The world’s first industrial octopus farm is causing outrage among environmentalists

17 October 2022 — Spanish multinational seafood company Nueva Pescanova is investing US$63 million to build the world’s first industrial-scale octopus farm in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands next year amid growing demand for octopus consumption in the Mediterranean and Asia. , Mexico and the United States.

The plans have been met with fierce opposition from environmental groups and scientists, with protests outside Spanish embassies in more than 20 locations around the world earlier this month.

Opponents are demanding that the Spanish government reverse its decision to allow the project and recognize octopuses as sentient beings. They argue that mass-produced octopuses will further deplete wild fish populations, leading to more energy-intensive farming practices in contravention of the EU’s Strategic Aquaculture Guidelines.

Nueva Pescanova stated that it produces an estimated 3,000 tons of octopus meat annually. Considering that Octopus vulgaris (the species to be planted) weighs up to 9 kg, this harvest is equivalent to the slaughter of at least 300,000 captive octopuses each year. The Ocean Born Foundation notes that it takes 3 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of octopus meat.

“The government has authorized the Pescanova factory, which will be subsidized by taxpayers, to mass produce octopuses for luxury markets. It’s not visionary – it’s sustainable, polluting and cruel. There is still time to overturn the decision. We have to stop octopus farming before it starts,” said Jennifer Jacquet, an associate professor of environmental studies at New York University who has filed a formal protest against the farm.

Food Composition First made several attempts to contact Nueva Pescanova for a response to the criticisms, but received no response.On World Octopus Day 2022, protests against octopus farms were held in Israel and more than 20 other places around the world.

Capital and captivity
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, global trade in octopus has grown from US$1.3 billion in 2010 to US$2.7 billion in 2019. However, the volume of commercially caught octopuses increased by only 9% during the same period, prompting companies to explore the possibility of industrial-scale breeding.

Octopus is offered on many menus and in grocery stores around the world, and researchers estimate that about 50,000 tons of octopus are caught each year. However, there are currently no laws in Europe, the United States, Mexico, or Japan to protect farmed octopuses from suffering, particularly from painful killing methods.

Nueva Pescanova could not explain how the octopuses will be raised or killed. However, wild-caught octopuses are usually killed by headbutting, decapitation without anesthesia, suffocation in a net, or freezing in ice.

Since maintaining ideal growth conditions in the open ocean is logistically impossible, the company intends to raise the octopuses in tanks on land. It is not yet clear whether he intends to isolate the octopuses in restrictive, individual tubes or keep them in communal tanks. Both options raise concerns about how to ensure the welfare of these lonely animals.

“Octopuses are incredible creatures and should be treated with love and kindness, not imprisoned and slaughtered. They should never be stuck in tanks, raised on farms, eaten or abused in any way,” says Anita Krajnc, global campaign coordinator for the Plant-Based Agreement. Food Composition First.

“These eight-armed geniuses are playful, inquisitive, sensitive, determined and deserve protection just like any other animal on this planet. They are also the smartest invertebrates in the world and are as smart as a golden retriever.”There are no laws in Europe, the United States, Mexico, or Japan that protect octopuses from painful killing methods.

In addition, an expert on octopus and squid behavior at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Dr. Jennifer Mather claims that the octopus’s response to pain is similar to that of vertebrates. “Octopuses can foresee a painful, difficult, stressful situation – they can remember it. There is no doubt that they feel pain. Not only that, but they learn to avoid sites that cause them pain,” he notes.

Fish business
While octopus tanks are more viable for industry, environmentalists warn they are resource-intensive to operate, raising questions about energy use and emissions. It also remains unclear how large amounts of water will be treated before being released into waterways.

In addition to ethical concerns about farming the sensitive creatures, opponents point out that feeding octopuses on an industrial scale would further bolster already depleted wild fish populations. They argue that this conflicts with the EU’s Strategic Fisheries Guidelines, which focus on developing sustainable food systems.

“Octopus’ carnivorous diets are environmentally unsustainable and a highly inefficient and wasteful way to produce food,” says Karolina Manhusen Schwab, president of the Ocean Born Foundation. Food Composition First.

In March, environmental charity ClientEarth took legal action against EU ministers for allowing “highly unsustainable fishing”, saying 40% of fish stocks in the North East Atlantic were still overfished. In 2012, EU Member States agreed to end overfishing by 2020. However, according to ClientEarth, the fishing limits set for 2022 exceeded sustainable scientific recommendations for a third of commercial fish stocks managed by the EU and the UK.

Siding with octopuses
Spanish embassies, restaurants selling octopus and aquariums on October 8 (World Octopus Day 2022) in over 20 locations including Barcelona, ​​Buenos Aires, Edmonton, Gran Canaria, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Mexico City and Mumbai protests were held in front of it.

While popular culture increasingly portrays octopuses as sentient creatures, the demand for octopus meat continues to grow.Meanwhile, more than 4,500 Plant-Based Treaty supporters have written to officials in the Canary Islands asking them to block plans for Nueva Pescanova’s farm, and more than 55,000 supporters have signed a petition calling on the governments of Spain and Gran Canaria to intervene to stop the octopus. farming and recognizing living things as sentient beings.

However, it remains unclear what effect the protests will have, – Dr. Fish research manager of “World Farming Compassion”. Elena Lara says. “As far as we know, Nueva Pescanova has no intention of closing the farm or continuing the project,” he said. Food Composition First.

Since submitting the report “Compassion in World Agriculture Octopus factory farming: a recipe for disaster, there were several protests and Twitter storms. However, Nueva Pescanova did not publicly respond to this action and did not indicate that they would reconsider their project.

“The Spanish government has been funding several public projects over the past 20-30 years to close the breeding cycle of captive octopuses for human consumption.”

While global demand for octopus as a source of protein continues to grow, so does public recognition that these animals are intelligent and emotional creatures. It should be noted that the 2020 Oscar-winning Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher caught a man befriending a common octopus in the wild.

This month, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton and 18 U.S. federal lawmakers called on the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services to introduce protections for cephalopods — octopus, squid and cuttlefish — that are increasingly used in laboratory research without federal requirements. “humane” treatment.

By Joshua Poole

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