World’s First Octopus Farm Sparks Controversy

Debate Rages Over Octopus Farm

Octopus farm protest. Credit: AnimaNaturalisEspaña/

Is the world’s first octopus farm a solution to rising seafood prices or a new milestone in cruelty?

In 2018, a ground-breaking patent was awarded to a Canarian research group from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) for cultivating octopuses. This marked the first step towards establishing the world’s inaugural octopus farm on Gran Canaria, an initiative spearheaded by the Galician company Nueva Pescanova, writes 20 Minutos.

The Start Of Controversy

Elena Lara, a Catalan marine biologist working for the British NGO Compassion in World Farming (CiWF), became aware of the project and began investigating its implications. ‘I started to collect all the information there was about octopus farming and think scientifically if that was good for the animals and also from the point of view of sustainability,’ Lara stated.

Her report, published in October 2021, highlighted the intelligence of octopuses and the potential cruelty of breeding them in captivity. ‘When an animal is so intelligent and needs stimulation from the environment, putting them in completely sterile tanks is suffering for them that can lead to stress and aggressive behaviour and even cannibalism,’ explained Dr Lara.

Under the striking headline ‘Octopus farm: a recipe for disaster,’ the report highlighted the lack of specific European regulations for farming non-vertebrate animals. This oversight could jeopardise the welfare of farmed octopuses in the future. The report also criticised the company’s proposed method of euthanising the creatures by immersing them in icy water, leading to death by freezing.

Economic Demand Vs Animal Welfare

Octopus dishes are a staple in Spanish cuisine, but with wild octopus populations dwindling, prices have soared. Eduardo Almansa, a member of the IEO research group, summarised the dilemma: ‘Either we change our eating habits or we have to look for alternative ways of producing it and, for now, today, the alternative way that exists is aquaculture.’

He emphasised the need for research on the well-being of octopuses born in captivity, stating, ‘As long as studies are not carried out with these animals born in captivity, we will not be able to know if that animal is stressed or not.’

Public Outcry And Environmental Concerns

The proposed farm’s location, at the Esfinge dike in Gran Canaria, became a focal point for protests. Iris Sanchez, coordinator of the animal rights party PACMA in Gran Canaria, led opposition efforts. ‘This octopus farm would be opening up a new form of animal suffering,’ said Sanchez. Other organisations, including Greenpeace, expressed concerns about the environmental impact of such a facility.

The Commercial Perspective

Roberto Romero, aquaculture director of Nueva Pescanova, defended the project, referencing European legislation on animal welfare. ‘We approach our cultivation always respecting animal welfare,’ Romero stated, adding that they had not observed aggressive behaviour among octopuses in their trials. He also highlighted the potential economic benefits, including job creation and collaborations with research centres.

Global Perspective

While the debate rages on in Europe, it’s worth noting that other countries are closely watching the developments. If the project doesn’t materialise in Europe, it’s likely that other nations with less stringent regulations might take up the mantle.

The global demand for octopus is undeniable, and as wild populations decrease, the pressure to find alternative sources will only intensify. This situation underscores the broader challenge of balancing economic growth with ethical and environmental considerations in our rapidly changing world.

The world’s first octopus farm has ignited a debate between economic necessity and ethical considerations. As the project awaits government approval, its fate remains uncertain, but it’s clear that the discussion it has sparked will influence future endeavours in octopus farming.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Anne Sewell

      21 September 2023 • 23:36

      This is a hideous idea and utter cruelty to thousands of intelligent creatures. Having a pulpo on a plate is not worth this dreadful suffering. Anyone who has seen a documentary (My Octopus Teacher) about a man who befriended an octopus should be put off eating them.

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