Hawaii and Washington state are looking to shut down or outright ban octopus farms, with the former recently ordering the closure of a controversial facility.
Kanaloa Octopus Farm, located at the Big Island’s village of Kailua-Kona, has come under fire over its handling of day octopuses. The species is native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, ranging from Hawaii to the coasts of eastern Africa.
On Jan. 6, Kanaloa — which claims to run as a research center, not a breeding facility for consumption — was told to “cease and desist” operations that included 24/7 group tours for interacting with day octopuses.
The business reportedly held some 15 to 20 octopuses in separate tanks until their death.
In its order, Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources said Kanaloa had violated the law by owning and breeding “regulated species of aquatic life without the required permits.” The state also bans the possession of day octopuses that either weigh less than 1 pound or were taken from the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area without authorization.
Owner Jacob Conroy has disputed the state’s allegations.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he claimed that his business was in full compliance and that a facility manager who had made “conflicting statements” was referring to another octopus species that is unregulated and was not on display.
Conroy claimed that his goal was to learn how to breed day octopuses so that wildlife officials all over the world can restock them in the event that “anything ever does happen to the populations.” It is unclear how he plans to move forward after the closure, but he has the option to apply for a “special activities” permit to continue operations.
Meanwhile, legislators in Washington state are pushing for a complete ban on octopus farming through House Bill 1153.
At a public hearing on Feb. 8, one animal rights activist cited a London School of Economics report that determined octopuses are smart, sentient creatures.
“The report emphasized that high-welfare octopus farming is not possible due to the asocial nature of these animals,” said Amanda Fox with the Animal Rights Initiative, as per Fox 13 Seattle. “Intensive farming practices force octopuses into confined spaces, denying them the stimulating environment they are accustomed to in the wild.”
Octopuses — now found to be highly intelligent, playful and even emotional — are considered a culinary delicacy across many cultures around the world. In some countries, they are even eaten alive.
Rep. Strom Peterson (WA, D-21) lauded the bill as “an important step to show that we are not only looking out for the environment, but for the welfare of animals.” He also said it would help the state prevent a disaster similar to a fish farming spill that occurred near the San Juan Islands in 2017, which saw the collapse of a net pen and the release of some 260,000 non-native salmon into Puget Sound.