Increasing calls for ban on world’s first industrial octopus farm in Gran Canaria

Increasing calls for ban on world's first industrial octopus farm in Gran Canaria
Octopus, credit: Canva

Animal welfare campaigners are increasing pressure on the Canary Islands government and the European Commission (EC) to block Spanish seafood company Nueva Pescanova’s plans to build the world’s first industrial octopus farm. 

petition calling for the farm’s ban has collected nearly 920,000 signatures (at the time this article was written).

Octopus has become an increasingly popular food in recent decades, particularly in Spain. As a result, wild octopus numbers are dwindling.

Nueva Pescanova plans to raise around 1 million octopuses on a proposed farm in the Port of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. The company says it has achieved optimal conditions for octopus culture.

However, project plans uncovered by Eurogroup for Animals indicate the intention to subject the animals to confinement in crowded underwater tanks, exposure to constant unnatural light, and slaughter by ice slurry.

“Slaughtered using ice slurry” refers to a method of killing animals by immersing them in a mixture of ice and water, called an ice slurry. This method is considered cruel because it causes the animals to experience pain, distress, and suffering before they die.

As octopuses are cold-blooded, their metabolism slows down in cold temperatures, causing them to become sluggish and unresponsive. However, they do not die instantly in the ice slurry, and their prolonged exposure to the cold can cause significant pain and distress.

In 2021, Compassion in World Farming released the report Octopus Factory Farming: A Recipe for Disaster, arguing that octopus farming is cruel and would cause environmental damage to our oceans. 

According to the report, experimental trials to farm octopuses suggest that the mortality rate in these systems would be around 20%, meaning that 1 in 5 individuals would not survive the entire production cycle.

If the world’s first industrial octopus farm is approved in Gran Canaria, it would likely pave the way for similar projects in other countries, such as Mexico and Japan.

Intelligent animals
Octopuses are fascinating and highly intelligent marine animals. There are around 300 species of octopus, and they can be found in various ocean habitats, from shallow coral reefs to deep-sea environments.

They are among the most intelligent invertebrates, with advanced problem-solving abilities, learning capacity, and even the ability to use tools. Their cognitive skills are often compared to vertebrates such as birds and mammals.

Octopuses have a soft body and eight arms (not tentacles) lined with suckers and are masters of camouflage.

The lifespan of octopuses varies by species, ranging from six months to a few years. Female octopuses usually lay thousands of eggs, which they carefully tend to by cleaning them and providing oxygen until they hatch. In most species, the female dies shortly after the eggs hatch, while the male dies after mating.

Most octopuses are solitary animals, spending most of their lives alone, except during mating. They are also predominantly nocturnal, hunting and foraging for food at night: they feed primarily on crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish.

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