Protecting Cephalopods: Why Should Octopus Farming End?
The ocean, mysterious yet terrifying, full of so many aquatic creatures, most of which we have never seen. It is surprising how old the Earth is, yet only 5% of the oceans have been explored. Over a long period of time, a huge amount of resources have been contributed to explore other planets in the galaxy that are potentially suitable for human life instead of saving the only planet, while it is not too late.
Almost all of the aquatic animals we got acknowledged with are used for farming, later on, sold to markets for the purposes of food consumption. Seafood is one of the biggest types of food consumed in all parts of the world. Seafood originated back 165 000 years ago and is believed to have been found in South Africa. Some aquatic species are used for food consumption, but some are also used for feeding animals used in aquaculture. Given a particular country, seafood production depends on the country’s geographical location. Coastal countries exercise fishing directly, others import seafood products from major suppliers. This article will focus on the production and farming of octopuses.
The major octopus producers are Asian countries, such as China and Japan. The countries consuming the octopus most are Spain and Italy, and they are importing octopuses from Indonesia and Mexico. According to one report, it is expected that the global octopus market can reach 624 490 metric tons by 2025.
Mexico and China are the two main octopus producers in the world, exporting to Europe, the largest global importer of octopus. According to the report, top-producing octopus countries, apart from China and Mexico, include Morocco, Mauritania, Japan, and South Korea. Top-importing countries are Spain, Italy, Portugal, Canada, and the United States. Finally, the top-exporting countries are Mexico, Spain, the Philippines, India, Senegal, and Indonesia.
The strong market demand and demand for exotic meat were the major driving factors of octopus farming. A few species of octopus have been studied for potential use in aquaculture, including Octopus maya, Octopus bimaculoides, Octopus ocellatus, and Octopus mimus. However, Octopus vulgaris, the common octopus is the most suitable species for farming so far because of their easy adaptation level to captivity and a rapid growth rate of 5% body weight per day.
According to the FAO report 1983, the octopus world catch declined approximately in the late 60s (more than 100 000 tons per year) to 20 000 to 30 000 tons. “Part of the nonidentified world catches of octopus oscillating between 120 000 and 160 000 tons annually, also pertain to this species (including part of the nearly 45 000 tons caught by Japan in the Inland Sea, Fishing Area 61, and most of the catches (between 40 000 and 50 000 tons) taken by Spanish vessels on the Sahara Banks off West Africa, Fishing Area 34).”
Octopuses are fed with crustaceans, specifically crabs and lobster, which creates another issue in conserving marine species. Of course, the main problem with octopus farming is captive octopuses that are caught, raised, and slaughtered for food consumption afterward. However, octopus aquaculture leads to another issue, catching other aquatic species.
Why should we end octopus farming?
The demand for octopuses is growing drastically because their meat contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Their meat is common in Asian countries, and ⅔ of octopus catch comes from the Asian continent. In South Korea, for instance, octopuses are eaten while they are still alive, in Japan, they are used in sushi.
Octopuses are highly intelligent and complex animals. They are able to open a jar to get a piece of food, squeeze through a hole no bigger than the diameter of their eyeball, and also tend to be cannibalistic if they are kept in close quarters. Moreover, they are “shape-shifters to the extreme, can disappear in a cloud of ink, and can recognize human faces due to their forms of short and long-term memory. They have as many neurons as many mammals and larger nervous systems than any other invertebrate.”
Some scientists and animal rights activists have been arguing against octopus farming because they find it unethical, cruel, and immoral. In one open letter that was signed by more than 100 scholars, the authors state that octopus farming is wrong due to environmental and ethical reasons. Specifically, they claimed that “the sterile, controlled, isolating, and uninspiring conditions in a farming operation would negatively affect the well-being of a highly-intelligent creature that requires stimulation and seeks to control and manipulate their environment.” One of the authors of the letter said that “beyond their basic biological health and safety, octopuses are likely to want high levels of cognitive stimulation, as well as opportunities to explore, manipulate, and control their environment. Intensive farm systems are inevitably hostile to these attributes.”
Octopuses consume fishmeal and fish oil in farmed conditions, and those are coming from overfished stocks. Furthermore, these animals “require three times their weight in food to sustain them,” and while a farmed octopus may satisfy humans, “it would be ecologically inefficient.” According to one of the authors of the letter, “around ⅓ of the global fish catch is turned into feed for other animals, roughly half of which goes to aquaculture. Many fishmeal fisheries are subject to overfishing and are declining.”
Read more: The Case Against Octopus Farming
Octopuses are extremely smart animals being capable of recognizing people, using tools, and have escape skills. Octopuses are very charismatic animals, thus, besides farming, they are kept in aquariums too. Octopuses, like many other animals, play a significant role in the entire ecosystem. Out in the oceans, aquatic species depend on each other, and the octopus is not an exception. Octopus farming is another contribution to the overfishing activities issue since farmed octopuses are fed with fish from overfished stocks. Several species of aquatic animals prey on octopuses in the wild, such as birds, moray eels, sperm whales, sea otters, so the disappearance of octopuses may simply lead to the lack of resources for other aquatic animals. And while every species is dependent on one another, while humans are capable of taking necessary steps, it is not too late to stop contributing to the seafood industry to save aquatic life that keeps our oceans healthy.