Octopus

The global effort to stop the world’s first octopus farm.

Join the International Day of Action – 3 April 2022.
Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 1 April 2022

Plans are underway for the first octopus farm in the world – and people across the globe have serious concerns for the octopuses as well as the surrounding marine animals and seas. Join the international movement to stop the farm and protect octopuses from inevitable cruelty, this Sunday the 3rd of April 2022.

According to scientists, farming octopuses with high welfare is simply not possible.

Their solitary nature means being confined with other octopuses will cause great stress, potentially even self-mutilation and cannibalism. Their soft bodies make them vulnerable to injury or death from infighting or escape attempts. And shockingly, no legislation is in place where octopus farming is being developed, when it comes to the conditions they will be confined to or how they will be killed. 

Despite this, the increasing consumer demand for octopus meat has led to company Nueva Pescanova’s plans to open an octopus farm next year in Las Palmas, located in Spain’s Canary Islands.  

The Spanish Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) is calling animal advocates the world over to stand together to demand an immediate halt to the project which will condemn hundreds of thousands of them to inevitable suffering. Together, we can present a unified, powerful voice for octopuses and make simple changes to spare them, and other animals, from farming or fishing-related harm.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A close up of an octopus, their eyes looking at the camera, their skin a slight purple colour.

Octopuses are thinking, feeling animals

These magnificent sea animals have three hearts, blue blood, and despite being colourblind, they can change the colour (and texture) of their skin to hide.  

These traits might make octopuses seem a little alien to us, but despite being separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, we are slowly discovering we have more in common with cephalopods than we originally may have thought. 

Octopuses have highly developed learning and memory abilities, considered comparable to those of some vertebrates. (Their cousin, the cuttlefish, can reminisce about a favourite dish they ate, just like we can!) Octopuses have been observed stacking rocks to build barriers, and carrying shells with them to hide in when needed. And recent science indicates that they likely dream while they sleep, too. 

They are extremely curious animals and have a dynamic relationship with the environment that surrounds them. Like all factory farms, a densely populated, unnatural aquatic farm environment will simply not be able to offer octopuses the rich and autonomous life they deserve.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

An octopus, enclosed inside a shell for protection, peers out.

Confining octopuses in farms will endanger them

If the octopus farm goes ahead, it will be the first of its kind – and shockingly, no legislation currently exists. This leaves octopuses without any legal protection whatsoever while they are being bred, raised and killed for food. 

Octopuses live solo lives. The crowded conditions of an underwater ‘factory farm’ could trigger aggressive behavior, potentially even cannibalism. As they have no skeleton, they can be easily injured by others – octopuses confined with them, or human handlers – or even themselves if they propel into the walls of cages and tanks.  

Just as cows, pigs, sheep and hens are forced to endure painful mutilations on farms in Australia and around the world, so too are marine animals. For example, to speed up reproduction female prawns in prawn farms have their eye stalks cut off, blinding them, through a process the industry calls ‘eyestalk ablation’. 

Given animals suffer such procedures for industry ‘efficiency’ – to maximise profits – there are understandable concerns as to what octopuses may be forced to endure on farms.  

Intensively farming octopuses will deny them a life worth living

Based on a recent independent review commissioned by the UK Government, octopuses, along with lobsters and crabs are to be recognised as sentient by United Kingdom laws. According to the findings, these animals have the capacity to experience pain, harm and distress.

We already know fish suffer on fish farms – as many as 1 in 4 show signs of severe depression. Like fish, octopuses would have complex needs – and with our extremely limited understanding of them, their wellbeing cannot be guaranteed by the farming industry. 

Mother octopuses are naturally valiant guardians – an instinctual behaviour that a farm environment would sadly deny them. Producing only one clutch of eggs in her lifetime, the mother octopus will forgo food and tend to the eggs in her den full-time – until they hatch, and she dies.  

When the great oceans provide octopuses with a rich, challenging environment for them to explore, hunt, and play, a life trapped in a farm is no life at all.  

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A close up of an octopus eye and tentacles, as she guards her clutch of eggs in her den.

In addition to being cruel, underwater farms are unsustainable 

Each year, millions of anchovies, sardines, and other small fish are already being caught from the ocean to be fed to fish in fish farms. As carnivores, octopuses bred and raised in a farm will require more fish to eat, meaning more intensive fishing. This will only add to our current overfishing crisis. 

As overwhelming numbers of fish are being caught faster than they can reproduce, experts warn that we are eating our way to extinction. 

Tassal, Australia’s largest farmer of salmon, uses 2kg of wild-caught fish in feed to produce just 1kg of farmed salmon – an indication of how unsustainable the industry is. 

In addition to decimating wild fish populations, aquaculture destroys surrounding environments. Natural habitats are destroyed for these underwater floating farms, and the food and faeces fall to the ocean below, disrupting marine ecosystems. 

Farmed or wild-caught – sadly both systems cause fish and other animals, like seals, to suffer

Marine animals who rely on other fish to eat and survive see fish farms as an abundant food source. In response, the farming industry takes measures to ‘deter’ animals like seals. This is happening in Australia where native seals approaching salmon farms are being shot at with lead-filled projectiles known as “beanbags”, sedation darts, or explosive charges. 

Unlike stagnant fish farms, the fishing industry trawls the oceans with giant nets. These supertrawlers not only cause immense suffering to the ‘target’ species who are caught and often die by suffocating or being crushed. The massive nets they use catch everything and everyone in their path, including dolphins and turtles.  

The fishing industry is also a major contributor to ocean plastic pollution. There are grim predictions there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, and ghost gear from the fishing industry makes up the majority of large plastic littering the marine environment. 

Understanding the catastrophic impacts that the fishing industry has on animals and the environment, forward-thinking food-tech companies like Wanda Fish are using innovative cell technology to develop a wide range of ‘seafood’ – without killing fish or decimating the ocean. 

This image contains content which some may find confronting

As consumer demand created the issue, by shifting that demand we can spare octopuses

Octopuses, along with lobsters, cuttlefish, prawns and other marine animals, are sadly too often overlooked as victims of our current food systems. The good news is, we all have the power to take a stand against their suffering, and we can start right away. 

Filling our plates with plant-rich food is not only the most profound way to reduce animal suffering, but it is also best for the planet, and can be beneficial for us as well.  

If you’re ready to get cooking right away, you might like to browse our top picks of sea-inspired dishes – there are mouthwatering, animal-friendly versions of all the classics from fish and chips to crabcakes and chowder.  

Whether you have no idea where to start, or would simply like further meal inspiration, you’ll find all the information you need along with a selection of delicious recipes in our free Veg Starter Kit. Order your copy today! 

ORDER YOUR FREE VEG STARTER KIT

More ways you can help octopuses and other marine animals

  • Spread awareness about the plight octopuses face.
    • You can join PACMA’s International Action Against the Octopus Farm by sharing information on 3 April 2022 with the hashtag #StopOctopusFarm
    • Beyond April 3, by continuing to be a voice for octopuses and sharing simple ways we can all help them with people in your network, we can create a kinder future for all marine life. To learn more about why octopuses should not be farmed, you can view Compassion in World Farming’s in-depth full report here.  
  • Take action by sending a polite but urgent email to the Canary Islands’ agriculture, livestock, and fisheries minister calling for the farm plans to be stopped.
    • Ms Alicia Vanoostende Simili
      Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries
      consejera.agp@gobiernodecanarias.org
  • Discover more about sea animals through eye-opening documentaries.
    • Available on Netflix, documentary My Octopus Teacher follows a nature filmmaker as he develops a surprising friendship. Through a moving cross-species connection, Foster shows us that if we simply admire marine animals in their element, we may realise we have more in common than we thought.
    • Head to the full list of must-watch marine life documentaries here. 

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