Scientists call for closure of world’s first octopus farm
Plans to set up the world’s first commercial octopus farm should be canceled due to cruelty, activists say.
Details of an indoor farm planned for Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, should produce 3,000 tons of octopus per year – about a million octopuses.
Animal welfare says keeping hundreds of octopuses together in aquariums can lead to stress and cannibalism in highly territorial creatures that are usually solitary.
The EU should no longer use public funds to support octopus farming, say opponents of the farm, which they say will become “octopus hell”.
The 2020 Oscar-winning film My Octopus Teacher brought the attention of the general public to the developed intellectual abilities of animals.
Campaigners say plans for the world’s first commercial octopus farm must be canceled due to cruelty (file image)
SMART OCTOPUS – “HONORARY VERTEBRATES”
Octopuses are believed to be highly intelligent, more so than any other invertebrate species; but their ability to learn is still a matter of much debate among biologists.
These creatures have been known to break out of aquariums into others in search of food, and they have even boarded fishing boats and opened their holds to eat the crabs stored inside.
These are the only invertebrates that have been shown to use tools, with some species, as shown in the picture above on the right, retrieving discarded coconut shells and collecting them to use as shelter.
In laboratory experiments, they can be easily taught to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. In several widely contested studies, they have even been shown to practice observational learning.
In some countries, octopuses are on the list of experimental animals that cannot be operated on without anesthesia. British animal testing laws treat them as “honorary vertebrates”, giving them protection not afforded to other invertebrates.
Details of the farm appeared in plans submitted to the General Directorate of Fisheries of the Government of the Canary Islands by Nueva Pescanova, disclosed by members of the Eurogroup for Animals campaign.
Campaigners say they include the brutal slaughter method of keeping octopuses in “small empty tanks”.
Farms can also lead to overfishing to feed farmed octopuses.
The proposed slaughter method, killing octopuses with ice goo, “would cause great pain, fear and suffering, and prolonged death.”
They also say that keeping octopuses “in overcrowded, empty underwater tanks…will result in poor welfare and the risk of aggression, territorialism, and even cannibalism due to the octopus’ solitary lifestyle.”
Octopuses will be exposed to unnatural light around the clock to increase reproduction, which will cause undue stress as octopuses have a natural aversion to light.
Compassion at World Farming, which opposes the farm, said about one in five octopuses will die in captivity before reaching full maturity.
Other countries around the world also offer octopus farms, including Mexico, Japan, and the US in Washington State.
Kanaloa’s octopus farm in Hawaii has been closed following the Compassion in World Farming campaign.
Elena Lara, research manager at Compassion in World Farming and author of the report, said: “We implore the authorities of the Canary Islands to reject Nueva Pescanova’s plans and call on the EU to ban octopus farming as part of the ongoing legal review.”
This will cause unnecessary suffering to these smart, intelligent and charming creatures who need to explore and interact with their environment as part of their natural behavior.
About 350,000 tons of octopus are caught annually, more than 10 times more than in 1950, and this animal is especially appreciated as a delicacy in Asia and the Mediterranean.
“Their carnivorous diet requires huge amounts of animal protein, which contributes to overfishing at a time when fish stocks are already under enormous pressure.
“Industrial animal husbandry is the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet and it is literally destroying our planet.
“We must end factory farming, not look for new species to keep on underwater factory farms. We need to end octopus farming right now.”
Dr. Mark Cooper, Head of Livestock at the RSPCA, said: “Octopuses are highly evolved, complex and intelligent marine animals that tend to be solitary.
“Their suitability for breeding is highly questionable, and there is also a significant knowledge gap on how to properly care for these animals and meet their needs in a commercial setting.”
In addition, we are not aware of any humane methods of slaughtering octopuses that could be carried out on an industrial scale.
“The popular Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher has highlighted how intelligent, intelligent and complex the life of octopuses is, and helps people understand that raising them can cause significant suffering to these intelligent creatures.”
A recent report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) made a number of recommendations, including that octopuses should not be farmed commercially, and concluded that “farming octopuses with a high level of wealth is not possible.”
Reinecke Hameleers, CEO of the Eurogroup Animals, said: “Blindly building a new farming system without considering ethical and environmental implications is a move in all the wrong directions and goes against the EU’s agenda for sustainable food transformation.”
“With the ongoing revision of animal welfare legislation, the European Commission now has a real opportunity to avoid the terrible suffering of millions of animals.
“We cannot afford to leave aquatic animals behind. We call on the EU to impose a ban on octopus farming before it sees the light of the day so as not to plunge even more sentient beings into a living hell.”
In recent decades, octopus has become an increasingly popular food, especially in Spain.
As a result, the number of wild octopuses is declining. In 2015, the number of octopuses caught around the world reached 400,000 tons, 10 times more than in 1950.
Nueva Pescanova has been contacted for comment.
PROTECTIVE MECHANISMS OF THE OCTOPUS
One of the most effective ways octopuses avoid predation is by camouflaging themselves to fit in with their environment.
They have special pigment cells that allow them to control their skin color like chameleons.
In addition to changing color, they can manipulate the texture of their skin to blend in with the terrain.
In addition to camouflage, they can run away from predators using a “jet propulsion” escape method in which they rapidly eject water to move quickly through the water.
The jet of water from the siphon is often accompanied by an ejection of ink to confuse and evade potential enemies.
The suckers on the tentacles of eight-legged beasts are extremely powerful and are used to pull prey to a sharp beak.
In addition to protecting them from other animals, it has recently been discovered that octopuses can detect ultrasonic waves that prevent a volcano from erupting or an earthquake, giving them enough time to escape.