A squid plays a shark at Kodiak’s ComFish

Man talk to and showing a book to a woman at a conference booth. Woman smiling in background.

Alaska Sea Grant participated in the planning and administration of ComFish Alaska 2023, Alaska’s annual commercial fisheries trade show held in Kodiak. The spring event draws fishermen and companies involved in the industry and includes a full program of educational presentations and activities for all ages.

A popular traditional attraction for locals is a session where fish and sharks are dissected. These sessions were started by Kodiak College biology professor emeritus Gil Bane some time ago. Alaska Sea Grant began offering the dissections at ComFish in 2017 as an educational activity.

This in-person event returned to ComFish 2023 after a three-year hiatus when ComFish was hosted online. The session typically involves a donated salmon shark or sleeper shark captured as incidental bycatch. This year, as the dissection date drew near, no sharks were available, and organizers scrambled to find an alternative species. Luckily, a squid that was more than six feet long was donated to NOAA for educational use by a local fisherman. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program Agent Julie Matweyou led this year’s session with assistance from two local biologists who helped handle the ungainly body. “I wanted to offer something at ComFish geared for youth,” said Matweyou.

people around a table dissecting a squid

“We were planning for a shark but these are bycatch and not predictable,” Matweyou explained. “NOAA had a squid on hand, also bycatch, and offered the squid. Since it was such a beautiful and intact specimen, the fisherman [who caught it] wanted it to be used for education so people could learn from it.”

The session took place over three hours and provided opportunities for kids and adults to engage and ask questions about squid biology and anatomy. Matweyou looks forward to next year, with the species of focus yet to be determined.