Today (8th October), on World Octopus Day, Compassion’s latest report ‘Octopus Factory Farming – A Recipe for Disaster’ reveals the many reasons why plans to develop octopus farming should be stopped in its tracks.
Octopus populations shrinking
Wild caught octopuses are consumed all over the world, with the highest consumption in Asia. In the EU, Italy consumes the most octopuses at over 60,000 tonnes per year, followed by Spain and Portugal, but there has recently been high demand in other countries including the US and Japan.
Most Octopus is caught in Asia and the Mediterranean, but the shrinking populations of wild octopus has led researchers, particularly in Spain, Mexico, Japan and the US, to investigate the feasibility of intensively farming them, with the intention of selling aquaculture octopus from 2023.
Octopus farming is inhumane and unsustainable
Due to their solitary nature, high intelligence and physical fragility, octopuses are a completely unsuitable species to be farmed, where they would be forced into crowded barren environments, with no opportunity to fulfil their complex behavioural needs.
In addition, their carnivorous diet would require vast numbers of wild fish to be caught to feed them, which makes farming them unsustainable and damaging to the environment, placing additional pressure on wild fish populations, and depleting the feeding grounds for other marine species.
There are also no European or national laws in place to regulate farming practices for Cephalopods, which means that octopuses are entirely unprotected from suffering and inhumane slaughter methods.
By launching this report, we are alerting governments, policymakers and influential food industry players to the risks associated with farming octopuses and urge this development to stop.
Key issues with farming octopus
- Octopuses are solitary by nature and would not fare well in the crowded conditions and high stocking densities that are typical of intensive farm systems. This can result in very poor welfare and creates the risk of aggression and territorialism that can lead to cannibalism.
- The mortality rate in octopus farming experiments is typically high: the mortality rate average in octopus farming is estimated at 20%, but can be as high as 50%
- Octopuses are known for their extraordinary intelligence, and as a result of their natural inquisitiveness and tendency to explore, manipulate and control their environment, they would be easily susceptible to boredom and frustration in an intensive farm captivity environment.
- Octopuses do not have internal or external skeletons to protect them, and their skin is very fragile and easily damaged. In a farm environment, octopuses are likely to be injured, either through physical contact by a handler or aggressive interactions with other octopuses.
- There is currently no validated humane method of slaughter for octopuses. They have complex nervous systems, which makes it very difficult to kill them in accordance with requirements for humane slaughter.
- Because octopuses are carnivorous, in a farm environment they would be fed fishmeal and fish oil, which would place further unsustainable pressure on wild fish populations – 90% of which are suitable for human consumption. This impacts on vulnerable communities and damages our oceans.
Our Global Director of Food Business, Dr Tracey Jones concluded: “Octopuses are sentient, highly intelligent, solitary creatures with complex welfare needs, and as such are fundamentally unsuited to farming. Unlike other established production systems, commercial octopus farming does not yet exist and with the associated welfare and sustainability issues highlighted in this report, its expansion needs to be stopped in its tracks.
“Octopus farming requires the use of fishmeal and fish oils that depend on wild-caught fish, adding to the already huge ecological impacts of industrial aquaculture which goes against the new ‘Strategic Guidelines for the sustainable development of aquaculture’ adopted by the EU Commission in May 2021. We therefore urge industry to stop the development of octopus farming to prevent the unnecessary suffering of these intelligent and complex creatures and to avoid further environmental destruction.”