‘They’re sentient’: Scientists, activists sound alarm as world’s first octopus farm nears completion

first octopus farm

Scientists and environmental conservationists are opposing the development of the world’s first commercial octopus farm, arguing that it would torture an animal research has repeatedly proven to be sentient.

Driving the news: Spanish multinational firm Nueva Pescanova, which focuses on seafood commercialization and farming, succeeded in breeding the octopus in July 2019. According to their reports, the company will begin selling farmed octopuses in 2023.

  • Nueva Pescanova plans to invest €50 million (approximately $57 million) in the octopus farm in the port of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, according to PortSEurope. The plant is expected to produce 3,000 tons of octopus per year, which is equal to 10% of the annual catch of the Spanish fleet.
  • The company is seeking a grant from the European Union’s Next Generation fund, an economic recovery package created to help member states bounce back from COVID-19 losses. In their request, Nueva Pescanova said their business will reduce pressure on wild stocks, an outcome in line with the United Nations’ direction on sustainable development.

What critics are saying: Scientists and conservationists reportedly voiced opposition to the company’s plans. They argued that the octopus, as evidenced by hundreds of scientific studies, are sentient beings that feel pain and emotions humans likewise experience.

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  • An international group of researchers denounced Nueva Pescanova’s plans as “ethically and ecologically unjustified,” according to the BBC. Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), a U.K. based animal welfare campaign group, reached out to Spain and other governments, urging them to ban octopus farming.
  • “These animals [octopuses] are amazing animals. They are solitary and very smart. So to put them in barren tanks with no cognitive stimulation, it’s wrong for them,” Dr. Elena Lara, CIWF’s research manager, told the BBC. She added that anyone who has seen Netflix’s Oscar-winning documentary “My Octopus Teacher” will appreciate such facts.
  • Lara also slammed Nueva Pescanova’s wildlife argument as illogical, since their business does not guarantee that fishermen will cease fishing octopus. Still, the eight-armed cephalopod has little protection under the EU, whose animal welfare laws only apply to vertebrates.
  • The U.K. amended its Animal Welfare Bill in late November to include the octopus, lobsters, crabs and related species as sentient beings. The update follows a review of more than 300 studies by the London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • The consumption of octopus is legal in most countries, including many throughout Asia, where the animal is sometimes eaten alive. In 2019, a Chinese livestreamer went viral after an octopus latched onto her face in a final attempt to fight for its life.

The first broodstock for the planned farm will reportedly arrive from the Pescanova Biomarine Center, Nueva Pescanova’s research and development facility in Galicia, Spain.

Featured Image via Pescanova USA (left), LINH-ASMR (right)

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