March 4. 2024. 6:23

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NGOs urge EU to oppose plans for world’s first octopus farm

The EU should oppose what could become the world’s first octopus farm, two organisations said after plans for what they have termed a ‘cruel’ project to be located in the Canary Islands were announced.

Plans to set up an octopus farm by Spanish seafood company Nueva Pescanova, submitted its plans the Directorate General of Fisheries of the Canary Islands government, were revealed by the NGOs Eurogroup for Animals and Compassion in World Farming on Thursday (16 March).

According to the leaked plans, the project aims to raise one million cephalopods in the port of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria to generate 3,000 tonnes for food consumption per year.

However, these plans are “extremely worrying, both from the point of view of animal welfare and the environment”, according to the two NGOs who urge public authorities to reject the company’s building request.

The associations point in particular to the culling method involving ice-cold water as “it has been scientifically proven that it causes considerable pain, fear and suffering, as well as prolonged death”.

They also bemoan the “overcrowded and sterile” tanks – in which 10 to 15 animals per cubic metre of water would be kept, saying this could encourage aggressiveness and even cannibalism.

This method “will lead to them colliding with each other, which will cause tension and stress. Like salmon, they can attack and eat each other”, Caroline Roose, an MEP who recently wrote an opinion piece opposing the farm, confirmed to EURACTIV.

The other problem concerns the exploitation of wild resources for the feeding of octopuses, in this case, fish oils, Roose and the associations also said.

“The food comes from small pelagic fish caught in West Africa. This deprives the populations of their resources, as these wild fish are often their main source of protein,” Roose added.

EU animal welfare laws

“We urge the Canary Islands authorities to reject Nueva Pescanova’s plans and urgently call on the EU to ban octopus farming as part of its current legislative review,” Elena Lara, a researcher at Compassion in World Farming, also said.

With no laws currently protecting cephalopods in the EU, the organisations want to capitalise on the review of EU animal welfare laws announced by the European Commission this year.

“We are going to push for the inclusion of these fish farm issues,” said Roose.

“The Commission is completely ignoring the issue of animal welfare in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Aquatic animals are the forgotten ones in Europe,” she continued.

Nueva Pescanova, however, denies the extreme levels of distress the farm would create for octopuses, according to the BBC.

The farm would aim to “reduce pressure on fishing grounds and ensure sustainable, safe, healthy and controlled resources”, as the growing demand for wild octopus has led to supply shortages, the company said.

In recent decades, global demand for the delicacy has exploded, particularly in Spain and Italy, but also in the US and Japan. Around 350,000 tonnes of octopus are caught each year – 10 times more than in 1950.

As a result, wild resources are collapsing and fishing is no longer able to meet the demand.

The Spanish company also highlighted its decades of research into efficient animal husbandry that respects animal welfare.

In the past decade (2010-2019), the octopus market has grown from $1.30 billion to $2.72 billion, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

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