Octopus Farm Plans Draw Protest

The project would confine millions of octopuses β€” solitary predators in the wild β€” in pools.

Animal rights activists gather to protest outside Spain's Agriculture Ministry in Madrid, May 21, 2023.
Animal rights activists gather to protest outside Spain's Agriculture Ministry in Madrid, May 21, 2023.
AP Photo/Paul White

MADRID (AP) β€” Animal rights activists gathered Sunday in Madrid to protest plans for the construction of an octopus farm in Spain, saying there are no respective laws in the country and the European Union to guarantee the welfare of the animals in captivity.

The proposed farm, which aims to breed octopuses on a large scale in captivity, is scheduled to be built next year in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean.

A few dozen people showed up to express their concerns regarding a project that plans to confine 3 million octopuses in pools, despite these creatures being solitary predators in their natural habitat.

"It is similar to imprisoning tigers together. They will prey on one another and will also attempt to escape due to their high intelligence and adeptness," said Jaime Posada, a spokesperson for the protest called by various animal welfare organizations.

Octopuses grown in captivity will behave differently from those in the wild, said Nova Pescanova, the seafood company promoting this farm. Since 2018, the company has run a pilot project in a research facility in northern Spain, where they have succeeded in breeding five captivity-born generations of the cephalopod.

"It is not possible to grow any (animal) species in the European Union without respecting their welfare conditions. It is the standard, and our group does nothing but comply with guidelines and legislations," said Roberto Romero, the multinational's aquaculture director.

Since the demand for octopus consumption has been on the rise, farming octopuses is being regarded as a first step towards ensuring sustainable food production.

Octopus is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, particularly popular in Spain and Italy, although both of them import most of the octopus they consume. Recently, the global demand for this delicacy has expanded, with countries like the United States witnessing a 23% increase in imports and China experiencing a 73% surge between 2016 and 2018, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

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