Plans of world’s first octopus farm in Spain’s islands worry scientists

More than a million octopuses would be raised annually for food.
Nergis Firtina
Big orange octopus monster in the blue water and coral reef.
Big orange octopus monster in the blue water and coral reef.

Volodymyr Ivanenko/iStock 

Scientists are deeply concerned about the welfare of intelligent sea creatures after learning of plans to build the world’s first octopus farm in history on Spain’s Canary Islands.

Over one million octopuses would be raised on the farm each year for food, according to private documents obtained by the BBC.

They have never been subjected to intensive farming, and some experts consider the suggested way of killing them in frigid water to be inhumane. The Spanish multinational in charge of the project disputes any harm to octopuses.

The protest group Eurogroup for Animals provided the BBC with the private planning proposal documents from the company Nueva Pescanova. The General Directorate of Fishing in the Canary Islands received the proposal from Nueva Pescanova.

The octopuses, which are solitary creatures accustomed to the dark, would be kept in tanks with other octopuses, occasionally with continual light, according to Nueva Pescanova's proposals.

Around 1,000 community tanks would hold the octopus vulgaris creatures in a two-story structure at the port of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

The paradox of feeling pain

As BBC reported, an analysis of more than 300 scientific research, coordinated by an associate professor at the London School of Economics, Jonathan Birch claims, demonstrates that octopuses experience both pain and pleasure.

The UK's Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 recognized them as "sentient beings" as a result. Prof Birch and his co-authors believe that high-welfare octopus farming is "impossible" and that killing in ice slurry "would not be an acceptable form of death in a lab."

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"Large numbers of octopuses should never be kept together in close proximity. Doing this leads to stress, conflict, and high mortality … A 10-15 percent mortality figure should not be acceptable for any kind of farming."

On the other hand, Nueva Pescanova said, "The levels of welfare requirements for the production of octopus or any other animal in our farming farms guarantee the correct handling of the animals. The slaughter, likewise, involves proper handling that avoids any pain or suffering to the animal ..." to BBC in a statement.

According to Nueva Pescanova, "huge efforts are made to promote ethical and sustainable performance throughout the value chain to ensure that best practices are applied," the company stressed to the BBC.

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