squid fishing boats. Fishing is a large part of the economy of Trat province and squid are a particularly attractive catch because they are fast-breeding and abundant. They are also very easy to catch. A squid boat is basically a traditional Thai wooden fishing craft that has had a large wooden or metal boom attached. This boom is covered in extremely bright white or sometimes green lights. Every evening these cumbersome and heavily laden vessels slowly make their way offshore to a spot that only experience and years of practising squid psychology (or a fish-finder) can determine.
After sunset, when the boat is stationed in just the right position the fisherman flicks a switch and the boat and surrounding waters are bathed in a brilliant light. Then the squid simply swim to the surface and the fisherman scoop them into their nets. Easy. Exactly why the squid are attracted to the lights is something of a mystery. Apparently squid are quite intelligent compared to other molluscs. However, the fact that most of their relatives never came back from going to look at the pretty lights doesn’t seem to deter their curiosity and off they swim into the waiting nets.
The fishermen will spend the rest of the night netting and sorting squid before daybreak and the long journey back to shore. Despite the ease of capture it is long and wearying work and a fisherman can expect to earn only a modest living. Just be grateful that the end result of their labours is that there is a plentiful supply of fresh and tender squid to the restaurants of Koh Chang.
Amazing Squid facts:
Jet Engines: Squid move through the water using an organ called a Siphon. This allows them to expel water jets precisely and powerfully, propelling themselves in the opposite direction.
Invisibility: A squid’s skin is covered in Chromatophores. These are cells that contain pigment and reflect light. They allow a squid to change colour at will to camouflage itself with its surroundings.
Squid also possess an ink sac that allows them to evade predators by suddenly expelling a cloud of black ink.
All Heart: Squid have three hearts, a main one and two smaller ones that provide blood to their gills.
Birds or Fish?: Squid have a sharp and robust beak that they use instead of teeth to capture, kill and consume their prey.
Giants of the Deep: Giant squid do exist but probably not off the beaches of Koh Chang. They are elusive deep water dwellers and just how big they get is something of a mystery. Specimens in excess of ten meters in length have been discovered.