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Octopus vulgaris (Photo: Ansgar Gruber/Wikimedia)
Octopus vulgaris (Photo: Ansgar Gruber/Wikimedia)

Plans to build the world's first octopus aquaculture industry on the Canary Islands provoke harsh protest.

In 2011, a magazine piece of nature writer Sy Montgomery with the title “Deep Intellect” about her friendship with an octopus went viral. Four years later she published the book «The Soul of an Octopus» [1]. Since then, a greater public in North America and beyond has learned about the astounding abilities octopi, and probably quite some persons gave up eating these animals due to sheer respect.

In 2019, Jennifer Mather, professor at the Department of Psychology of the University of Lethbridge, concluded that “octopuses have a mind, though perhaps a mind that is different from those of 'higher' vertebrates. It stimulates us to look at the welfare of these animals and challenges us to find better ways to test mindfulness and cognition across animals with widely differing natural histories and sensory and motor capacities”.

In a commentary on Mather’s article, three scientists wrote that “Mather presents ample evidence that octopuses have personalities, causal reasoning, get bored, and have imaginations. Mather also argues convincingly that octopuses have 'a controlling mind, motivated to gather information'. Yet she stops short of asking what possessing that mind means for octopus moral standing.”
Jennifer Jacquet and Becca Franks from the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University and Peter Godfrey-Smith from the University of Sydney claim that “one consequence of understanding the octopus mind should be a refusal to subject octopuses to mass production” as this “would mean controlled, sterile, and monotonous environments (probably experienced in isolation)” which they judge to be ”unethical because of concerns about animal welfare as well as environmental impacts”.

Also 2019, three cephalopod species have been profiled for the fair-fish database. The analyses of all data available shows that Octopus vulgaris, Octopus maia, and Sepia officinalis have a very low potential to experience good welfare even under high-standard farming conditions.

Four years later, despite of all the research and debates, octopus farming threatens to become an industrial reality very soon. Under the headline “World’s first octopus farm proposals alarm scientists”, on 16 March 2023, BBC covered the plans by Spanish group “Nueva Pescanova” to  raise a million octopuses per year on Canary Islands. It would be the world’s first octopus farm on industrial scale, thus blowing another breaching in the wall of respect for the natural needs and behaviours of animals.

“Eurogroup for Animals” and “Compassion in World Farming” are calling for these plans to be scrapped, and call on the EU not to use public funds to support octopus farming developments or any other new industrial animal-based farming in the light of significant and growing scientific evidence that it is killing our planet. The serious concerns include the use of a cruel slaughter method, the confinement of octopuses in small barren tanks, and practices that contribute to the overexploitation of wild fish populations.

fair-fish strongly supports the campaign of its two partner organisations.


[1] https://symontgomery.com/soul-of-an-octopus/ (Deutsch: «Rendezvous mit einem Oktopus», 2019)



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