Octopus farming is a threat to the food chain, says study

An international group of researchers has denounced plans to create octopus farms in coastal waters round the world.

The reason behind the move is that it is ethically inexcusable and environmentally dangerous.

The researchers say that farming octopuses would require the catching of vast amounts of fish and shellfish to feed them, putting further pressure on the planet’s already threatened marine livestock.

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The group, led by Professor Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, argues that octopuses are highly intelligent, curious creatures. Farming them intensively would probably cause large numbers of deaths from stress.

“We can see no reason why, in the 21st century, a sophisticated, complex animal should become the source of mass-produced food,” Jacquet told the Observer. “Octopuses eat fish and shellfish, and supplying enough to feed large numbers of them puts further pressure on the food chain. It is unsustainable. Octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.”

Sadly, about 350,000 tonnes are caught every year and served in restaurants in countries like Spain, Chile, Mexico and Australia.

But the case for octopus farming is weak, according to Jacquet and her co-authors. The main markets for the animals – the US, Europe, Japan and China – are areas where people are already well-fed. Octopuses are delicacies and do not deserve to be the focus of intensive farming.

At present, these farms are still at the development stage, said Peter Godfrey-Smith of Sydney University, a contributor to the paper. “That means campaigners and activists don’t have products or outlets to target. But when universities and research institutions consider supporting these projects – and that is beginning to happen now – it will make sense to object. Why should research money be used to support a project that will inevitably have so many welfare and environmental problems once it is scaled up?”

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